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Churches across Kansas prepare for safe return to in-person services

(KWCH)
Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 4:46 PM CDT
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Churches across Kansas are looking forward to continuing more traditional services after spending the past month delivering sermons online or to congregants sitting in their cars. With anticipation that a "return to normal" could begin next Sunday, some have plans in place to reopen safely.

The issue concerning church services and limits on in-person gatherings resulted in a pair of court cases earlier this month. The legal back-and-forth featured

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Eyeing the projected end of the statewide stay-at-home order next week, Kelly's office confirms faith leaders among the groups its talking with in implementing guidelines to help businesses and organizations prepare to reopen safely.

The talks are meant to craft less restrict social-distancing rules that will replace the stay-at-home order, expected to end next week.Churches who spoke with Eyewitness News Tuesday say they're at different levels of planning to resume in-person services.

"Not being able to do things the normal way has just eaten me apart," says Amazing Grace Baptist Church Pastor Richard Haley in Wichita.

Haley is among the state's pastors who has spent the past few weeks delivering sermons to parishioners parked in the church's parking lot.

"It's almost like a parent being separated from their child and not being able to see their child," he says.

He's not alone. In preparation for the reunion with his congregants at Wichita's Calvary Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. T. LaMont Holder, who also serves as president of the Missionary Baptist State Convention of Kansas, says his church has already drafted procedures for the return to in-person services and the weeks and months that follow.

"We've been planning for over the last two, three weeks," Dr. Holder says. "I have several nurses and medical personnel (that are) members of our church, so we sat down with several of them to put on paper a serious plan.

Guiding the Missionary Baptist State Convention of Kansas, which includes more than 100 churches, Dr. Holder says the plan developed for his church is designed to be flexible enough for each church's needs.

"A lot of that is going to be seen in a phased process, whereby we would recommend 40 to 50 percent of our congregation to phase back in the first month," he says.

Other church leaders like Pastor Rob Rotola with Life Church in Wichita sys they're holding back on making a decision.

"We're waiting for the details of what comes from Laura Kelly on how many people are allowed to gather and (at) what distances and things like that, and then we'll decide," he says.

While waiting on guidance form the state, Haley, too has implemented some safety measures to allow his congregation to return.

"We've sat everybody six feet apart," he says..

He says unlike the governor's recent executive order, the next guidance from the sate will provide churches with recommendations and not requirements.

"I hope that she would have heard what churches have asked of her already, and that's basically, allow us to take care of our churches," Haley says.

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