Local News

Churches hold altered Sunday services following federal judge ruling

Posted May 17, 2020 1:27 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2020 10:49 p.m. EDT

A federal judge granted church leaders a temporary restraining order, allowing churches to meet in large numbers for worship for at least 14 days.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated they would suffer an irreparable injury if the assembly for religious worship provisions in [Gov. Cooper's executive order] are enforced," US District Court Judge James C. Dever III said in his ruling. ''The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury."

As a result, churches can hold services across the Triangle today. One church in Smithfield, told WRAL News that this decision didn't affect how they were gathering very much.

Pastor of New Life Baptist Church Steve Grice said his church was going to meet anyway.

"It's time. This has gone on too long." Grice said. "We're capable of making good decisions, and I think treated as fairly as the retail people."

Gay Hicks, New Life Baptist church member, was excited to be back inside the church walls.

"It's been too long since we've been able to fellowship with one another and I truly believe the spirit of the Lord is in our presence," Hicks said.

The church is small, with only 25 to 30 members that attend each service.

At today's service, the church had 85 seats available. They were set up to help church members social distance.

A church Facebook page said the church is offering hand sanitizer and face masks to those attending its services.

"If you are uncomfortable attending or not feeling well, we completely understand and we will see you soon," the post read.

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral is another church who is continuing to hold services.

On Sunday, they held two masses -- one in Spanish and one in English. Their services were outside.

Audio was possibly going to be an issue because of the outside service, a press release from the church said.

The church suggested its attendees "stream the mass on your personal device, turning down the device audio and listening to the speakers in the piazza. "

The liturgy was celebrated at the main altar inside the building. Communion was brought to church-goers outside of the church who gathered in front of the church.

Seating was not provided for the church goers, and a statement from the church said, "be prepared to stand, or bring your own chair." The attendants were asked to sit at least 6 feet away from each other.

The church directed its members to bring and wear a face mask. The masks were lowered when people received communion.

While churches can now legally hold indoor services, it's still against the Governor’s order.

In a statement, Governor's Office said they disagree with the decision to allow larger indoor church gatherings. However, the governor's office will not appeal the judge's decision.

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