By Jin Ni
Local places of worship are opening back up for in-person services after months of virtual meetings.
Trinity United Methodist Church had its first in-person service this past Sunday. Churchgoers are required to wear masks and socially distance inside the sanctuary.
Trinity Methodist Church resumed in-person services this past Sunday at 10 a.m. In a video posted on the church’s Facebook page, Pastor Joe Cailles said the church was offering three options for service to accommodate various comfort levels and schedules: in-person, a Facebook livestream or a video recording.
Churchgoers are always required to wear masks. They are also asked if they had any symptoms of COVID-19, whether they’d been exposed to someone who had it or if they had tested positive.
Guests and visitors were allowed, as long as they left a name and contact information in the case health officials needed to do contact tracing if someone tested positive.
Cailles also warned against mingling after the service concluded.
“Now, I know one of the best parts of being in the church is visiting and seeing each other. We will be able to do that safely one day. But not here, and not yet,” Cailles said.
Viewers watching the service from home this past Sunday said some technical issues made it difficult to follow along.
“I thought the mask was distorting the sound, and I was wondering if he could take it off if he stood a bit further away from everyone else,” John Thomas said.
Others were glad to have a livestream at all. For most the summer, Pastor Joe, as he is affectionately called by his congregation, was posting videos of sermons and Wednesday evening prayers.
“I’m thankful for all their efforts. Having the video and know that others are watching it at the same time makes me feel more connected,” Nancy Lowe said. “It’s hard, but I’m sure it will only get better and better.”
Other local churches are also starting to open their doors to their congregation, including students from the town’s two colleges.
Grace Episcopal Church has been offering in-person services for about six weeks. Churchgoers are required to register online before attending.Grace Episcopal Church has had in-person services for about six weeks, including four services this past Sunday. In-person attendance was capped at 41 individuals or households, and masks were required at all times. All had to register online prior to attending.
Grace Episcopal is continuing. online services and livestreams. The church uses Zoom for weekly prayer meetings, youth worship and even musical rehearsals.
Martha Burford, the Minister of Music, said she has had to get creative. On Oct. 1, the church is inviting Rev. Laurence Wainwright-Maks, Chaplain of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf, to teach choral members how to “sing” popular choral hymns in American Sign Language. Students from Southern Virginia University and Washington and Lee University were invited this past weekend to teach vocal and music techniques over Zoom to choral members as well.
Hymns are recorded virtually and played during the livestreams every Sunday.
Burford hopes the choir will be able to meet up in person again one day.
“But right now, because there are members of the choir who are part of the vulnerable population, I can’t predict when we’re back in a room singing together,” Burford said. “I know it will come. I have every bit of faith.”
Collections have not changed much for churches. Burford said that Grace Episcopal is collecting a similar amount to last year.
Pastors remain optimistic despite the challenges and difficulties presented by the pandemic.
“We will make changes and improve as we go along,” Cailles said at the end of Sunday’s worship. “Please do be patient and kind-hearted with each other and with me. Our goal as a church family is to worship meaningfully and to worship safely.”
Other churches open for in-person services this weekend include Life Chapel AG, Rockbridge Church, and Lexington Baptist Church.