PAYETTE COUNTY

For weeks, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has shuttered the nation’s schools, businesses, parks and, even, churches. The doors closed as governors and several church leaders declared that canceling worship services during the pandemic was a foregone conclusion.

May 1 marked the beginning of stage one for Idaho’s reopening plan, which includes allowing the reopening of daycares, organized youth activities and camps, as well as places of worship, with the latter of these including a rule for “strict physical distancing,” as well as sanitation protocol and CDC guidance.

After Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced last week that churches could be among the first to reopen, the newspaper reached out to several area churches to find out how they would respond to the news. Responses were mixed, with some church leaders saying they were planning services this weekend, and others looking to stay closed or keep portions of offerings closed through the month of May.

Bishop Peter Christensen, during a phone call on April 28 confirmed Corpus Christi Catholic Church was resuming services during the weekend, starting with Mass at 5 p.m. on May 2. Per Little’s guidelines, there was limited seating and the doors will close promptly once that capacity is reached. 

At Payette United Methodist Church, they don’t plan to reopen for at least a little while longer, Cris Warzyn, a representative of the church, wrote in an email on Wednesday.

“Our bishop, Elaine J.W. Stanovsky has said that the Methodist Churches in her area will most likely be closed through May 30,” said Warzyn. “This decision isn’t etched in stone and could be changed.”

Eric Dahle, president of the Ontario Oregon Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said church members are still taking this news one day at a time.

“We are committed to being good, responsible citizens. We will follow the guidelines of the state,” he says.

Since March 12, general authorities of the Church have suspended all church meetings and activities worldwide, and in late March closed all temples to member use. Dahle says this is likely to stay the case for now.

“Sunday services as we have known them are still probably a few weeks out,” he added. “We always seek out service opportunities. We are anxious to return to being able to ‘meet together oft.’”

Tim Gerdes, Pastor of the Payette Church of the Nazarene, said church resumed at at 10:30 a.m. on May 3, with the following caveats among others. 1) No Sunday school throughout at least May; 2) Services would still be available on Facebook live; 3) Kids church would still be on, except there would still be social distancing; 4) Offerings will be collected in a box at the back of the sanctuary, instead of on a collection plate.

Pastor Howard Williams of Payette Seventh-Day Adventist Church said his staff would have a board meeting on April 30, to determine protocols for reopening, but they would work through issues and “no doubt reopen next weekend.”

Churchgoers with questions about their individual services are urged to reach out to their church leadership for complete details.

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