BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — President Trump now says houses of worship are classified as essential, calling on governors to let them open right now. Some local church leaders say they’re not opening at full capacity just yet.
“True Bethel will not be moving on the president’s orders, we will be taking advantage of the governor’s orders of 10 people,” said Pastor Darius Pridgen.
Pastor Darius Pridgen says he will hold an in-person service Sunday with only 10 people. He says they had to register to attend and everyone is required to wear a face mask and sit at least six feet a part.
“We are not ready to open fully and i do not want to put anybody’s life at risk when we have the capabilities to continue streaming our services,” said Pridgen.
Just this week, Governor Cuomo announced the newly formed Interfaith Advisory Council. Pridgen has been named to the council and so has Apostolic Administrator of the Buffalo Diocese, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger.
The diocese said this week that Sunday Mass still won’t be held and instead directed parishioners to online services.
Some religious leaders weren’t happy about churches initially being included in a later phase of reopening.
“If sports teams and movie theaters and large scale gatherings at concerts were able to happen and churches weren’t, there’d be a problem. That’s when I would lead the charge to say we’re doing it anyway. But we’re not in that spot,” said Pastor Jerry Gillis, lead pastor of the Chapel.
But the CDC is now calling houses of worship “essential.”
New guidelines include a limited number of people, for church goers to wear cloth face masks and for smaller choirs during service.
Even with these new guidelines Jerry Gillis says reopening churches still needs to happen in phases.
“The time of our reopening in terms of in person is still to be determined,” said Gillis.
Pridgen says his church will offer a drive-in service under the new guidelines next week. But he says people should still be careful.
“I really appreciate the governments having this conversation, I just caution people of now packing and filling a place too rapidly before this pandemic is over,” said Pridgen.
Shannon Smith is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.