If you have seen or heard the latest announcement today from Governor Northam, you may have questions about how this pertains to churches. Below I will share what we have heard from the Governor’s office (which is consistent with what they have been telling us) as well as some specific reminders for our church family.
Churches and their worship services have their own guidelines and are not affected by the latest announcement by Governor Northam. Unless there is specific wording in an executive order or announcement that refers to houses of worship/religious services/churches - it does not apply to churches. The latest criteria for religious services, which is still in place, is from Executive Order 61 which states:
Religious services must be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy of the room or facility in which the religious services are conducted.
Individuals attending religious services must be at least six feet apart when seated and must practice proper physical distancing at all times. Family members, as defined above, may be seated together.
Gatherings for non-church groups and gatherings (like wedding receptions) had been at 250 and now go to 25 persons. The Governor’s office does ask churches to continue to promote the mask mandate which applies to individuals (see below).
Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
That said, we all know that it is incredibly important for each of us to be as diligent as possible to keep our church family safe throughout the coronavirus pandemic. To that end, we want to remind everyone to do their very best to wear a mask while inside the church building, strive to remain 6 feet apart by sitting in only the rows marked for the worship service which you are attending, and by maintaining good hygiene practices such as washing hands. We also want to remind you that if you are not feeling well, have a fever, cough, sore throat, or have recently been exposed to someone with Covid-19, that it is best to stay home and join us online for the week, even if you do not believe that you have contracted coronavirus. Our 9:30am worship service continues to be the best service to attend for those who may be of higher risk. These practices will help us to continue to keep our church family as safe as possible while continuing to gather for worship. If you have any questions regarding coronavirus policies and procedures at Hyland Heights, you can always go to hhbc.net/coronavirus.
We recognize that there are a variety of emotions that our church family may be feeling regarding these executive orders. However, we all also remember what it is like to not be able to gather for worship with our brother’s and sister’s in Christ, and we want to do everything possible to not go back in that direction. I am so grateful for your help to keep our church family safe, as we all strive to lead by example, maintain a positive attitude, keep our church focused on the Word, and remind our church family that our greatest mandate is the great commission. Yes, let us follow the governor’s mandates, but let us give our all to follow the one that was established by Jesus.
Praying with you and for you,
Dr. Josh Carter