ODESSA, Texas — Church bells aren't ringing...at least not for now.
Even though Governor Abbott is opening up places of worship at 25% occupancy starting tomorrow, most church leaders in West Texas are still preparing, before unlocking the heavenly gates.
"It's been a long time. The last Sunday we were in the building was March 8th," Darin Wood, senior pastor at First Baptist Church said.
"We just don't feel like we could do it in a safe and sanitary way just yet," Kenny Comstock, executive pastor at Crossroads Church said.
What it comes down to is the very purpose of a church...welcoming you in.
They can't quite do this authentically if they're limiting specific at-risk church members from coming to commune.
"We want to do everything we can to make people be able to focus on the reason that they came to a church instead of be worried about all the things that they could be worried about while they're at church," Comstock said.
So they're taking this time to prepare for the religious rush they're expecting when they do open.
Now before churches like Crossroads can reopen, church staff will be taking extra precautions to clean everything; disinfect it by wiping it down. That includes doorknobs, handles, bathrooms, tables, and even disinfecting church seats and pews in between services.
They'll also host multiple services since members will be limited to having to sit two seats apart and leave pews or rows alternating empty.
Pastors will utilize all space in their churches to socially distance, stock up on PPE so they can hand out masks, screen people at the door, remove hymnals, greeting stations, and offering plates.
Some churches even plan to host services for specific age groups.
"We've never done that. That's crazy talk, but we feel like that's a good way we can both accommodate our seniors and protect them at the same time," Wood said.
But here's the most spiritual food for thought while you're still waiting on the Word.
"What will you be like at the end of the crisis? Will you be better? Will you be a deeper follower of Christ? Will you be a better person? Will you be more engaged in something? Maybe a deeper relationship with your kid or your spouse? Or, will you just endure?" Comstock asked.
Local church updates about reopening:
St. Nicholas Episcopal - online services May 3, 2020
Christ Church Anglican - no in-person services May 3, 2020
Fairmont Park Church of Christ - online services May 3, 2020, deciding a more solid plan next week
New Life Church - online services May 3, 2020, looking to have some sort of limited in-person service for Mother's Day
Connection Christian Church - drive-in worship May 3, 2020, considering all options for safety moving forward, considering vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly, they will have a slow and careful process
Immanuel Baptist Church - no in-person services May 3, 2020, elders will meet next week to discuss further steps