Houses of worship, funeral guidelines released in W.Va.
Under the state of West Virginia’s plan to reopen the state as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic houses of worship are not included in the rules of public gatherings smaller than 25, Gov. Jim Justice said during a news conference Thursday.
"We've got guidelines on how they can go and how they can and have really wonderful worship with their families and stay a pew apart, stay with their families, wear masks," Justice said. "All those guidelines are on our website and everything. I understand how they could pick up on the 25 and how that could be misunderstood, but that does not apply to our churches. We want our churches to rejoice and do exactly what's on our website."
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The guidelines suggest that places of worship add additional services, as well as create a seniors-only service to help protect members of the vulnerable population.
In addition, the guidelines say that congregants should sanitize their hands and wear masks. Furthermore, it's suggested that offering plates not be passed, rather a central offering box be used, and that people are seated in every other pew.
"I am encouraging churches to refrain from in person worship until at least the end of May. That will allow leadership teams to work through the guidelines and to be more prepared for people to gather safely," said Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, area bishop of the West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.
"We are going to continue to exercise caution at our synagogue and remain virtual in everything we do for the foreseeable future. We will continue to listen to health authorities who urge caution when it comes to vulnerable citizens. We have had tremendous success being connected in daily worship and study through technology," said Rabbi Victor Urecki of Charleston's B'Nai Jacob Synogauge.
The guidelines recommend keeping childcare services provided by the house of worship closed, unless the place of worship can comply with CDC guidelines.
During this time of social distancing, so many clergy members have worked to adapt their services online and those types of services are still being encouraged, especially so that those who are sick or a member of a vulnerable population can watch from home.
The guidelines set forth for churches also include funeral services, according to the document issued by the state.