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Churches differ on decision to reopen this weekend

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — In central Indiana, churches outside Marion County will be free to open starting Friday. But many will not.

For pastors everywhere, it’s a gut-wrenching decision.

At Cornerstone Lutheran Church, which is opening this weekend, the sermon is scheduled for five minutes and the service itself will be shorter than the time in between services to help people get in and out safely as well as to sanitize.

Executive pastor Scott Giger believes it can be done in a way that keeps people safe and that also allows for worship.

“We believe God’s word is good whether it’s delivered via video or in person. We were confident in that. We were confident that we were reaching the congregation and others as well, but there’s nothing like being together,” Giger said.

But it means a complete makeover.

Those 65 and older are an at-risk population and are being asked to stay home.

People are asked to register in advance and from the moment they pull into the parking lot and keep socially distant. Families will be ushered in individually along marked pathways, kept 6 feet apart and will be dismissed the same way. Everyone older than 2-years old is being asked to wear a mask.

Still, it’s no easy decision.

“But if you want to stay home, if you want to watch online, and you want to wait, that’s okay. This isn’t a sign of faithfulness or unfaithfulness,” pastor Giger said.

Elsewhere in Carmel, there was a different decision made about Sunday at Orchard Park Presbyterian.

The church is targeting May 31 as the first gathering together.

“I don’t want older folks to feel like they can’t come,” said Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood. “We’d like everybody to be able to feel safe to come. We also, frankly, need time to get organized and make sure it’s a safe environment to get here.”

For Rev. Wood, some of her fears have already come true.

Several in her congregation have come down with coronavirus and now, within the last week, one person passed away. She also fears that someone could get the virus by coming to church.

“I don’t think any of us in the community of faith, we just couldn’t bear that. So, I feel like we want to put into measures everything we can to keep super safe as possible so that doesn’t happen,” said Rev. Wood.

Pastor Giger is honest that it’s a decision that he’s still mulling over.

“Am I worried about it? I think a lot about it. I think a lot about it. Since last week, it’s what gets me up very early in the morning.”

Usually, there are about 1,100 people at the Carmel campus of Cornerstone Lutheran. So far, about 190 people have registered.