Marion County churches prepare for largest crowds in months

INDIAANAPOLIS (WISH) — Places of worship in Marion County are now able to operate at 50% capacity after spending a couple of weeks limited to 25 people or fewer.

Any place of worship having services this weekend already has some guidelines laid out by Mayor Joe Hogsett. Those include wearing a mask and following social distancing guidelines.

But many churches are creating extra measures to make sure parishioners stay safe and comfortable.

Caution tape blocked off many of the seats at Southside Reformed Presbyterian Church as they had a limit of 10 in groups. Now the tape is coming off as they move toward filling seats this weekend, all assigned by ushers so people are distanced and no seat is used twice in the same day.

“Yeah, we’ll have more people sitting up front than maybe ever!” senior pastor David Hanson said. “That’ll work really well.”

They’re also encouraging people to bring their own material. If they use the church’s, those books will be placed in a contamination pile for two weeks. But letting people inside, the church is assigning churchgoers to a specific service to make sure everyone can make it to whatever fits in their schedule.

“We won’t do seat assignments in terms of having a grid of wherever they’re sitting ahead of time,” Hanson said. “It’ll sort of be first come, first serve. The first people in line will end up in the front rows and we’ll seat toward the back.”

Elevation Church of Indy is doing something similar. They’re having people reserve spots for a service so they don’t go over their self-imposed 50-person limit.

“A week out, they can reserve whichever service they want,” lead pastor Tony Smith said. And we’re doing more services so that we can accommodate more people and do social distancing.”

Smith said the church set a limit because they want to properly social distance. By keeping the limit low, they say they can reassure the congregation they’re coming to a health-conscious, safe facility.

“It’s a whole new world,” Smith said. “So we’re cleaning, we’re sanitizing stuff in between and trying to do everything that we can. We want people to be safe and healthy and we’re doing what we can to cover that.”

Both of the churches News 8 spoke with say they’ll continue to do digital services as well — that way if you can’t make it or don’t feel comfortable doing in-person services, you won’t have to miss out.