MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - For months, the pews at churches across Alabama have sat empty, the lights off, the choir lofts silent. And they may stay that way a little longer.
Despite the government’s COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed a week ago, many houses of worship have continued with distance services, such as those broadcast online.
There are certainly smaller churches that have begun to open their doors to welcome back congregants that range in number from a few dozen to a few hundred. But for places like Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church, and some others that count several thousand as members, gatherings become a bit more complicated.
We checked with some of Montgomery’s largest churches including Frazer, First Baptist Church, St. James United Methodist, and Fresh Anointing House of Worship to get a sense of their plans going forward.
The answer appears to be much the same across the board. Each indicated they had no plan to hold traditional services for at least the next week, two weeks removed from Gov. Kay Ivey’s relaxed restrictions.
“We will continue to have online services for now as we evaluate our next steps,” said Fresh Anointing spokeswoman Rose Smith, a response echoed by each of the others.
“The biggest, single outbreak that we have seen in Alabama’s epidemic was associated with a church event,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on the day the eased restrictions were announced. “Unfortunately, it occurred before health orders had been put into place...there were a couple of hundred cases and as many as, I think almost 50 deaths either directly or indirectly related to a single church event.”
“We recognize that what might be right for smaller churches may not be wise for larger congregations,” added Frazer spokesman Ken Roach, who said they are “taking a prayerful and cautious approach.”
"Until we see the cases in our area stop increasing,” Frazer will not be among those churches that reopens, Roach said.
With Montgomery, and Alabama, seeing an increasing number of cases and deaths, the bells atop many church steeples may continue to sit silent as church services get underway from the safety of online feeds.