Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”
In the beginning, Gov. Ralph Northam closed schools for two weeks, then on March 23 he ordered schools closed for the remainder of the academic year and encouraged Virginia residents to stay at home.
Groups of more than 10 were discouraged and churches began virtual services.
Forward Virginia began Friday, phase one of the reopening of the economy and a return to normalcy for Virginians.
In accordance with the governor’s Executive Order No. 61, churches may reopen Sunday with 50% capacity.
“This Sunday, we’re kind of going back to normal,” said Bishop Peter Robinson of Good Shepherd Anglican Church at 712 W. Main St. in Waynesboro.
For the past eight weeks, Robinsons said the church has used a sign-up system for both its 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday services in order to limit the number of church members in the building to 10 per service.
Good Shepherd, which opened two years ago, has 25 church members, and held three services on Easter Sunday in order to accommodate all members.
On Sunday, Robinson said church members will continue to be encouraged to practice six-foot social distancing between families, but masks are not required.
“Just be sensible,” Robinson said. “Like going to the grocery store.”
Now that the governor has lifted restrictions on group gatherings, the church will no longer need a sign-up sheet.
“We have plenty of room for people to spread out,” Robinson said of the reason for the church resuming in-person services Sunday. “As always, we’ll be glad to see visitors now that things are a little bit more relaxed.”
He added that hopefully the fact the church’s name includes Anglican prepares visitors for a traditional worship style.
GraceBuilt Church, at 2639 W. Main St. in Waynesboro, reopened for in-person services last Sunday.
“It was just very simple for us,” said Pastor Josh Akin. “We wanted everyone to be able to worship in a way that is safe to them.”
Akin said some of GraceBuilt’s 200 members are continuing to view services online from home, an option that will remain available, but others are ready to return to church.
The church offered online services only for seven weeks before May 10.
“It’s strange to go about your life and not let Jesus be a part of that,” Akin said.
Akin said Christians who feel safe to worship in church should be able to do so. The governor’s restrictions should not matter, because church worship “belongs to Jesus and not the governor.”
GraceBuilt’s service last week was limited to 30% capacity.
“We will do the same this Sunday, too,” said Akin, who lives in Waynesboro. “Our social distancing policy is more limiting than the governor’s.”
GraceBuilt gives away masks at the front door of the church as members arrive for the 9 and 11 a.m. services. Each family is separated in rows during service.
Children’s ministries are cancelled for now, and children are worshipping with adults in both services.
Both morning services are also kept short.
“It’s just another way of helping people feel safe,” Akin said.
For now, Akin said GraceBuilt does not have plans for resuming services at 100% capacity.
“We’re just taking it one month at a time,” he said.
First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of West 11th Street and South Wayne Avenue in downtown Waynesboro for 175 years, is responding differently.
“We have a much older congregation,” said Betsy Ruehl, First Presbyterian’s clerk of sessions.
The church’s full-time minister also retired to France before the pandemic, and to resume in-person services would require bringing in guest ministers.
In-person services, Ruehl said, would also require the church be cleaned more often.
For the last eight weeks, the church has shared online services with several other local churches, including Westminster Presbyterian, Smyrna Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian and Hermitage Presbyterian.
The church will discuss resuming in-person services at its June 9 session meeting.
“We are really in no hurry,” Ruehl said.
According to Lead Pastor Brandon Williams of Church on the Hill, 100 Four Square Ln., Fishersville, the church will reopen on June 7 with in-person services at 10:30 a.m.
By waiting until early June, the church will reopen during phase two of the governor’s plan when more restrictions are lifted, and more members of the church’s large congregation will be able to attend.