SALT LAKE CITY — The coronavirus pandemic swiftly slammed the door on gathering inside churches around the globe. Since then, spiritual services have been forced to move online.
But as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert lowered the risk level from phase red to yellow, some places of worship have carefully begun to welcome back the faithful.
Back together in Taylorsville
Pastor Tyler Peil of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Taylorsville joined Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to explain how the church is transitioning back to in-person meetings.
“I’m so happy that you and your fellow believers were able to get back together yesterday [Sunday]. How did it go?” Lee asked.
“It went very well. It was not normal. It wasn’t back to the way things were. But it was wonderful to be able to have something, to have a bit of physical presence after such a long stretch of being really, really apart,” Peil said.
New church setting
“What were the logistics like? What was the experience of your worshipers?” Lee asked.
“We tried to follow CDC guidelines and all the suggestions of the state of Utah,” Peil said. “The windows and doors were open, so you didn’t have to touch the handle. There was hand sanitizer, and we disinfected between services. We pushed pews so people would be distanced, and we handed out masks.”
To minimize contact, hymnals were not used. Instead, a printed service was distributed, which could be later discarded or recycled. Also, no offering plates were passed around.
Peil added that sick or compromised people were asked to stay home.
“Just to be able to hear each other, not over electronics, and to see each other was a real joy. It caught me a little bit off guard how fulfilling that was,” he said.
Physical is real
“Why is it important to return to the house of worship? What is different about meeting and gathering and worshiping together in a shared physical space as compared to this video conferencing we’ve been doing the last few weeks?” Lee asked.
“I think part of that is just human psychology,” Peil said. “We believe we were built for human interaction in a physical way, too. Loneliness is kind of an epidemic in our world.”
Peil recounts feeling a sense of community when faith gathering took place on Sunday for the first time in weeks.
Citing the Bible, he noted that Jesus said a church is “where two or three gather in my name.”
“Not that we can’t in some way come together online. But all of us would just agree that it’s different. But it’s real to have that physical presence,” the pastor said.
Gift of tech
“What message do you have for those folks who aren’t able to congregate together physically in the same place? Those who are immunocompromised. Those over 65. Those who have any of the underlying conditions that may put them at higher risk to this coronavirus,” Lee asked.
“Let’s give thanks to God at the moment for the gift of technology,” Peil said. “The church has been through tough times before. And we were blessed to be able to at least still have the word of God hitting our ears through the internet and be able to see some things with video.
“But bigger than that, of course, is that while you might not be here, the Lord is there. He and his holy angels, and we’re together in spirit. Hang on, stay strong, and we’ll be back together again, hopefully, sooner than later,” Peil said.
Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app
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