Church leaders studying how to make people feel safe when doors reopen
As many adjustments as churches have made to continue their services with their doors closed, they are going to have as many or more to make when it's deemed safe to reopen.
Preparations for that already have begun at Willow Creek in South Barrington, with committees planning for the staff's return and the congregation's.
In these days of social distancing, it's hard to imagine the big crowds at churches like Willow Creek, which was drawing about 18,000 at its weekend services at all of its locations before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"We are talking about a phased approach and being flexible, consulting with other churches," Communications Director Liz Schauer said. "Everything from opening doors to kids check-in to making everything as touch-free as possible."
Erik Holm, pastor at Wildwood Presbyterian Church in Grayslake, said there are several things his church will need to change to limit personal contact, at least for awhile.
"We have to rethink practices," Holm said. "We're strategizing and none of us have a perfect answer. Limit people for a service? Tape off where they can sit? It's all a bit of conjecture at this point."
Chapelstreet Church pastor Jeff Frazier said he could see a gradual transition from most of his congregation preferring to stream the service at home. Leaders have discussed ideas like closing every other row and having people sign up ahead of time to attend a service.
"It's probably likely many people in our church family would not feel comfortable coming yet or at least not in the same way," Frazier said. "We have to prepare psychologically to gather in large groups. We can't wait to get back together with people but we want to do that wisely, prayerfully in a way that is safe."