The pews won’t be as packed as they were the last time you plopped down in them, masks are a must, and hugs and handshakes are both a hard no-go.
But the moment many local faith leaders and congregants alike have all been waiting weeks for is either here or near — worship services face to face, not streamed on Facebook Live.
Truth be told, says Villa Grove First Christian Pastor Mike Zylstra, “I am not a fan of online church. I really miss the hugs and camaraderie that comes from being in a building with other believers.”
“Although we have been blessed to be able to share our services each week through our virtual campus online, to be together, see one another, share worship together, laugh and pray and sing together is more than words can express,” says the Rev. David Johnson, pastor at Mahomet Christian.
With Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s May 28 announcement that churches could set their own reopening rules as the state shifted into Phase 3 of his “Restore Illinois” plan, many didn’t wait long to put safety precautions in place and get back to in-person services.
Catholic churches in Danville and Urbana reopened Saturday, followed by Campustown’s St. John’s on Sunday and Champaign’s St. Matthew on Monday.
Another big batch of churches across the area — from Gibson City to Gifford, Mahomet to Muncie — will get their congregations back together this weekend for services that will look and feel considerably different than they did the first Sunday in March, pre-pandemic.
Still, many other houses of worship — particularly in Champaign-Urbana — will wait a little longer, until Phase 4 or later, to transition from worshiping remotely to on-site, out of an abundance of coronavirus caution.
After all, says Renée Antrosio, pastor at Champaign’s New Covenant Fellowship, “the things we miss the most — singing together, gathering around tables for communion, spontaneous conversations with people we don’t see often, hugs and laughter, sharing homemade goodies — are the most dangerous virus spreaders.”