NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Indiana's back on track plan allows churches to start in-person services again on Friday, but some pastors in southern Indiana do not plan to open their doors.
“We just decided to wait a little bit and see how things unfold,” said Lee Huckleberry, pastor of Park Christian Church in New Albany.
Huckleberry said for his congregation, May 8 seemed too soon to reopen.
“We’re appreciative of the guidance but we have to make decisions that meet the needs of all of our members,” he said. “What we decided to do is to delay any decision to reopen until June.”
Huckleberry said multiple factors played into that decision, including the age of the congregation.
“Our congregation has numerous members over the age of 65…and we feel like if our faith compels us to do anything, it is to protect the vulnerable,” he said.
Instead, Huckleberry and his team plan to reevaluate in June whether or not it’s safe for them to open.
“If the data is favorable and the number of overall cases is declining, hopefully we’ll make plans to reopen in late June or early July," said Huckleberry.
Tracking the spread of the virus over the next few weeks is also a reason why St. Marks United Church of Christ plans to delay opening.
“We’re trying to put a plan in place to open on June 7,” said Rev. John Manzo of St. Marks United Church of Christ. “If infections begin to spike, we may have to reconsider.”
Manzo said his church is planning for a June opening date with certain precautions in place.
“Our first step would be to go from one worship service to two worship services,” he said.
That would allow for more space between members, which is one requirement laid out in Governor Eric Holcomb’s guidelines for worship services.
But for now, a six-foot distance is not enough for these church leaders who say safety is paramount.
“You know we obviously would like to get together to worship but my main priority is safety," Manzo said. "The people in our church are to me very special precious people and I want them to be safe."
Huckleberry and Manzo also said they are taking the guidance from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear into consideration because their churches are so close to the border.