Bethel AME Church has held services online for more than a year. And even though on Friday the governor says capacity limits can be lifted, Pastor Steven Cousin says they’ll wait a little longer to fill the pews.
“We’re still in this massive campaign about people getting vaccinated,” said Cousin. “We’re still trying to bring awareness to our community about how important it is to receive the vaccination.”
And that’s why Cousin says they’re not ready for in-person services. A portion or their members become eligible for a vaccine on the day the capacity limits lift. So, he says, they’ll hold off.
“Our thing is it does not make sense for us to reopen at this time, especially given tomorrow, given that our people don’t have the full protection of COVID-19 as of right now,” said Cousin.
Other houses of worship tell NBC Connecticut they’re also waiting. Congregation B’nai Jacob is holding a COVID-19 taskforce meeting Thursday night about reopening procedures and protocols. Rabbi Rona Shapiro says they may open later this month.
At Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, Pastor Kelcy G. L. Steele says they’re in the planning stages too.
“Working with my administrative team and coming up with good COVID protocol as related to the CDC guidelines,” said Steele.
He says they may not reopen until May, a few weeks after Easter he says, to avoid super spreader events. He says they’re focused on more vaccine clinics for the community.
“At this time, we’re trying to really push our campaign on vaccinations and so that’s our main priority. Not reentering into buildings but making sure we get the shots in the arms of black and brown people, especially in our community,” said Steele.
The church has held vaccine clinics for neighborhood residents, and they’re working on a longer term set up.
“We are in negotiations with Cornell Health in order to use our facility for a Monday through Friday clinic, so not a pop up but a stabilized clinic right there in the community,” said Steele.
Cousin says they may consider a soft reopening or an outdoor service soon. But for now, the work of the church goes on.
“Even though the church doors may be closed the ministry is still continuing,” said Cousin. “Where we’re still able to provide a vaccination site for our members, we’re still able to provide food for those who are in need, we’re still able to provide clothing. So, we’re still doing the work of the church and we’re still serving the community at a time like this.”