LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — In a conversation with the Kentucky Council of Churches earlier in the week, Gov. Andy Beshear asked houses of worship to pause in-person church services for two weekends as Kentucky experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“I recommended for the next two Sundays, with the escalating number of cases that we have, in a very dangerous time, I recommended that people do the virtual or drive-up services,” said Gov. Beshear during a briefing Friday afternoon.
In May, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order allowing churches to reopen, after Gov. Beshear declared a state of emergency in March which required them to close for in-person services.
Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington has held virtual services since Gov. Beshear issued the state of emergency in March.
“We don’t want to put anybody at increased risk of infection and so we’ve chosen to do virtual and have been at that position since back in mid-March,” said Reverend Richard Gaines.
Gaines told LEX 18 Sunday morning he supports the governors request to cancel in-person services while case numbers continue to increase.
“I think he’s operating with the best interest of all of Kentucky in mind,” said Gaines.
Gaines said that as a predominantly African-American church, they have to be more careful with how they open because data shows African-Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. For this reason, returning to in-person services will not be an option for Consolidated Baptist, according to Gaines.
“I know there’s pressure from certain sectors of the community to press forward, to re-engage and to get back to business as usual but this virus is not a virus as usual. Again, there is no vaccine available at this time to combat the virus,” said Gaines.
Meanwhile, David’s Fork Baptist Church in Lexington held a combination of in-person and drive-in services Sunday morning.
The church reopened to in-person services on July 5.
“About half of my congregation is still worshiping still in their cars and the other half is going inside,” said Pastor Mickey Hyder.
Hyder said he’s aware of Beshear’s recommendation.
“I know he’s trying to do what’s best for our state. I really believe that, but I also know that since we’ve gone back inside to have worship inside, we have been very, very cautious,” Hyder said.
In order to reopen, Hyder required church members to follow new guidelines, including wearing masks, social distancing and having their temperature taken at the door.
David’s Fork Baptist Church will continue offering both in-person and drive-in services, according to Hyder.
“Everybody needs to make the right decision for themselves and I respect whatever that decision might be,” he said.