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NC Churches Take Different Paths To In-Person Worship As COVID Restrictions Relax

Patients form a line in the church sanctuary.
Mike DuBose, UM News
via Flickr
Patients form a line in the church sanctuary as they wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccination during a clinic at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Churches and other places of worship are taking different approaches to welcoming more people back in-person since overall guidance for mask wearing and gatherings has loosened.

The CDC and state health officials say people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in public, but unvaccinated people should.

While state mask mandate and capacity limits in North Carolina never applied to religious organizations, many have followed the lead of health officials. Gov. Roy Cooper lifted most remaining pandemic restrictions nearly a month ago after the CDC’s ruling, saying it was safe for people who are fully vaccinated to go mask-less without social distancing.

At Veritas Church in Fayetteville, visitors have the choice to wear a mask or not, as lead pastor Jacob Warren explains in a video message.

“Although masks are optional on Sundays for us, treating each other like family isn't,” Warren says. “If wearing a mask for you is a way that is going to make you comfortable coming to the gatherings, man, we support you; we're for you, and we can't wait to worship alongside of you."

In Chapel Hill, Grace Church is requiring masks for one service on Sunday morning, and making masks optional for the other, after a survey showed the congregation to be evenly divided on the issue.

Lead Pastor Kendrick Vinar explained that decision in a video message.

“I understand people have different perspectives, and they see this differently, and so that's what we're going to do,” Vinar says. “We're going to be better, stronger, together. We'll keep taking it one step at a time and we're going to serve and we're going to act in love."

Meanwhile, the Catholic Community of Saint Stephen in Sanford is following reserving one side of the church for vaccinated visitors, and another side for those who aren't.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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