By Message Staff
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM) – Churches may now hold outdoor worship services but still must adhere to proper social distancing guidelines, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
During his daily news conference, Edwards said tent services also are an option, but warned that flaps must not be released to form an enclosed space.
“We again believe that those individuals per the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance and the department of health guidelines here in Louisiana wear a mask,” Edwards said. “And then we would ask that those churches take special precautions about communing service and other parts of the services that would typically bring people within close proximity with one another and to make alternative arrangements for that.”
Edwards said the Louisiana Department of Health and the state Fire Marshal’s Office will provide more guidance on Friday.
The announcement came hours after state Attorney General Jeff Landry said he sent a letter asking the governor to allow churches to begin the process of immediately reopening. He also offered the governor a set of guidelines that include: encouraging at-risk individuals and those with symptoms of illness to stay at home; exercising best sanitation practices; and, making other appropriate adjustments. A compete list may be found by clicking here.
“As other states begin reopening and unrest in the legislature continues, I believe many faith-based congregations will begin to meet with or without guidance,” wrote Landry. “We are be better served by taking a proactive approach by publishing reopening guidelines that take a phased approach to faith services restarting. Without guidance based on best practices in place, this could be disastrous.”
Louisiana Baptists have continued to adapt their approaches to worship and ministry since the first statewide restrictions on public gatherings were issued in mid-March.
Some congregations have taken novel approaches such as drive-in services as an alternative to meeting inside campus facilities, while also depending more heavily on a social media presence than before.
Louisiana continues to be under a stay-at-home order that Edwards has extended through May 15 — but modifying it slightly in regards to eateries and retail stores. Beginning Friday, restaurants are allowed to permit customers to eat outdoors on patios but there cannot be any table service. Meanwhile, shopping malls may operate curbside retail service, but workers who come within the presence of customers must wear masks.