SC Governor calls attending church “essential;” Aiken church looks to hold Easter Sunday services outdoors

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — At the holiest time of year for Christians, churches are working to figure out how to worship amid the coronavirus crisis.

“Have the service outside with social distancing. Or, if you must have a congregation under a roof, then use social distancing. But that first amendment right is very important,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said concerning holding church services in South Carolina.

Churches like Mt. Harris Baptist Church is taking heed to the Governor’s recommendation. Sunday, the church of nearly a hundred will hold their services outdoors.

“Even though we may have to be a part and we can’t get out and hug and love one another, that we still want to focus on Jesus and know that he’s the one that’s going to bring us through,” Pastor Cathy Patterson told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.

The lawn is expected to be filled with hundreds of worshippers. The pastor, musicians, and the praise team will be in front and center, while members and visitors stay in their cars.

“Even though we can’t go inside the church and fellowship with each other, we’ll still be able to fellowship outside even though we can’t touch each other,” 4th-grader Ariel Walker said.

For many congregations including Mt. Harris, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing a new way of experiencing the Christian faith. “The doors are closed to only those that are doing the praise and worship, the audio ministry, and the musicians. Everyone else is watching us from a live stream. We want to make sure everyone’s safe. We make sure that when we’re in the sanctuary that we don’t have more than 10 people inside,” Pastor Patterson added.

Governor McMaster’s Executive Order called attending church services as “essential.” So up to 30 days in jail or up to a $100 fine for breaking guidelines for gatherings will not be applicable.

Shawn did try reaching out to the Aiken Department of Public Safety just to learn of their plans to enforce social distancing on Sunday. He was told since Friday, April 10 is a holiday observed by the City of Aiken, no one was available to speak with me on camera.

He did receive the following statement:

During the past several weeks we have been in touch with many leaders from our faith based community, local churches, and places of worship. To the person they have understood the need to work together to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our community. No one is happy with the current state and need to “social distance” and stay at home or stay at work, but it is what we are doing together to limit the spread of this virus and to shorten its impact on our community.

Lt. Jake Mahoney
Public Information Officer
Aiken Department of Public Safety

“We realize how serious this is and still practice what we need to practice to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Pastor Patterson said.

She added that remembering the reason for the season is what her congregation and others can do to move forward during this trying time. “We are trusting God, we are thinking big because we know something big is going to happen. Not just happen all for us but happen for all.”

So will your church have in-person, live streaming, or open-air services? Well, it’s best to check with your church ahead of time just to see what options are available.

We are working to put together a resource where you’ll be able to find out what types of services will be available at local churches. Send us your information.

Meanwhile, if you would like to attend Mt. Harris’ Parking Lot worship, services begin at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the church at 1729 Powderhouse Road in Aiken.

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