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Pandemic could have churches closing doors by the end of 2020

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 11:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - With the domino effects from the pandemic, research is showing a lot of churches will be forced to close within the year.

And it’s a dilemma faced by our local churches. But the strategies for survival look different depending on the church.

It used to be that the doors to a church were always open. That is until COVID-19 forced many to close them.

“COVID changed a lot, you know, I forget which boxer said, ‘Everybody’s got a plan until you get punched in the mouth ...’ Well, we got punched in the mouth in February and March,” Frank Lewis said.

COVID-19 restrictions moved many churches online for their services and extra activities.

“This is the first time we ever did anything livestream,” Lewis explained.

Lewis is the pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Grovetown. And he’s been preaching to an empty sanctuary since the pandemic began back in March.

“I can’t wait till we get back here; I am ready to get back in here,” Lewis said.

Since statistics show COVID-19 disproportionately affects the black community, Lewis says he isn’t taking any chances.

“I have a lot of elder people in the church, you know, and my thing is, I don’t want to have the responsibility of someone coming you know and so they caught it from the church,” he said.

Even if he opened, the responsibility wouldn’t be all his. Georgia law says churches that do open must place a sign outside informing the congregation they are not responsible for possible COVID-19 exposure.

“I take it that sign is just saying, ‘Hey look, you’re out in public, you’re in a public spot. People are going to be around here. Be smart. Be wise be considerate,’” Pastor Brad Whitt of Abilene Baptist Church said.

Whitt actually reopened the doors of Abilene back in May.

“And so, you can come in and sit in a 1,000-seat auditorium. And so, you don’t have 6 feet; you’ve got 60 feet of space,” he said.

But while Mount Pleasant is closed and Abilene is open: but both pastors want the same thing.

“I know it’s going to take a while, but I pray that things will get better than they are now,” Lewis said.

Both of the churches are doing well right now. But Life-Way Research predicts loss in revenue and participation due to the pandemic will cause 5 percent of churches to permanently close by the end of this year.

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