The Neighbor | Rob Stroud and Dave Fopay | May 26, 2020
The joyful sounds of a congregation singing hymns such as “Mansion Over the Hilltop” and “I’ll Fly Away” reverberated Wednesday evening through the sanctuary of Maranatha Baptist Church in Mattoon just as they have countless times before.
Still, this prayer service, led by Pastor Daniel Haifley, was different.
For one, the church was instituting social distancing and other safety protocols for the prayer service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For another, the service took place at a time when the state of Illinois is continuing to order that all gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited. There were more than 10 people in attendance and even more have been attending the Sunday services, Haifley said.
Maranatha, 3400 DeWitt Ave., resumed Sunday morning worship services and Wednesday evening prayer services on May 3 after having focuses on live streamed services for several weeks. Haifley added that he would not hold these services if COVID-19 was sweeping through the area.
“We have flattened the curve (in Illinois), which was what we were trying to do,” Haifley said. “We believe the major danger has passed. As long as we are careful, we will be fine.”
Maranatha has instituted several safety protocols for its services as they have resumed. These include not offering communion, Sunday school, children’s and youth programs, or a staffed nursery for the time being. Collection plates are not being passed, and offerings are instead being taken in a basket in the lobby or online.
Parishioners are being asked to refrain from shaking hands and hugging and from congregating in the lobby, and are asked to maintain social distance in the sanctuary and to exit the sanctuary starting with the back row and working forward to the front row. Overflow seating is available in the adjacent fellowship hall.
Haifley said he has seen Maranatha’s recent services draw visitors from Coles County and from out of town whose own churches have not resumed their services yet.
“That is just showing that people are ready to get back to church,” Haifley said.