Columbus Dispatch | Danae King | June 1, 2020
Victorious Living Church in Grove City was among a handful of other central Ohio houses of worship that hosted their first in-person worship services since COVID began.
The doors of Victorious Living Church in Grove City were flung open in welcome on Sunday morning, although not all congregants were back in their seats.
Those who filed into the church were greeted by signs saying “welcome home” and by greeters wearing face masks.
Victorious Living was one of a handful of churches to reopen buildings for in-person worship after fears of spreading COVID-19 caused many faith leaders to adapt to reaching their flocks online.
Although the church building hasn’t been closed, and worship has continued over the internet, Sunday was the first time people were welcomed back inside for worship.
But things looked different: There was no hugging or hand-shaking, rows of seats were marked off to allow for social distancing, and hand sanitizer was readily available. Still, those in attendance seemed happy to be back with their congregation.
“It’s one thing to worship online, and as Christians we can worship wherever we are, but when you’re so united … it’s wonderful to hear our voices together,” said Deborah Swank, 69, who has been attending Victorious Living for about 20 years.
The Knox County resident worshiped during the 9 a.m. service, which was reserved mostly for seniors, and was greeting families and others coming in for the 10:45 a.m. service.
“Good to see you,” she said excitedly as people walked up, elbow-bumping one woman happily while others blew her kisses as they walked through the church’s propped-open doors.
Senior Pastor Ed Akers said he and his team decided to allow in-person worship this week in part because several other businesses and organizations are opening, or have already opened up, around the state.
“We’re coming back modified, but we’re coming back,” Akers said.
The modifications included asking church-goers to register online, limiting each service to about 70 attendees, blocking off every other row of seats in the sanctuary and asking that everyone leave two seats open between each person.
In the lobby, there were masks for those who wanted them, though they were not required, signs with health guidelines and hand sanitizer. The bathrooms were cleaned after each use, all doors were propped open to avoid the need to touch them, and the sanctuary was sanitized between services.
“Christianity is a thing for preference toward your neighbor,” said the Rev. Brent Powell, senior executive pastor. He wanted people coming into the church to feel comfortable. “We’re trying to think of everything.”
Greeters were instructed to limit people gathering in the lobby and the sanctuary before and after services.