Local churches must cope with COVID for 2nd year
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
Even though vaccines are pouring in and infection rates falling, churches in Darlington County aren’t necessarily letting down their guard against COVID-19 as they head into a second Easter Sunday in the shadow of the pandemic. A spot check of several area churches indicates that few, if any, Darlington County churches are planning to significantly relax their COVID safeguards for Easter Sunday even as the nation seems to be turning the corner on the pandemic. For example, one of Darlington’s larger churches, Central Baptist, doesn’t plan to change its COVID routines, a spokesman said. The church for several months has been holding in-person services where face masks are encouraged, but not required. The church makes masks and hand sanitizer available for parishoners. It also live-streams services for those who prefer to stay home. The church estimates that it’s back up to about 60 percent of its pre-COVID attendance of about 200 people. Likewise, Darlington’s Trinity United Methodist Church was not planning to change its anti-COVID procedures for Easter Sunday, a spokesman said. Services will be offered both in person and on streaming video. At Hartsville’s Cornerstone Baptist Church, pastor Brad Jordan said no changes were planned for Easter. “We’ve been fairly relaxed (on COVID precautions) for quite some time,” he said. Jordan said face masks are optional, and the church asks people to maintain a safe social distance. Jordan said the church now has about the same number of people attending services as it did before the pandemic – 25 to 30. If the church were using stronger COVID precautions, Jordan said he now would be inclined to relax them. “In all honesty, I never worried about (COVID),” he said. “The church has been strong for 2,000 years.” Are you going to church in person this Easter? A new survey doesn’t think so. The survey, from the Pew Research Center, finds that only 4 in 10 U.S. Christians (about 39 percent) plan to go in person to church this Easter Sunday because of the continuing COVID threat. Other findings from Pew’s new survey of religious trends: Three-quarters of U.S. adults who usually attend services say they are “very” or “somewhat” confident they can do so safely now. Nearly 60 percent of people who say they usually attend services at least once or twice a month have not attended in the past month. Two-thirds of the people surveyed say their church is open now, but with various kinds of limitations and modifications to fight COVID. Only 12 percent say their church is essentially back to normal in terms of the way it operates.