When can we or should we begin holding church gatherings? This rests on several guidelines from our government. These agencies go from broad to narrow (federal, state, county). The dictates trickle down from one to the next.
President Trump has launched a helpful website explaining the guidelines for opening up America again. The federal government has established “gating criteria” for vetting states and regions for determining who is eligible for greater accessibility. Under phase one, houses of worship are labeled as large venues and “can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.”
Governor Henry McMaster has posted executive order 2020-29 which is updated with provisions as the condition changes. As of this post, it was last updated on April 27th and states that its provisions will be in force for 15 days. This extends till May 12th. It requires social distancing and authorizes law enforcement to disperse unlawful gatherings of 3 or more persons unless a family gathering or working. SC DHEC has posted that after June 14, relaxing social distancing may be possible with “containment strategies”.
Horry County is giving weekly updates and press releases via their Facebook page. Beaches are now accessible and beginning May 1st accommodations are available for visitors that meet the “gating criteria.”
We are not pressing to return to gatherings in our church facility. We could overcome the six-foot distance guideline between people by spacing people in the auditorium. At this point, the church staff would be required to implement certain additional measures that would be highly burdensome (sanitization of surfaces, body temperature checks, etc.). We long to assemble together but we want to do so wisely. We continue to encourage our folks to stay at home and watch our services by video and participate in interactive video chats.