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Oxford Churches discuss reopening according to Reeves’ guidelines

Churches throughout Mississippi are set to reopen doors for in-person worship during COVID-19 pandemic, but some are choosing to remain closed.

This week, Governor Tate Reeves issued guidelines for churches and other places of worship to reopen for in-person services. In these guidelines, Reeves stressed the importance of keeping spaces clean and making sure people remain a safe distance away from each other.

“I think the governor’s guidelines are fair,” Father Joe Tonos said. “A lot of churches are ready to reopen. They’re ready to get back to their sense of community and family.” 

Tonos, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Oxford, said he believes that while the guidelines are a bit broad, they are fair and non-offensive. The guidelines include steps to prepare houses of worship for reopening, how to plan the logistics for worship, and how to direct staff and worship leadership about social distancing protocols.

Tonos said he believes that the liturgy should be a welcoming, warm and inviting place for people to come and worship. By opening back up churches, Tonos said, “It’s going to be anything but what a liturgy is: welcoming, warm and inviting.”

The guidelines set by Reeves are sure to encourage many churches to reopen up around the state of Mississippi. Fish Robinson, pastor of Community Church Oxford, said he plans to have church services remain online.

“I appreciate what the governor is doing,” Robinson said. “But these were just recommendations for what churches feel comfortable doing right now. For us, now is not the time to come back. People don’t want to wear a mask in church. When we come back, we don’t want restrictions.”

Other churches in the LOU Community are seeking member input when it comes to reopening. For example, Oxford-University United Methodist Church shared a survey on their website and social media pages to gauge reaction to reopening. The form will be open through Tuesday, May 26.