Chicago Houses of Worship Start Reopening After Months of Virtual Services Due to Coronavirus Shutdown

A woman walks past St. George Greek Orthodox Church in the 2700 block of North Sheffield Avenue on April 11, 2020, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

After months of virtual services, and faith leaders scrambling to adjust during a public health crisis, religious leaders are now shifting their focus to how to safely resume in-person services and accommodate the faithful eager to gather for worship again.

During the state’s stay-at-home order, there has been conflict between some faith leaders and city and state officials over church closures, which some religious leaders believed infringed on their constitutional rights. As faith leaders complained about hardsware and liquor stores remaining open during the pandemic shutdowns, a handful of Illinois churches sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker and and held services, with three Chicago churches being cited by the city.

Now that Pritzker has moved to lift restrictions after reclassifying religious activities as essential, religious leaders across all denominations and faiths are working to find a balance between meeting people’s desire to worship together and guarding against spreading COVID-19.

After church doors were closed three months ago, almost half of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s 316 parishes have been approved to reopen and celebrate Mass for larger groups, according to church officials.

Chicago’s Catholic church, like other religious institutions, has put in place a series of guidelines and is closely monitoring its churches as they reopen. Under rules worked out in conjunction with health officials, before a Catholic church can hold larger Masses, it must first be approved by the archdioceses and must comply with a series of safety measures.

The Rev. Noel Reyes, pastor of St. Jerome Catholic Parish in Rogers Park, looked out into the pews of his church as he preached last Saturday, and for the first time in months, saw the welcoming faces of his parishioners.

The 50 worshippers looking back at him made for a markedly smaller congregation than before the coronavirus outbreak, but they were like family.

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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, Javonte Anderson