‘I don’t think our governor is after religion’: Local pastor says he’ll follow the governor’s recommendation for churches

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 6:53 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Thursday, Governor Andy Beshear was asked about places of worship and if he was going to implement any regulations or guidelines for them.

Beshear said he is just recommending places of worship switch to virtual services if they have not already through December 13th.

“Of course it’s not the same and of course everybody wants to go back and have in person services, shaking hands and hugging and all those things that we’ve done for years and years and years,” said Manchester Baptist Church pastor Ken Bolin.

In March, Beshear ordered churches to close but in May, two federal judges ruled in favor of Kentucky churches holding in-person services as long as they followed the guidelines in place.

“I don’t think our governor is after religion. I think that he is after the safety of our people,” said Ben Fugate, pastor of Journey Christian Church.

Journey Christian Church in Hazard has been holding in-person services for several months but also offers an online option.

“When there’s been a spike we try to do online and when the numbers seem to be leveling out then we attempted to go back to in person,” said Fugate.

Fugate says he was already thinking of canceling in-person services and he’ll follow the new recommendations.

“While we respect what each individual does, we could make some corporate decisions to say, ‘Okay we get where you’re coming from but we cannot allow our facility to be a super spreader on Sunday.’”

In Manchester, Pastor Bolin has not offered in-person services since the pandemic began He has offered parking lot and virtual services.

“We have a lot of people in very vulnerable high-risk age group and so we just didn’t think it was safe for our church,” said Bolin. “If one church decides to buck the Governor then it’s well within their right to do that, but for our church, we’re just going to sort of do what we’re doing right now.”

Bolin says he misses the fellowship, but protecting his congregation is his main priority.

“We understand the nature of this virus is very spreadable and very contagious and so we just wanted to we just feel like we’re being safer and protecting our congregation by doing what where doing,” said Bolin.

Fugate said he is telling his church, going online is not about living in fear of COVID-19, but it’s about living in respect about what it can do to other people.

“I don’t know where the church got off thinking that that gathering had to have stained glass windows or a steeple, but God can meet anybody anywhere,” said Fugate.

This recommendation is like the one the governor issued in July when there was a surge in cases.

Fugate says Journey Christian Church will be virtual through December 13, and then he will look at case numbers and decide if he wants to go back to in-person.

Bolin told WYMT, Manchester Baptist Church will continue online services for the near future.

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