While Chicago is in phase two of its plan to reopen, churches are allowed to have 10 or fewer people inside the building during services.
But some churches are defying that rule.
The Chicago Police Department recently cited three churches, including the Metro Praise International Church in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood.
“We’re noticing people are dealing with PTSD right now [from the virus] and projecting that onto us by saying they want us to be more strict,” said Pastor Joe Wyrostek of the Metro Praise International Church. “But we’re promoting the testing and social distancing.”
Not every church is ready to reopen.
Pastor Reginald Sharpe Jr. of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side has made it clear his church will not be opening its doors anytime soon.
“I have decided that it’s best for us to wait because our job as shepherds is not to just feed the people, but also fight off the wolves,” Sharpe said.
A sermon Sharpe delivered online Sunday went viral. In it, he talks about the circumstances that will allow his congregation to reopen.
“We’re not coming back into church until the lord — the righteous judge — wakes me up out of my sleep and says it’s time to come back to the building,” Sharpe says in the video. “Until the lord slaps me three times, pours water from heaven on my face, and warms my feet with the fire of the holy ghost.”
Wyrostek said he’s not trying to force churches to reopen — that’s just what he wants for his own church.
“I say socially distance as long as you need to, people don’t need to go outside their comfort zone,” Wyrostek said.
The Belmont Cragin neighborhood where Wyrostek’s church resides has become a hot spot for the coronavirus. But he said services at the church don’t put parishioners at risk “any more so than them going into other places.”
Wyrostek said his congregation will keep meeting, despite fines from the city.
Meanwhile, Sharpe said he’ll be sticking with creative methods to bring the church to people online, including virtual memorial services and bible studies.
“We’re all trying to live and exist,” Sharpe said. “While we can’t have church traditionally, we can still have church consistently.”