Many churches to continue virtual worship after stay-at-home order lifted

Posted at 6:32 PM, Apr 23, 2020

Part of Phase One of the Governor’s plan to reopen Montana allows for places of worship to open this Sunday, Apr. 26, as long as they follow strict distancing and cleaning guidelines.

Many churches have made the decision to continue with virtual services this Sunday, rather than open their doors.

The Helena United Methodist Ministries will be continuing to worship online for at least the next two Sundays. Bishop Karen Oliveto, who oversees Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, has requested that United Methodist Churches maintain the closure of our campuses through the month of May.

“Our Church Council meets a week from [Apr. 23] to discuss the process of returning to in-person ministry,” said Pastor Margaret Gillikin. “Our founder, John Wesley, gave the people called Methodists some General Rules, the first of which is ‘Do No Harm,’ and the second of which is ‘Do All the Good You Can.’ Bearing all these things in mind, our Church Council will make a decision about when and how to phase back our ministries in such a way that our vulnerable constituents are unharmed and we are able to contribute to the greatest good of the community of Helena.”

Bishop Martha Stebbins of the Episcopal Diocese of Montana told MTN they will hold virtual service until at least May, and are actively working on a plan for each location.

“The virtual worship will allow us time to make sure to comply with safety protocols,” explained Bishop Stebbins. “Things like marking out pews, making sure there’s enough masks and hand sanitizer, talking with our at risk parishioners and our at risk clergy who will still be in shelter in place.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena will continue to stream mass, and are allowing parishes to submit a plan for reopening following guidelines set by the Governor.

Parishes will not open unless they can provide adequate spacing, social distancing and cleaning and keep mass gatherings to less than 10 people.

“We’re making the utmost effort to follow those guidelines for phase one exactly. No wiggle room, and we want to do this right. We do not want to jeopardize the health of the people,” said Bishop Austin Vetter. “God is with us in this. It’s not just that we’re going to get through it, we are getting through it. We’re in this together and we try to make the best decisions we can.”

Vetter added the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues to be suspended at this time.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Catholic, Episcopal Diocese of Montana and Helena United Methodist Ministries plan to continue offering virtual services until all restrictions are lifted and it is safe for vulnerable populations to attend service.

People are encouraged to reach out to their place or worship to find out what that location’s plan is going forward.