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Dump the mask? Some places of worship say not so fast

Shelia Poole, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Religious News

ATLANTA — To mask or not to mask?

That’s the question some houses of worship are grappling with following revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors and outdoors in most situations.

“We’re scrambling right now to answer that question,” said the Rev. Dock Hollingsworth, senior pastor of Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, who said he has fielded emails and calls from members about the guidance, which still recommends unvaccinated people and those with a weakened immune system wear masks.

Most church leaders contacted said they must rely on people’s honesty and their care for others. They won’t ask for proof of vaccination.

Hollingsworth said a church task force is currently reviewing the changes and will make recommendations and offer timelines. He said it’s unlikely those changes will be in place for Sunday’s services, but “certainly we will have made changes by next Sunday.”

Just recently the church started holding in-person worship services that were limited to 50 people at a time. Congregants had to make reservations and were given temperature checks. Specially designed masks were made for members of the choir.

 

He’s not sure what will happen now and is particularly concerned about families with children and those with compromised immune systems. “So much of the church experience is seeing people, smiling and hugging and all of that,” he said. “The sooner we get back to those relational experiences, the better.”

He expects some people will continue to wear the masks and others “will be delighted to take it off.”

Still, after a year or so of masking up and social distancing, the changes may create some anxiety and, perhaps, tension in the pews.

The Most Rev. Gregory J. Hartmayer recently offered guidance in a memo for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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