Many churches haven't been able to meet as full congregations in person since March. As the pandemic continues, many in the Chapel Hill area have had to adapt to maintain the personal relationships in a virtual setting.
Some, like the University United Methodist Church on Franklin Street, have transitioned to virtual service.
Rev. Creighton Alexander, the executive pastor of outreach and operations for University United Methodist Church, said the church has embraced the virtual movement out of a sense of responsibility to the community.
“We want to create a unified presence within the town of Chapel Hill,” he said. “Sunday attendance is up in many areas of the church. I think people are just looking to create relationships, even if it is virtual.”
Unlike other businesses and organizations, worship services in North Carolina are exempt from Gov. Roy Cooper's limit of 10 people for mass gatherings indoors and 25 for outdoor gatherings. This has allowed religious organizations to have more choices in how they hold their worship services.
Although Alexander said University United Methodist Church may consider holding outdoor services as the weather cools, he said there is still the issue of sanitization.
“The one thing people don’t think about is bathrooms,” Alexander said.
With a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, the Orange County Health Department has issued a reminder of safety tips for religious organizations about how to safely hold outdoor services.
In order to remind the public of important safety information, the Orange County Health Department published a video on Aug. 19 emphasizing COVID-19 safety plans for churches and other religious organizations. Kristin Prelipp, communications manager for OCHD, said the guidelines can be difficult to meet.