Blessed to be back
People keep their distance as they attend the Sunday service at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls on Sunday.
BILL BULEY/Press Paisley DuPuis leads the worship service at The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alen on Sunday.
BILL BULEY/Press Major Don Gilger with The Salvation Army speaks during Sunday’s service at the Kroc Center.
Staff Writer | May 4, 2020 1:15 AM
Churches reopen to smaller, but still spirited, crowds, while others stay closed
For the first time in more than a month, Paisley DuPuis was leading a small crowd in several songs at The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene on Sunday morning.
She felt blessed to be back.
“I’m really glad we can be a church here together and just be able to worship the Lord,” she said to about 25 people in the Worship Theater for the 10 a.m. service.
Per Gov. Brad Little’s four-stage plan to reopen Idaho following the five-week stay-home order due to the coronavirus, churches were cleared to gather for sermons, fellowship and prayer — at a distance.
“Places of worship can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing, sanitation protocol, and any CDC guidance,” according to the Stage One timeline.
While many churches opted to stay closed, others opened their doors again.
Salvation Army had some strict guidelines in place.
Staffers wore face masks. Those arriving for church were asked if they had been ill in the past two weeks and then had their temperature checked before being allowed inside, where they were directed to wash their hands.
Then, after being offered a face mask, they were ushered in and asked to sit in one of the alternating rows and stay at least four seats away from anyone.
Wade Isley, administrative pastor, welcomed and thanked everyone for following the protocol.
“We’re really glad we can be back in the swing of things,” he said.
Even the usual greeting time, when people shake hands and mingle for a minute, was bypassed.
“Good morning,” he said. “You guys really are the biggest heroes in all of this.”
Instead, Isley asked the group to take 30 seconds and talk to someone around them — without leaving their seat.
It was then shouts of “Hello,” “Good morning,” and “Hi, neighbor,” echoed around the auditorium, which had mostly empty seats.
Salvation Army was allowed to have up to 60 people and 15 staff members in the theater.
The modifications were for the health and well-being of all, Isley said.
“As a pastor, we feel that our biggest sheperding role is keeping the herd safe,” Isley said.
Debbie Bales said it was good to be sharing her faith and worshiping at church again after a month away. Church, she added, is also about family and community.
“I was really anxious to get back here,” she said. “I wish I would linger longer.”
But that was discouraged, too.
When service ended, people were released in waves and asked not to hang around to chat in the lobby. If they wanted to visit with friends, they were directed to do that outside.
Still, Isley said it went “incredible.”
“We were praying for 30 rather than 130,” he said. “We were blessed — it was an amazing response.”
About 200 people — instead of the usual 600 or so — attended the 11:30 a.m. service at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls. Staff also wore face masks, and a few in the crowd did, as well, but it was not required.
There was extra space between the rows of seats, people were asked to avoid getting close to others, and hugs were discouraged. And just as the tithing baskets were not passed at Salvation Army, the tithing buckets at RLM were not passed, either.
“We’ve been asked by local authorities to honor certain restrictions if we’re going to meet again,” said Senior Pastor Jim Putman.
“We want to be honoring to our government officials.”
Both Salvation Army, RLM and other churches will continue with online services for those who wish to stay home.
Putman said it was good to see such friendly faces and he was glad to be delivering a live sermon to people again instead of recording the Sunday message.
“I hate preaching to a camera,” he said.