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St. Louis churches split on reopening after President Trump deems them ‘essential’

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    ST. LOUIS, MO (KMOV) — President Trump declared places of worship essential Friday and called for them to reopen. He threatened to “override” governors who defy him, but it was unclear what authority he has to do so.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but left out houses of worship. Not right,” said President Trump. “I call upon governors to open houses of worship right now.”

In St. Louis, some churches are choosing to continue services virtually.

“The scripture says to be wise as a serpent and harmless as doves so the last thing I want to do is to put our congregation in a situation where they may be harmed as a result of us coming together,” said Pastor Brent Roam of One Family Church.

He will continue online services for his University City and Shaw campuses for the foreseeable future.

“Our church has always been open, we never closed. We closed the buildings for safety and the health of the congregation but the church is the people,” said Roam. “As long as people are serving one another, caring for one another, taking care of each other, meeting even if it means via Zoom, that is the church.”

He plans to reopen in three phases. The first phase includes small groups, which have already started.

“Phase three is when the bands are lifted and we got an all clear and we’re gonna come together and party,” said Roam.

In Sunset Hills, St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church reopened Monday with restrictions like many other catholic churches.

Masses this week have been small. Sunday will be the biggest public mass since mid-March, and things will be done much different.

“Think about this as restaurant seating. How do you get people in table that are properly distanced,” said Father Bill Kempf.

He is asking parishioners to make reservations online before church. They will be given assigned seats in the pews to make sure they are sitting six feet apart.

“Even though they won’t be able to talk, you know at least they can see one another to make that connection, which I think will be a great boost to their spirit and morale,” said Father Bill.

Parishioners will also have to sanitize when they arrive and wear a mask. Communion will be received in their hand rather than their mouth.

“People are hungry to receive the Lord in Eucharist and that gift and the grace that comes to us from that, so we are doing the best we can to provide that to them,” said Father Bill.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is holding firm on keeping places of worship closed until further notice.

“We’re going to continue to operate on the basis of science and data and I’m as anxious as anybody to make sure that our churches or mosques or synagogues…open back to where they were before COVID-19 came along. We’re gradually moving in that direction, but there’s no doubt, the most important thing is we do not want parishioners to get ill because their faith leaders bring them together. We hope that faith leaders will continue to do as the vast majority of them have done which is to worship, sometimes online, sometimes in other capacities as we’ve talked about outdoor and driving,” said Pritzker.

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