HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In-person spiritual services will once again be allowed starting Saturday, as long as worshippers follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the governor gave his OK for the plan as part of the state’s reopening efforts.
“Gathering together safely, praying together, and taking part in group worship is so important right now, as so many of our residents have been practicing social distancing for months,” Caldwell said.
“Religious services can be a key resource to help many of us get through these tough times.”
The city said attendees at spiritual services must maintain a 6-foot distance from anyone not in their household. Organizers must ensure those physical distancing requirements are met.
Attendees will also need to wear face masks, and hand sanitizer will need to be readily available.
“I think for a lot of communities of faith, they’ve just sort of been waiting," said Pat McFall, pastor at New Hope Hawaii Kai.
Since March, McFall has been doing services online so people can stay connected through the pandemic.
He said he can’t wait to welcome people back to church.
“You can never replace in-person, face-to-face connection,” McFall said.
His church is unique because they hold services out of Kaiser High School’s cafeteria.
So although the Mayor has given the green light for worship this weekend, McFall is unclear when they will reopen with schools still closed.
“If the school enables us or says we can meet, then we’re going to do our best. I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to roll in there this Sunday, but what I’m encouraged by is our mayor’s words," he said.
Up to 600 people attend New Hope Hawaii Kai between the multiple services.
McFall said when they do reopen, CDC recommendations will be enforced.
“We have enough space at Kaiser to distance the way we need to. So if we’re able to get into the space, we have every ability to make sure that people can observe social distancing. We can keep households together, we can make sure we’re doing what we need to do.”
Lifting the restrictions on in-person spiritual services comes as the state and counties also look to slowly reopen “medium-risk” businesses, like salons, barbers and restaurants.
On Oahu, dine-in areas in restaurants will be allowed to reopen June 5, as long as they meet strict social distancing and other guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.
For example, employees will have to wear masks, common areas will have to be regularly sanitized, and dining groups of over 10 won’t be allowed. For a full list of those guidelines, click here.
Spiritual services were similarly considered “medium-risk" because they bring groups of people from different households into prolonged contact with each other for extended periods of time.
Those activities are now considered safer, however, because of the low number of new COVID-19 infections reported daily. On Thursday, there were four new cases statewide.
Prior to the announcement Thursday, spiritual services could only be conducted in a drive-in format, with people remaining in their cars.
Bishop Larry Silva told Hawaii News Now says they are excited, but despite extensive planning, Catholic churches will not be open for mass this weekend. He doesn’t want parishioners overwhelming the churches while they plan ways to regulate how many people can fit in the worship space.
To read the full order allowing in-person spiritual services, click here.