Illinois Churches Slowly Start to go Back

Joe Sullivan, News Editor

On June 7, Chicago announced that they would allow churches and places of worship to open with 20 percent capacity. Since then, churches across the state of Illinois have slowly been reopening to the public.

Most of them that have reopened are Catholic churches. On May 14, Illinois six dioceses announced a plan for reopening their parishes.

The largest one in Illinois is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. With 191 parishes, the Archdiocese of Chicago serves over 2.2 million catholics in Cook and Lake County.

Once Governor J.B Pritzker announced the next step for reopening, the Archdiocese knew they had to worshippers back to church and the kids back to school. Manuel Gonzales is a spokesman for the Archdiocese and is also the Communications and Public Relations Director.

Once the order was given to shelter at home, as good citizens we sacrificed our ability to attend Mass in-person to protect the health of everyone-particularly the vulnerable populations,” Gonzales said. “After some time, and careful study under the leadership of Cardinal Cupich and the other bishops in Illinois we began to plan how we could resume worship in a safe and responsible way.”

Despite only a few COVID-19 cases in the parish and catholic schools, the Archdiocese has put everything into providing a safe space and successful space for their members. 

“From the beginning we insisted on social distancing, we have mandated masks from the beginning, we insisted on seeing a plan from each parish showing us how they would seat people observing 6 feet between individuals and staying under 20% capacity of the church,” Gonzales said.

The Archdiocese of Chicago continues to provide relief programs and donations like their COVID-19 emergency fund to help communities in the Chicagoland area.

As for local churches, there has been a mix that followed the Archdiocese of Chicago and some that have not. Flossmoor Community Church has decided to stay online despite the many churches that are back to normal.

Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Brooke King LaBreck, has been working with the FCC Board and committees to provide the best virtual service since the beginning of lockdown.

“Each congregation is unique and as part of the Body of Christ, we pray for all congregations during this challenging time,” LaBreck said. “We believe we have made the best decision for the people of Flossmoor Community Church and our community based on the scientific data which shows many of our worship practices (unison responses and prayer, singing, etc) to be linked to “super-spreader” events.”

Despite the many limitations, Flossmoor Community Church has still been able to hold events virtually and outside of the church with social distancing.

“Our church hosts a free food drive-up each Thursday at noon at the Community House to provide food security to those in our community who have been financially impacted and marginalized by the pandemic,” LaBreck said. “Recently, we’ve begun exploring some outdoor fellowship and worship experiences. Pastor Julie has been hosting a “work from home lunch” as well as “Evening Vespers” prayers and meditation on Wednesdays in September.”

With numbers as high as they’ve ever been, it’s important to check CDC guidelines and your local COVID-19 numbers to ensure your safety.