ORLANDO, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Evangelical group dedicated to advancing religious freedom is issuing a call to action, urging all churches to resume services on May 3.
Florida-based Liberty Counsel (LC) announced the launch of its "ReOpen Church Sunday" initiative this week, targeting the Sunday before the National Day of Prayer on May 7.
"The lockdowns have closed churches at a time of greatest need, and they must reopen to meet the burgeoning needs of the community," says LC Founder and Chairman Mathew Staver.
According to an April 20 press release, "ReOpen Church Sunday" is infused with the spirit of the letter to the Hebrews: "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (10:24–25).
Staver acknowledges that "Each church is different and each one must assess when and how best to reopen." The website for ReOpen Church Sunday stipulates: "ReOpen Church Sunday should include appropriate measures of sanitization and appropriate social distancing between families."
The initiative's website also lists a variety of service configurations, to be used individually or in combination, that support government guidelines:
The initiative is aligned with President Trump's "Opening Up America Again" guidelines, which propose three phases for states to gradually ease their lockdowns. Phase 1, with a target date of May 1, stipulates that churches can begin reopening, with the caveat that strict physical distancing protocols be respected.
Evangelical pastor Joel Saint, who made headlines earlier this week by protesting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf as a "tyrant" for locking down his state, told Church Militant that he fully supports the "ReOpen Church Sunday" initiative, though he questions whether churches should have been locked down at all. Saint noted that LC's effort corroborates the First Amendment — which protects freedom of religion — and showcases the First Commandment.
Church Militant has reported on other efforts to open churches. Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico called for reinstating public Mass, advising his priests to return to public liturgy with the stipulation of a maximum of five laity in attendance per Mass, as reported on April 16.
Bishop Baldacchino stated that "Depriving the faithful of the nourishment offered through the Eucharist was indeed a difficult decision, one that I deemed necessary until I had further clarity regarding our current state of affairs," warning, "It cannot become the status quo for the foreseeable future."
Some Catholic churches in Idaho are also getting ready to reopen. Gene Fadness, spokesman for the diocese of Boise, said it is important for people to have a sanctuary if it is safe to do so, explaining many Catholic churches in the diocese are slowly and carefully letting a limited number of people inside, according to KTVB.
LC's Mathew Staver echoes Fadness' sentiments about the need for Christians to access their sanctuaries, saying, "Churches are now more essential than ever to bring comfort, hope and help to the people they serve."