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Some starting to return to churches

Blessed Mary Angela Parish in Dunkirk

Area churches are adjusting to new protocols in holding services, but are happy to allow their members back inside to worship in person.

On Tuesday, churches are allowed to have 33% of their maximum capacity, raised from 25%. Blessed Mary Angela Parish, Family Church Fredonia, and First Baptist Church in Dunkirk have been at 25% capacity for the last four weeks, while still live streaming services online as well.

“It’s been truly wonderful being back for services in person,” said Scott Wise, associate pastor of Family Church Fredonia. “Online is wonderful, but it’s not the same as being around other people and seeing the pastor.”

Blessed Mary Angela Parish has a church big enough for 800 people to fit in, so they have not had to turn anyone away and it has been easy for them to follow guidelines, according to Jan Trela, priest. “The members of the church are not afraid,” Trela said. “We hand out mini hand sanitizer bottles for every service and be sure to socially distance. We are trying to make it as safe as possible for the members.”

Family Church Fredonia has been open for four Sundays since the shutdown. Wise explained that 75-80% of the regular crowd is back and they have not had to turn people away. The building is quite large, so they’ve been able to fit everybody in and not even had to use the overflow rooms they have set up.

First Baptist Church in Dunkirk has been open for three Sundays, with two-thirds of their regular crew showing up to services. They have also not had to turn anyone away or even use their overflow rooms. “Some regulars are still staying home because they don’t feel comfortable yet,” Mark Massaro, pastor, said. “But we have roped off pews, require masks, and sanitize frequently.”

People are very appreciative to be worshiping in person, according to all three leaders. “Everyone is thrilled to be together again in person, even from a distance,” Wise said. “We’ve changed the normal procedures and sanitize a lot, but everybody has been so grateful to be back, even with the changes.”

According to Trela, the members of the church are very excited and appreciative to be back and able to worship in person. But he also explained how different it is for them as well, not being able to gather and talk after services, shake hands, and hug. “There is a lack in personal moments, ones we hold so dear to us,” Trela said.

Family Church Fredonia has offered online audio services since 2009 and went to video in 2011. They plan to continue to post services online, as they have people from all over the world watch them. Radio will continue as well, with more services to go on throughout the week.

First Baptist Church in Dunkirk will also continue their online services, as they live stream theirs on Youtube, Facebook, and post the videos afterwards to their website. “It’s definitely an advantage for the elderly, working people, and those who are sick,” Massaro said. “We are planning on investing in better technology to continue with our live streams and make them even better.”

Blessed Mary Angela Parish does not offer online services at the time, even during the shutdown. Trela explained that there are already so many churches with online services that are very well done and they would like to focus on in-person worshiping.

If worshipers want more info about services or current protocols, check the churches’ Facebook pages and websites, blessedmaryangeladunkirkny.org, fcfredonia.org, and dunkirkbaptist.org.

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