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Some Flagstaff religious services set to resume
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Some Flagstaff religious services set to resume

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Welcome to the Drive-In

Lead pastor Bobby Stuart preaches to the parking lot outside the Breath of Life Church in April during a drive-in church service where his congregation sat in their cars and listened to the service on their car radios.

Slowly and hesitantly, as Flagstaff emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, religious congregations are taking tentative steps to resume in-person services.

Many remain gathering solely online, via social media platforms, but some have started meeting again in groups, though with specific social-distancing measures in place. Steps taken locally aren’t as drastic as the priest in Detroit who used a squirt gun to spray holy water on supplicants standing 6 feet away — in order to make sure the only thing that went viral was the video of the dousing — but religious orders here have gotten creative.

A spokesperson for Living Christ Lutheran Church originally said the church would meet outside for its in-person service, starting May 31, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing recommendations in place. But the spokesperson said congregants will not meet on May 31 and that church leaders will reevaluate future plans after seeing how the opening week proceeds.

Others have already moved ahead. San Francisco de Asis Parish has resumed normal weekend and daily public masses and select other activities, though cognizant of distancing circumstances. Masses on Mondays and Saturdays have been put on hold “to ensure a thorough cleaning of the Church before and after the weekend Masses,” according to the parish website. Also, every other pew will be cordoned off and the use of the chalice for communion will be suspended. Lissa Gallegos, the parish’s administrative assistant, stressed that the protocol is evolving and to check the website weekly for changes.

By the same token, many of the churches, temples and mosques that currently remain physically closed reported that their situation is fluid.

A spokesman for Flagstaff’s Redemption Church said that in-person services will not resume until Arizona has met the Phase 3 guidelines (in terms of declining COVID-19 cases) and that, tentatively, the church is shooting for a June 14 resumption date. Hope Community Church, by contrast, is looking for a late June reopening.

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Feature Writer

Sam McManis is an Arizona Daily Sun features writer and the author of two books: “Running to Glory: An Unlikely Team, A Challenging Season and Chasing the American Dream" and “Crossing California: A Cultural Topography of a State of Wonder and Weirdness.”

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