Arkansas places of worship navigate reopening with restrictions

LONOKE, Ark. — Sunday was a big day for places of worship across Arkansas as they met in-person for service once again. 

Gov. Hutchinson gave the green light for large venues and places of worship to reopen on Monday, May 4 but it came with a few restrictions. 

While some churches across Central Arkansas stuck to live streaming, Lonoke Apostolic Church had its doors open. 

Pastor John Tackett said after looking over the restrictions Gov. Hutchinson put in place, he was ready to welcome his congregation back in.

“We’re kind of used to hearing ‘amen’ every once and a while and so it feels more authentic when we are here, we’re at home, we’re in church,” he said.

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Members were back within the sanctuary’s walls on Sunday surrounded by stain glass, flowers and fellowship. 

But, according to Tackett, with a few tweaks here and there. 

“We want everyone who comes, all of our guests, all of our members to feel comfortable that we’ve taken this seriously and they can relax in the presence of the Lord,” he said. 

This feeling of comfort means health screenings and temperatures taken at entrances, social distancing at all times, hand sanitizers spread throughout and masks for everyone. 

Tackett said the church even installed special air filters that have been running in three different sections of the building for the past month. 

“What they do is they actually sanitize for virus and germs, so our systems have been running all so night so we’re sanitizing while we are not here,” he said. 

While some churches are physically gathered together, others stuck with the virtual way. 

Mike Ulasewich welcomed his congregation on Sunday the same way he has been for the last several weeks. 

“At this point, looking over the list, I believe we just aren’t ready to implement everything on that list yet,” he said. 

As Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Conway, Ulasewich described the restrictions as “a bit of a culture change.”

“For us, we are a very friendly congregation, as many churches are. When we see each other we want to greet each other, we want to hug and handshake,” he said. 

Ulasewich said there’s no time table yet of when they will open the church doors again. 

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“I think we feel like there’s not a big rush. Not because we don’t want to gather again, we do, but we just want to do so as safely as possible,” he said. 

Both pastors are in agreement they want their places of worship to be the refuge they always have been.

“We want them to feel like this is a safe place: physically safe, spiritually safe, emotionally safe,” Tackett said. 

First Presbyterian Church of Conway releases its service every Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. 

Lonoke Apostolic Church will continue to have their 11 a.m. service every Sunday and their bible study every Wednesday in-person.