Parishioners are reentering the building after 20 months of church by Zoom and telephone.
By Ashlee Green
Photo: Rev. Dr. Lacy F. Richardson has been a pastor at the church for 41 years. Courtesy of Metropolitan Baptist Church
The pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Lacy F. Richardson, has seen many changes in his congregation throughout his 41-year tenure, but nothing quite like the effects of COVID-19.
Nov. 14 marked the first day of in-person service since March 2020, and according to Richardson, it was, well, interesting. Previously, the church was relying on Zoom services.
“It was a strange kind of atmosphere,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s almost like we had to start all over again—of course we did. We had to try to regroup, and we’re still doing it.”
He and a special member committee including medical professionals have adopted CDC-informed guidelines for the church, which include: social distancing inside the church, mandating masks, taking temperatures, sanitizing the church on a weekly basis, and limiting people in the pulpit to one at a time, as opposed to the three or four who were there in the before-times.
They’re trying to keep their returning parishioners as safe as possible. According to Richardson, over 20 of the church’s members have died as a result of COVID-19, including a 108-year-old woman who was one of the oldest members to-date.
“We are trying to build this new method in a way that we don’t lose anybody,” Richardson said.
One welcome change at least, he explained, is that Sunday church service now starts at 10 a.m., instead of the original 11 a.m. Zoom services will continue to be offered as well, along with virtual prayer meetings and Bible study.
“When we were [exclusively] at home, of course, everything was very streamlined, very relaxed. We could take our time… we didn’t have the need to be dressed accordingly,” Richardson said. Zoom services, he also explained, accommodate senior church members who are less able to get out of their homes.
Virtual services, and the church’s website—new this year—are all thanks to a group of tech-savvy young people, who are helping to usher in a new era at the church.
“We are trying to plan now to try to rebuild,” Richardson said. “We’re in the rebuilding stage.”