As Illinois moves from phase 2 into phase 3 and gathering sizes are still limited to groups of 10, facing lawsuits, pressure, and legal challenges, Governor J.B. Pritzker has lifted restrictions on houses of worship. The initial restrictions went into effect for Illinois churches in the middle of March.

The Illinois Department of Public Health released a multi-page document which still gives recommendations for what churches should do. They still recommend churches not meeting in person and instead utilizing streaming. They also recommend gathering outside or gathering in groups of less than 10, but these are advise rather than mandates.

As a pastor in Illinois, I will say that I do appreciate the governor caring about the health of the people in this wonderful state. I was not a fan of the restrictions on churches and believe that it’s a fundamental right to gather together for worship. But I don’t believe that there was ever any malice on the part of Governor Pritzker.

It is still important for churches to be wise, for pastors to tend to their flocks, and for parishioners to monitor their health. But it’s going to be a great weekend when churches throughout the state can again come together in worship.

Excerpts from the IDPH document include:

This document provides guidance for places of worship and providers of religious services to support the safest possible environment for faith leaders, employees, volunteers, scholars, and all other types of workers, as well as congregants, worshippers, and visitors.

it is strongly recommended that places of worship continue to facilitate remote services, particularly for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 including older adults and those with co-morbidities. 

As gatherings grow in size, they pose a greater risk of becoming a source of COVID-19 transmission.  The current Statewide guidelines recommend gatherings of no more than 10 people.  Where the 10-person limit cannot be followed in places of worship, these guidelines are recommended.

Set a capacity limit for the place of worship that allows for extensive social distancing (six feet or more) between congregants.  Consider limiting attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. 

Strongly consider discontinuing singing (and post signage discouraging singing), group recitation, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.

These recommendations are reasonable and give Illinois churches a lot of flexibility in how they choose to worship. 

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