PCUSA leader: Churches should 'not rush' to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), gives remarks in a video posted on social media on June 8, 2020.
The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), gives remarks in a video posted on social media on June 8, 2020. | Vimeo/PCUSA OGA

The head of the Presbyterian Church (USA) cautioned congregations against reopening for in-person services amid renewed concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

PCUSA General Assembly Stated Clerk, the Rev. Herbert J. Nelson, posted a video online Monday on the issue of churches reopening amid eased restrictions on in-person gatherings.

Nelson explained that while worship is important and restrictions are being loosened, churches should “take our time” and “not rush” into reopening for in-person services.

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“Recognize that we are still in the midst of this coronavirus,” said Nelson. “The practices that many of you have continued to push through that had been created out of your own imagination even when we were unable to go into sanctuaries and other church buildings, expand upon that."

“Allow us to take this slowly and to recognize in all things that we are to be the persons who help to build the abundant life that individuals seek on this side of Heaven.”

Noting that “wise decisions must be made,” Nelson went on to stress that “the reality is that we are truly called in all of these days to remember the preservation of life and that vessel which God has given to each and every one of us.”

“So I am asking that we slowly move through this process of reentering, even when laws allow us to do so. I would ask us to take an opportunity to think through what it means to do the very basics that government officials and also healthcare officials have asked us to adhere to,” he continued.

As states begin multiphase plans to allow businesses and houses of worship to reopen, many churches that halted in-person worship services to help combat the spread of COVID-19 for a designated period of time, so that hospitals did not get overwhelmed, have reopened.

Congregations frequently follow social distancing guidelines, such as wearing face masks, spacing out individuals and families that attend, and encouraging sick members to stay home.

Nelson’s comments come as the World Health Organization stated that transmission of COVID-19 by people who are asymptomatic is "very rare," only to clarify later that the actual answer is more complex.

“I was responding to a question at the press conference. I wasn't stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. I was just trying to articulate what we know,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of WHO said. “And in that, I used the phrase ‘very rare,' and I think that that's misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare.”

According to numbers by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, worldwide there are approximately 7.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 417,100 deaths.

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