Following a shutdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, megachurches in South Korea have reopened, albeit with certain social distancing restrictions in place.
Although the Asian country has a social distancing policy in place until May 5, the government has allowed religious and sports entities some “relief” from the regulations, according to Reuters.
Onnuri Church in Seoul, which has a sanctuary that seats 3,000, has a limit of 700 attendees for worship, who must register online to attend and are given designated seating.
“I did not have fear. I believed that the church would abide by safe principles,” said Kang Hye-mi, a 29-year-old worshiper at Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral in Seoul, as reported by Reuters.
Earlier this year, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive religious group considered by many to be a cult, became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in South Korea.
The sect was linked to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, making up about half of the nation’s cases, with more than 10,000 infections linked to the group.
Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church, held a press conference in March expressing apologies for his religious sect’s contribution to the spread of the virus.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to all the people of Korea for this crisis. Although it was not on purpose we have seen a dramatic increase in confirmed patients,” he stated at the time.
“To prevent further spread of COVID-19 … the authorities have been hard at work and we at Shincheonji are fully cooperating with officials to stop further spread as well. We will mobilize all of our measures and provide our fullest support in all our areas.”
Across the world, large numbers of churches closed their doors in response to efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with many shifting to online worship services.
In the United States of America, some states are planning to ease restrictions on mass gatherings, with churches and other houses of worship expected to have soft reopenings.
In Missouri, Summit Church of Bozeman is planning to restart in-person worship services, albeit while adhering to guidance on social distancing.
“Setting chairs up at 6 feet apart where people have that safety in distance, sanitization to have hand sanitizer available,” explained Summit Lead Pastor Lance Steeves to local media.
“Stations set up where people are constantly cleaning. Shortening services, where it helps people to alleviate things like the restroom. We talked about perhaps closing down areas like the meeting places like around the coffee bar.”