Religious communities in Delaware are not rushing to reopen places of worship even though Gov. John Carney has lifted restrictions on prayer services.
Churches, synagogues and mosques have the go-ahead to allow 30% fire code capacity for prayer services and other religious events, but most seem hesitant to open back up right away.
Catholic Diocese of Wilmington spokesman Bob Krebs applauds the Governor’s decision as a step in the right direction, but adds Bishop Francis Malooly has not reinstated the obligation to attend mass. Krebs encourages parishioners to continue to stay home.
“As far as when and how the Catholic churches in Delaware will be open, that is something that we’re working on,” said Krebs. “We’re working on a plan. We want people to be safe.”
Representatives from Islamic and Jewish faiths say mosques and synagogues do not have a reopening date planned either.
Faizal Chaudhury is an Islamic Society of Delaware Board Member and Secretary. He says the governor’s announcement caught the society a bit by surprise, and they are working with the governor’s office to make sure they understand the guidelines.
“We knew the announcement was coming but I think some of the finer details are what still, kind of, need to be hashed out before we are like, ‘yes, we know exactly what the guidance says and we need to make sure we prepare according to those specific guidelines,’” said Chaudhury.
The governor’s guidelines include social distancing, face covering and signage requirements as well as other restrictions for places of worship. The governor's office says the rules were formed in concert with the state Division of Public Health and the Council of Faith-based Partnerships.
Chaudhury says the society still has questions around multiple services in one day and marking up mosque floors with tape to help enforce social distancing requirements.
Rabbi Elisa Koppel points out challenges limiting the size of the congregation at synagogues and keeping at-risk populations from attending.
“How do we say to someone who is in a vulnerable population and is more susceptible to the virus that they can’t come when they want to?” asked Koppel. “In some ways it’s easier to stay digital.”
Both Chaudhury and Krebs are also encouraging their respective congregations to continue to use digital resources for prayer services.