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Several Churches Announce They Won't Reopen This Year


Should houses of worship resume normal services despite COVID? Some pastors who initially said yes are changing their minds, according to a new survey. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: North Point Ministries is a massive megachurch complex in the Atlanta area. On a normal weekend in pre-COVID times, more than 30,000 people were shipped across the ministry's six church locations. As of May, all of them were closed, as were most churches around the country. Andy Stanley, the founding pastor, said the North Point churches would reopen on August 9. But in a video message this week, Stanley said the situation has changed.


ANDY STANLEY: We've decided to suspend in-person adult worship services for the remainder of the year.

GJELTEN: No more services until 2021 at the earliest. In May, it appeared the coronavirus situation was getting better in Georgia. Now it's worse.


STANLEY: Consequently, we cannot guarantee your safety. And that's a big part of this decision. And here's the thing - even if we did reopen, we certainly would not be able to create a quality adult or children's worship experience with social distancing protocols in place.

GJELTEN: And North Point is not alone. In May, the Barna Group, which surveys pastors on a regular basis, found 0% expecting their churches to stay closed all year. This week, Barna announced that 5% of pastors now say their churches won't reopen this year after all - quite a jump from just two months ago. In addition, some churches that had reopened have since closed down again. Late last month, 56% of pastors said their churches were back in business. In this week's report, that was down to 49%.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEIL'S "CANYONS OF STATIC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.