PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s been over a year now since the coronavirus pandemic closed the doors on most who attend religious services. As vaccines become more readily available, churches are trying to ensure their congregations feel comfortable with returning to the pews.
It’s become the Sunday standard for some.READ MORE: Tolls Increasing Sunday On 8 Delaware River Crossings Connecting Pennsylvania, New Jersey
“The million-dollar question is,” Father Mike Speziale said, “are they going to come back to church or are they just going to be comfortable at home checking out the live stream?”
Pajamas are more comfortable, and the pews remain mostly empty, for now.
Speziale of St. Philips in Lafayette Hill remembers that first day once his 600 member mass was reduced to 0 when the coronavirus shut its doors.
“You’re just talking yourself. You know people are watching, but no one’s saying anything to you at the mass,” he said. “It’s something that I’ll never forget, but I hope we never have to go through that again.”READ MORE: Man Dies After Being Shot Four Times In West Oak Lane, Philadelphia Police Say
St Luke’s, on the other hand, was full this weekend along Germantown Avenue as clergy received doses of the COVID vaccine in a step they hope will restore the beginning semblances of normalcy within their respective homes of worship.
“It’s the safety of the clergy, but the safety of all those they administer too,” Bishop Daniel Gutierrez said. “They’re in the nursing homes, they’re doing funerals and they’re just being present.”
“Once we’re able to get people vaccinated, we can get them back into that social environment they need and thrive on,” Toneh Smyth with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania said.
Speziale is optimistic for a slow return. Until then, he’ll keep his social media feeds active.MORE NEWS: Fall Full-Capacity Concerts, Xfinity Live! Preparing To Reopen Has Philadelphia's Stadium District Buzzing With Energy
“We want to encourage people again once they’re ready, once they feel comfortable to come back,” he said.