CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (WBTV) – As of Wednesday, places of worship in Mecklenburg County are required to meet the county’s COVID-19 mask mandate.
Earlier this month, Mecklenburg County commissioners voted to extend the mandate to churches as well. While some local religious leaders have already expressed their views on mask mandates, at least one church congregation will not have to worry about the order of government. Wedgewood Church in South Charlotte still brings its congregation together in a virtual setting.
Melba Evans, ministerial coordinator at Wedgewood, explained that her congregation has taken the pandemic very seriously. Although members of the church community have been permitted to volunteer with the church pantry, no in-person religious gatherings are held. Evans said the congregation had not met for in-person worship since the start of the pandemic.
âWe take ‘love your neighbor’ very seriously at Wedgewood. That’s what really guides Wedgewood Church, âexplained Evans.
She said members of the congregation hope to return to worship services in person this fall, but fears over the continued spread of the coronavirus have put those plans on hold.
âWe heard a lot of our members say, ‘No, we don’t want to go back, let’s just keep it as it is.’
Churches are allowed to hold in-person worship, but Evans said his congregation chose to play it safe rather than try to round up masked people.
“Even with everyone masked, it still makes some people hesitate to attend,” said the ministerial coordinator.
While Mecklenburg County now officially mandates masks for places of worship, some churches have already required attendees to wear masks. Dilworth’s First Christian Church has been demanding masks since August.
âI don’t want our church to become a vector for the spread of this terrible disease,â said First Christian Pastor Jolin McElroy.
However, at least one local religious leader, Penny Maxwell, pastor at Freedom House Church, said her congregation would not follow a mask mandate. Maxwell posted a video on social media explaining that Freedom House Church members would not be required to wear masks.
âWe’re not going to tell people they’re going to have to love covered mouth and face. We’re going to do business as usual and our lawyers are ready to go, âMaxwell said in the video.
Evans said she did not understand why some churches were wary of mask mandates.
âI don’t understand how they profess ‘love your neighbor’, but I don’t love my neighbor enough to put on a mask to protect my neighbor,â Evans said.
The head of the Wedgewood church said there were benefits to virtual worship. She explained that the church gained new members during the pandemic and that the virtual setting allowed Wedgewood to host a variety of guest speakers from different locations.
Evans said his congregation will discuss the possibility of meeting again in January.
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