Mass resumes Tuesday; other area churches plan to wait until June

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(KWTX) Parishes in the Austin Diocese, which includes Central Texas, may resume public celebration of Mass Tuesday, but a another group of area churches doesn’t plan to reopen until June.

Parishes in the Austin Diocese, which includes Central Texas, may resume public celebration of Mass Tuesday, but a another group of area churches doesn’t plan to reopen until June. (MGN/file)

Included in the group are Highland Baptist Church, Maranatha Church, Harris Creek Baptist Church, Antioch Community Church, Greater Zion Baptist, Crossroads Fellowship,
Renew Church, Columbus Ave. Baptist Church, Brazos Meadows Baptist, Christ the King, Greater New Light Baptist, Grace Church, Waco, Grace Church, Hewitt, Ministerios Bethania, Central Christian Church, Park Lake Drive Baptist, Western Heights Baptist
New Life Christian Fellowship, Meadowbrook Baptist, New Faith Christian, Faith Bible Church and St. Stephen’s AME.

The pastors of the churches say they were encouraged to show unity, after watching their followers come together.

"Crisis always brought people together and I think the crisis has brought churches together," said John Durham, the lead pastor of Highland Baptist church.

"I have been so proud of the Waco community, where people have stayed active with their faith in the middle of this crisis," said Jimmy Seibert the Senior Pastor of Antioch.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Monday that says churches should continue to encourage at-risk members to watch or participate in services remotely, must designate an area inside their buildings for at-risk visitors and keep at least two empty seats between worshippers, although members of the same household may set adjacent to one another as in theaters.

Many churches in the area have remained active online since shelter in place orders were issued in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, streaming services and other activities.

Bishop Joe S. Vásque notified Central Texas parishes on Thursday about plans to resume celebration of Mass and asked them to follow protocols consistent with earlier guidance from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Baptisms, reconciliations and funerals may also resume.

"Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for your continued prayers, fidelity and patience during this unprecedented time in history. Throughout this difficult time, God continues to accompany us; let us turn to Him to strengthen our faith and have confidence in his compassionate love for us," Vásquez said in a letter.

"This has also been a trying time for our priests, so I ask you to please join me in praying for them as they continue to serve you faithfully and in creative ways. Let us also remember in our prayers those who care for the sick and for those who are providing necessary services for the common good."

Mass safety protocols

• All attendees should maintain six feet of distance between each other, except for members of the same family or household.
• Those who are sick or over the age of 65 should not attend Mass.
• Parishes should continue to broadcast or livestream at least one Mass each weekend for those who are unable to attend or promote another broadcast or live stream Mass.
• Hand sanitizing stations are to be provided at entrances and for liturgical and altar ministers.
• The faithful are encouraged to wear facemasks during the liturgy.
• Pews and regularly touched surfaces should be disinfected after each Mass.
• Liturgical and hospitality ministers should be trained to follow new protocols and signs should be posted to remind parishioners of the hygiene protocols.

(Source: Diocese of Austin)