KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More churches are choosing to reopen their doors for in-person services in Knoxville.
Places of worship closed for more than three months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, members are allowed back inside, with new safety guidelines in place.
Shoreline Church off Westland hosted its first in-person service on Sunday. Lead Pastor Jason Hayes said after surveying members, the church decided it was time to welcome believers back inside to worship.
"I've gotten pretty tired of talking to my iPhone or talking to a camera, and so today it was just really, really sweet to be back and to see people face to face, again at a bit of a distance, but just to be able to enjoy fellowship," Hayes smiled.
The socially-distant sanctuary, complete with sections of families who reserved their spot online ahead of time is only about 35 percent full for now. The church is limiting its capacity so seats can be spread out.
"For some, they simply need to stay back whether it's some vulnerability for themselves or family members," Hayes explained. "We also understand that for some they might not feel quite ready."
For now, sanitizing misting machines line the sides of the room and meet and greet time is canceled to limit physical contact.
But for the past two weeks, members praised in the parking lot— bringing folding chairs and faith.
"We thought it might be a good step for us just to take one small movement onto campus at a time," Hayes said.
Shoreline Church's parking lot service
Though the doors are back open, the congregation won't quickly forget how much they've learned about worship during the split.
"The church isn't a place of bricks and mortar, but it is the body of Christ," Hayes said.
Hayes mentioned he knows things won't be back to normal immediately, but hopes to see more of a "usual" scene in the sanctuary come fall.