While places of worship will be allowed to reopen on Saturday, some churches are choosing to remain closed for the time being to protect their congregations.
Mayor Harry Kim announced last week that places of worship would be able to reopen after months of closure alongside other medium-risk establishments on June 1; however, a subsequent announcement on Thursday moved that date forward, permitting places of worship to reopen on Saturday.
However, not all churches will choose to open this weekend, instead opting to wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to subside before bringing congregants back.
“Right now, I think we’ll be waiting until at least July to reopen, and that’s not settled yet, either,” said Eric Anderson, pastor at the Church of the Holy Cross in Hilo.
Anderson said his church’s reluctance to reopen immediately is based on two primary concerns. One concern is obvious, he said: If cases of COVID-19 increase as the economy reopens, in-person church services can endanger congregants unnecessarily.
The other concern is more practical, he said. Guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise places of worship to frequently and thoroughly disinfect surfaces and provide soap and hand sanitizer for staff and congregants. Anderson said he is concerned about whether the church can secure an adequate supply of cleaning products.
Places of worship are required to follow CDC guidelines when reopening, according to Kim’s announcement. Among those guidelines are social distancing directions, which advise places of worship to limit the number of people gathered at any given time.
St. Michael the Archangel Church in Kailua-Kona will resume Mass this weekend.
“While we have been celebrating the Mass without physically gathering with you, it is now with great excitement and words of caution that I announce the reopening of St. Michael’s Church for public worship to resume once again,” a letter from Father Lio Faletoi reads. “It is fitting that our reopening will occur on the Feast of Pentecost.”
He said planning for the reopening has been a “monumental task” in figuring out how the required safety protocols will be implemented and ensuring they will be adhered to by all who attend Mass.
“Expect that you will be required to wear a mask, and that, due to social distancing, you will not have your ‘saved seat’ that you regularly have sat in prior to March 15,” Faletoi’s message reads. “We ask for your patience and understanding at this time while we work out all the ‘hiccups’ that are sure to happen.
“As your Pastor, I have seen how well you have responded to the needs of the parish, and I am humbled by your faithful response when we ask for your help.”
Public weekend Masses will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday and 7, 9 and 11 a.m. and 1, 4 and 6 p.m. on Sunday. The 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. services are in Spanish.
Parishioners that plan to attend weekend Mass should sign up online via an EventBrite link that can be found on the church’s website at https://www.konacatholicchurch.net or by calling the parish office at (808) 326-7771. Calls should be made no later than 4:50 p.m. Friday and give the time of Mass that a parishioner plans attend, the number of persons, and their names.
Because of limited space, no services will be offered at Immaculate Conception and Holy Rosary Mission Churches, according to Faletoi’s letter.