by Luke Putvin | Lynnwood Times Staff
At his May 27 press conference, Governor Jay Inslee announced the loosening of restrictions on religious gatherings during Phases 1 and 2.
Inslee mentioned that seeing religious gatherings meet in creative ways, such as through online congregations, has been inspiring. Additionally, he said that if congregations can continue these creative ways of meeting as opposed to meeting in person they should consider doing so.
During Phase 1, outdoor religious services will now be allowed to be held on an organization’s property with no more than 100 individuals. People should follow physical distancing guidelines and wear face coverings.
During Phase 2, of which 24 counties have already moved to, indoor religious services can be held at 25% capacity or with fewer than 50 individuals, whichever is less. Also, in-home services or counseling at a person’s residence with five individuals or less will be allowed. During gatherings that include people from outside one’s household, everyone should wear a face covering.
The loosened restrictions include all worship services, weddings and funerals, and there is no limit on how many services can be held throughout the day as long as they abide by safety guidelines.
Inslee also encouraged congregations to get a voluntary log with contact information of attendants in case an outbreak occurs; this information can be helpful to get knowledge about potential exposures.
The governor also provided “Safe Facility Requirements” which are as follows:
- Follow physical distancing
- Wear facial coverings
- Provide employee education
- Clean/sanitize frequently
- Provide PPE to staff as appropriate
- Ensure handwashing
Three members of faith communities joined Inslee virtually: Aneelah Afzali with the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, Rabbi Yosef Schtroks and Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee with the NW Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Afzali mentioned the sadness of missing out on the communal aspects of Ramadan and Eid. However, she added, “We don’t worship our places of worship. We worship God.”
Schtroks expressed how it was inspiring to see the great lengths individuals across the state went to in order to save others, even those we don’t know. “Every person in our state is an entire world,” he said.
Wee explained that, in getting back to physical congregations, churches should be aware of the ages across the congregation and keeping everyone safe. She also expressed that the organization will continue to encourage online worship.
Inslee concluded the conference by saying that he didn’t believe all counties would be able to move to Phase 2 on June 1.