Lynchburg church holds in-person services for the first time since coronavirus shutdown


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Families and friends greeted each other six feet apart today as churches around the Commonwealth reopened following Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-VA) announcement of Virginia’s Phase One Plan. Tree of Life Ministries in Lynchburg was among the churches in our area that reopened this morning with limited capacity under the governor’s guidelines.

For bigger churches like Tree of Life, this means not all visitors could sit in the sanctuary. The doors were closed between each service so cleaning crews could come in and thoroughly sanitize the area. Some sat in their cars and tuned in to the radio stream, while others watched a live stream at home or in other buildings on the church’s campus.

Those who did attend had to follow social distancing guidelines, established by the signs at each entrance and around the building. Despite the changes, churchgoers say they are glad to be back.

“Being able to watch online or in the parking lot . . . it’s just not the same as getting to worship together and seeing everybody, just to feel His presence,” said Chris Napier.

“I am so thankful to be here. We are beyond blessed”, said Jeanie Napier.

During the shutdown, Tree of Life held drive-in services over an FM radio station. Cars filled the parking lot each week as Pastor Mike Dodson delivered his sermon in front of the building.

During the service Sunday morning, Pastor Dodson greeted visitors with a ‘welcome back gift’, throwing a roll of toilet paper into the crowd and noting that the church bought 850 rolls to distribute to attendees on their way out.

Director of Children’s Ministries Heather Reynolds says their members have taken as many efforts as possible to keep the church clean and safe for parishioners.

“Churches are essential. The spiritual needs of our people are essential, and it’s so great to be back together this week. It’s been a really busy week for us. We’ve been in the sanctuary sanitizing every inch of everything in the sanctuary and the carpets to the pews to every handrail,” said Reynolds.

Tree of Life Ministries holds services every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, all of which can be found on the church’s website, Youtube, and Facebook.

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