Steve Grice, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Raleigh, had decided to hold services even before the order blocking enforcement, the Raleigh News-Observer reported. He said there are too many distractions when services are held outside in the church parking lot, such as cars turning around in the gravel driveway and a loud ATV driving by repeatedly.
"I felt strongly that we could do this safely," he said. The church's precautions included providing hand sanitizer and masks on a back table. Most of the 25 attendees at a May 17 Sunday service sat six feet apart, excepting family and friends. Grice hired two deputies for the service, fearing disruption after the event attracted attention on Facebook.
Raleigh's Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Cathedral and other churches followed the previous guidelines of the governor's order. The cathedral held Mass outside. Many attendees wore masks, WTVD News reports.
"Today's Catholic parish mass was planned before Saturday's information about the availability of indoor masses. The monsignor said leaders will study possible next steps, but nothing's been announced," a cathedral spokesperson said.
The Diocese of Raleigh referred CNA to a May 7 letter and guidelines from Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama. It allows Mass in "an unenclosed space" if the faithful follow social distancing guidelines. Each pastor should instruct the faithful on these guidelines. It limits daily Mass to 10 persons.
Jim Whitfield, pastor of Triangle Christian Center in Raleigh, supported churches re-opening.
"I think it's about time," he told WTVD News.
About 100 people attended services at his church, with no social distancing. Most people did not wear masks.
Whitfield said he thinks the congregants are safe.
"And in our daycare we've not had one infection in the whole period of time, and right up front we were declared essential," he added.