VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Although a lot of businesses in Virginia are enjoying more relaxed coronavirus restrictions, religious organizations and churches are still limited in how they can operate.
Pastor Adam Dragoon of The Potter's House of Virginia Beach says it's unfair.
“If I have been going to Walmart, every week for the last six months, I feel safe doing that," he said. "I don’t understand why there are greater restrictions on churches than there are on places like Walmart or fitness centers or movie theaters and I think that is unfair.”
Hampton Roads is in Phase 3 of reopening, which means social gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed and a lot of businesses no longer have to limit capacity, like restaurants, for example. But the regulations for religious gatherings largely remain the same.
"When we are separate, we become very weak, we become very isolated, we become less than what God wants us to be," Dragoon said. “I don’t know if there are forces at work behind the scenes that intend to keep churches weaker but that has been the effect of this COVID-19."
In church, families must sit six feet apart from others, which limits capacity.
Brick and mortar stores are not required to limit capacity but must assist customers in keeping six feet apart. Gyms can operate at 75 percent capacity and movie theaters at 50 percent.
“There is a number of people that since March who’ve gotten used to either not going to church at all or to visiting church in an online capacity of some kind," Dragoon said. "It’s a habit that is less than the experience of what a church can really offer to us.”
This weekend, Dragoon is welcoming people to his newly renovated church at 1045 Lynnhaven Parkway for a nationwide effort called "Back To Church Sunday."
He said now, more than ever, a sense of community and hope is needed.
“Obviously, we’re taking temperatures at the door, asking people if you have illness to stay home," Dragoon said. "We’re going to be recommending people wear masks but we are not going to require them. I think that is best left up to the individual discretion.”
Dragoon says he will wear a mask, which is required in indoor public spaces and medical experts agree they help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re not going to throw caution to the wind here, we are still taking as many precautions as we can," Dragoon said. “When we come together, we are truly stronger and that’s really the theme of our services that we have coming up here. We are stronger together.”
The Potter's House will also hold services Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening.
The church is located at 1045 Lynnhaven Parkway, Virginia Beach, VA 23452.