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'We're not ready': Churches hesitant to open despite President Trump's blessing

Allendale Methodist Church plans to reopen in June or July, but the pastor would like to see a steady 14-day decrease in new coronavirus case numbers first.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — President Donald Trump called on states to open churches on Friday afternoon, leading many religious leaders to consider holding in-person service once again.

But not all houses of worship are comfortable. Allendale Methodist Church members feel it still isn't safe. Pastor Andy Oliver says a message like this from the President is sending mixed signals.

“I really have a problem when the President is trying to tell me how to do my job when he's not even doing his job,” Oliver said.

Oliver is struggling to understand the President's adamant message to reopen religious institutions. 

“As people of faith we are called to use our minds and reason and that means listening to the scientists. When we hear the President giving information on a day-to-day basis that is contrary to what scientists, the CDC and WHO is telling us, that's not a leader. Our President is more concerned about opening up an economy, even if it means more people are going to die. That is not a leader,” Oliver said, 

Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed houses of worship to reopen weeks ago, but Allendale Methodist still felt it was too early. Services were moved online after the CDC recommended against large gatherings. As states reopen the CDC says all houses of worship should intensify cleaning and disinfection, promote social distancing, encourage people to wear masks, and minimize sharing worship materials like bibles. 

“My congregation voted to remove all the pews and we're going to be purchasing chairs so that when we reopen, we can do it safely and at a distance. We’ll set up chairs that are socially distant from each other,” Oliver said.

The church plans to reopen in June or July, but the pastor would like to see a steady 14-day decrease in new coronavirus case numbers first.

“You know, faith is essential. It's absolutely essential, and the way we practice that faith right now is by loving our neighbor and practicing it from a distance to protect those who are most vulnerable,” Oliver said.

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