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Emmanuel Worship Center Pastor Ken Arrington shows the hand sanitizer on the table for parishioners as they enter the church. The church is one of a few in the community that has opened its doors for Sunday worship.

Emporia’s Emmanuel Worship Center was one site for a drive-in service when the month of April rolled in.

With some easing of restrictions by Gov. Ralph Northam, the church is going to two indoor services this Sunday. The first is at 9 a.m., and the second begins at 11 a.m. For those uncomfortable going indoors, the drive-in service is still in place.

“This will be our third indoor service,” Emmanuel Worship Center pastor Ken Arrington said. “We still have a drive-in service, and we are streaming our services on the internet.”

The gathering of parishioners is not as it was before the pandemic. The doors get sanitized Saturday, then again Sunday before people gather at the facility.

The drive-in services brought many visitors from other churches the past two months. That could have presented a financial problem for churches that had their doors closed.

“When people visited from other churches, we asked them to make their offerings to their home church,” Arrington said. “I felt those were the ones needing help while they were closed.”

The rows of chairs get blocked by tape every other row. A family unit can sit together, but Emmanuel Worship Center leaders make sure social distance guidelines get followed. By the time people take their seats, Arrington estimates the capacity for indoor services is 60 patrons.

Outdoors there are plenty of people in cars listening to the service through outdoor speakers or watching via Facebook.

“I’m not sure how many cars are outside in the parking lot when services begin,” Arrington said. “But there are quite a few. When we ask people to clap, we ask those out in the parking lot to honk their horns. They do, and it makes you smile.”

The pastor said the pandemic allows him to watch other services online. He is impressed with many sermons by local preachers. He knew most of them but never heard them in the pulpit. Many churches did not have online worship before COVID-19. The virus forced many churches to go to online services.

Emporia-Greensville church leaders are slowly opening their doors as the governor eases restrictions. Word of Life Assembly of God, Faith Baptist, Elnora Jarrell, and Calvary Baptist are local churches opening the doors for parishioners.

Emmanuel Worship Center made a move to drive-in services nearly three months ago. It is going to two services on Sunday, allowing the congregation to gather in fellowship and worship as one.