St. Bernardine Church | File photo

In step with Phase 3 of Gov. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, most Forest Park churches are gradually and cautiously beginning the process of reopening.

According to its website Living Word Christian Center began holding in-person services on June 7, but in compliance with state guidelines is allowing 120 worshippers to attend its 7 and 9 a.m. services in its sanctuary, which has a capacity of 2,500. Both are aired online. Those online services are being re-aired at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Pastor Bill Winston is asking members to register in advance and not attend more than one service in person during this phase of reopening to give other people a chance to worship in person.

Worshippers will be asked to wear face masks and to maintain social distancing. “We are completely disinfecting and sanitizing our facility,” said the website, “and modifying those parts of our services that require physical contact, such as passing the offering buckets and greeting each other with handshakes or hugs.”

“Living Word’s guidelines for reopening in-person worship services will be measured and cautious,” the website stated, “starting with Phase 1 [Living Word’s phase 1, not the state’s] through the month of June.”

St. Bernardine Catholic Church has been celebrating Masses since June 6, in compliance with directives coming from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fr. Stan Kuca, St. Bernardine’s pastor sent out a letter at the beginning of June outlining 11 requirements for those attending masses. For example:

  • Reservations must be made in advance at Sign Up Genius or by calling the church office.
  • Greeters will check your name off the reservation list and ushers will guide worshippers to available seats, a procedure intended to assure social distancing.
  • Everyone must wear a mask and keep it on for the entire liturgy.
  • Sanitizer will be available for worshipers as they enter the church. Ushers will again spray sanitizer on the hands of everyone who lines up to receive communion.

In-person masses will begin at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Rev. Leonard Payton, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, said his congregation is reopening by stages, like all the other faith communities in town. Presently they are requiring face masks, using hand sanitizer, requiring registration and maintaining social distancing. To minimize contact, only Pastor Payton serves communion and he wears a mask and latex gloves when doing so.

Sean Blaylock, an elder at Forest Park Baptist Church, said his congregation began in-person worship on June 14. Like all the other faith communities in town, his congregation is following CDC guidelines regarding face masks, sanitizers and social distancing. He added that a cleaning service takes care of the disinfecting after the Sunday services. The service is sent out virtually on Zoom.

Pastor Pongsak Limthongviratn reported that St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church has been limiting in-person attendance at the church on Dixon Street to 20 people and airs the service on an app called LINE. Like other churches, St. Paul Thai advises older members and people with medical issues to stay at home and join the congregation online.

The leadership at Engage Christian Church and Hope Tabernacle has decided to play it safe and remains closed to in-person worship until the end of the month.