Leaders of worship react to Trump declaring churches 'essential,' urging them to reopen

Leaders of worship on Trump declaring churches 'essential,' urge them to reopen (WPEC)

Early in the pandemic, a Tampa pastor was arrested for holding church services.

Days later, Gov. Ron DeSantis reminded counties and cities that worshiping is a constitutional right.

On Friday, President Donald Trump threatened governors who have forced houses of worship to be closed, while the CDC issued strict new guidelines for them to reopen.

One of the guidelines encourages services be held outdoors to limit the crowd and decrease or suspend singing and reciting during services.

While it sounds restrictive, the president says he wants to be clear: places of worship are essential.

Tabernacle Baptist Church in West Palm Beach has a congregation of around 1,200 people.

It's been videotaping and uploading its services online for more than two months now.

“You have the same passion, but you’re preaching to empty seats,” Rev. Gerald Kisner said.

Early into the pandemic, DeSantis reminded places of worship it would be up to them to hold mass and services. But some states have banned places of worship from opening during the pandemic.

President Trump has now come out and threatened to override those governors, calling churches, mosques, and synagogues essential.

“We look forward to coming back, we all do, but we want to be safe,” Kisner said.

While the reverend says he'd like to reopen, he's worried about his parishioners' safety and, for now, says he wants to wait.

“Rather than flip a switch and turn back on, we’re going to come back slowly, beginning outdoors,” Kisner said.

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue says they've been planning and waiting and are now close to reopening.

“We’ll have 80 people at four concurrent services," he said. "Each one, the ground will be marked eight feet apart, so that people will know exactly where they can stand. They have to arrive with a mask."

Rabbi Goldberg is also asking people to register first before attending.

“The security, volunteer security, will help us execute our plans and make sure nobody is there who doesn’t belong there,” he said.

While some places have never closed their doors, many more will be reopening soon.

The question, for now, is not can they, but when.