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Keeping the faith in Columbia churches: 'A mask does not stop us from worshipping'

Many churches are used to the quick changes the pandemic has brought them.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Earlier this month, the City of Columbia passed an emergency ordinance requiring everyone 5-years-old and older to wear masks in all indoor public settings, including churches. 

Many churches in the city have learned to adapt since the beginning of the pandemic, making the ordinance just another hurdle to jump. 

“A mask does not stop us from worshipping, it doesn’t stop us from spreading the gospel, it just makes things a little bit different," said Michelle Jahnke of Midtown Fellowship on Blanding Street in Columbia. 

Midtown Fellowship has been used to quick changes. 

“Our people have been so wonderful during this time. They’ve navigated really well through this pandemic and with everything," Jahnke said. "In all of our communication, we’ve said, listen, plans are flexible, what we’re seeing today, tomorrow it could be something different.”

Washington Street United Methodist Church’s members have been understanding as well. 

“I think there is a general understanding in our membership that things are week-by-week, day-by-day and I think the key to that has been communicating out," said Ricky Rowe. 

“I truly believe it’s part of the gospel message. It’s out of love of neighbor," said the church's senior pastor Becky Shirley. "In order to keep everybody safe and the most vulnerable among us - children who cannot get vaccinated yet - it just makes sense to continue wearing the mask, following the science and keeping people safe.”

“It would be great to see smiling faces, but our people continue to do a great job," Jahnke added. "They’re flexible and we’re all in this together. We all want this pandemic to be over with so if we could just do our part… we’ll get there."