A church in Louisiana has reopened at reduced capacity amid the coronavirus — and its pastor has come up with a divinely funny way to maintain social distancing.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New Orleans is only open at 10 per cent occupancy these days, so pastor Ray Cannata, 51, outfitted several of the pews with signs directing worshipers to sit elsewhere and stay six feet apart.
Each of the signs has a humorous, bible-referencing message, including ‘Jesus sat the 500 down in rows. But not this one’ and ‘Reserved for Elijah only.’
New Orleans moved into a Phase 2 reopening on July 11, allowing for houses of worship to be open at 50 per cent capacity.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church is restricting that even further to be on the safe side, only opening one out of ever three rows — 10 per cent of the seats — for worshipers, with a total possible occupancy of 100.
They have arranged for there to be 20 feet between each person, using ushers — and funny signs — to keep things spaced out.
‘Things feel really grim right now,’ Cannata told CNN. ‘So we printed up the signs to give people something to smile about.
‘People are coming into the church to worship and celebrate, but they’re worried about getting sick or making someone else sick. Everyone’s wearing masks and giving each other space. It’s all stuff we aren’t accustomed to at all so this just helps lighten the mood.’
The signs all reference God or specific biblical passages or figures.
‘Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and if he were here today, he still wouldn’t be allowed to sit in this pew,’ reads one.
‘”I have prepared a place for you,”‘ one sign reads, quoting John 14:3 ‘Just not this pew.’
‘Jesus sat the 5,000 down in rows,’ reads another. ‘But not this one.’
‘Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to get a better seat… this pew was not it,’ says yet another, while one more reads: ‘”You will find me when you seek me.” Just not in this pew. Keep seeking.’
‘Remember when the Lord put a “Flaming Sword” at the entrance of the Garden of Eden, so Adam and Eve couldn’t go there?’ asks another. ‘”Flaming sword” can also be translated [as] blue tape.’
The pastor said they they’d gotten the idea from other churches with similar signs and borrowed a few, but made up some on their own.
According to Facebook, most worshipers are still tuning into the church’s livestream.
‘Not perfect, and a lot of extra work, but we’re trying our best to be safe and to worship the Lord,’ it says.
Commenters really seem to enjoy the funny signs, calling them ‘fantastic,’ ‘really funny,’ ‘creative,’ ‘too cute,’ and ‘clever.’