Places of worship decide if masks will be worn to their services as COVID-19 cases rise

ATLANTA — As coronavirus cases climb, churches across metro Atlanta are once again finding new ways to worship.

At Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, senior pastor Richard Kannwischer said the church will ask all members of the congregation to wear masks this Sunday because of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s new indoor mask mandate.

But Kannwischer also questions whether the mandate is necessary.

“I cannot say I am in full agreement with this approach,” he said in a statement. “However, in the interest of the health and safety of you, our staff and our city, I believe we should take reasonable steps to limit the spread of the disease.”

A church spokesperson told Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon the pastor was out of town, but in the statement, Kannwischer also acknowledged the challenge the mayor faces as she deals with the uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Just down the road at All Saints Episcopal Church in Midtown, the Rev. Simon Mainwaring told Wilfon he fully supports the mayor’s mandate.

“As Episcopalians we’re warranted towards seeing science as a helpful tool in the management of a church,” Mainwaring said. “And we see the mask mandate as consistent with the CDC’s guidance.”

He expects his congregation will wear masks this Sunday, and all church members continue to have the option of watching services online.

“Wearing a mask is a small sacrifice if it means a family won’t lose a loved one, and I think there’s really a clear and present danger of that happening,” Mainwaring said.

Wilfon also spoke with the mayor’s office. He referred us back to the mayor’s previous comments that she is simply following the science and trying to keeping Atlantans safe.

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Outside Atlanta at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, they have handled the pandemic differently than almost every other church in Metro Atlanta.

They have held services online or outside since the beginning of the pandemic. They believe it is still the right choice.

“Well, out of an abundance of caution we have remained virtual,” said the Rev. Carla Stokes, one of the pastors. “We made the decision based on the data. We are watching the numbers and as the COVID cases increase, we just feel it’s best for us to remain in a virtual space at this time.”