TUCSON, Ariz. — One of the largest churches on the east side is gearing up to reopen its doors and physically welcome guests for Sunday service.
Part of the delay to Pantano Christian Church’s reopening was due to waiting for COVID cases to significantly drop in Arizona; but there were also other reasons.
“Our delay wasn't for fear of the virus per se, or fear that we couldn't protect people. It was really more, that we use this time to do so many other things. We were aggressively trying to find various ways to serve our city. We were serving our hospitals,” said lead pastor Glen Elliott.
Elliott said Pantano was focused on community work, developing programs and making sure their large church was fully equipped to welcome back worshipers.
“First of all, everything's touchless. For example, we had to remove everything out of the seats. You know, there were Bibles and all that's gone, pins are gone. Children's check-in now has to be touchless. We do communion every week. Well, now that is, it's a prepackaged communion. It’s the juice and the wafer they will pick up as they come in. No passing of plates,” said Elliott.
Elliott said the services will be shorter to thoroughly clean before and after. Another new safety measure is rotating toys for children’s services.
“One set of toys is for the nine o'clock, the other set of toys is for the 11 o'clock because we don't want them being mixed. Of course we're asking people to wear a face mask. And we’ve got the cleaning down to where we can clean our whole campus in between our services,” said Elliott.
The church has also closed down its courtyard cafe to make more room for folks to spread out.
“I feel very confident about welcoming people back. Nobody can offer any guarantee. You know, that's not what we've asked people. If we’ve asked people, you're not feeling well, please don't come physically.We even have signs in our auditorium and our restrooms that say the same thing. So I can't guarantee anything, but, but I think we we've done everything we can possibly do to make it as safe as possible,” said Elliott.
Pantano’s Sunday morning services will be at 9 and 11 A.M. The church will still offer its online service for those who are still uncomfortable attending in-person.