"Evangel Cathedral" by Shardayyy / CC BY 2.0

Churches can reopen soon in parts of Virginia and Maryland. But many will keep their doors shut.

May 14, 2020

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein

Starting Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will allow houses of worship in the southern and western parts of the state to resume indoor services for groups larger than 10. But it will take far more than that for the Rev. Barry Absher to open his church doors in the rural coal-mining town of Tazewell, Va.

He is worried about trying to keep his parishioners physically apart — as required by Virginia’s “phase one” reopening rules — while they maneuver to get seated for worship. For now, he said, he won’t be taking the governor up on the offer to host indoor services at 50 percent capacity.

“It would feel like an episode of ‘The Walking Dead,’ ” he said, referring to the television show about a zombie apocalypse. “People would want to hug you, then you feel like a jerk for not hugging them back.”

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