Saturday evening will be the first time since March 8 the sanctuary at Buck Run Baptist Church will be open to the church’s congregation.
Hershael York, the church’s longtime pastor, announced that the church would fully convert to online services on March 12.
“At that point, people were like, ‘Do we need to take this seriously, or not?’” York said about the COVID-19 pandemic.
From that point forward, York and the rest of church staff made an effort to be creative in how the church operates.
Keeping steady communication with his congregation was York’s top priority.
One of the new things York started to do was an online question and answer session on Sundays about that week’s sermon.
“It’s been, I think, so much fun to be interviewed about the sermon and why I did it the way I did it,” York said.
Although navigating this pandemic is unlike anything York has experienced in his 40 years in ministry, he’s been delighted to see how the church has grown and continued to serve despite the social distancing mandates.
Since the church converted to holding its Sunday service fully online, 10 people have decided to join the church through either Baptism or transferring membership from another church.
“We’ve actually had a tremendous response,” York said. “A lot more people are watching our service every week than the total number of our regular attendance.”
Looking at the list of names who have tuned into Buck Run’s online service, York said it’s full of new and old faces. Some people from churches he’s pastored in the past have been viewing the sermons each week.
Last week, York uploaded a video to YouTube announcing the church’s plans to reopen this weekend, but with some changes.
Typically, Buck Run has a single one hour and 15 minute service on Sundays beginning at 10:45 a.m. From now until further notice, Buck Run will have three identical, hour-long services each weekend — a Saturday service at 6 p.m. and two Sunday services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
York said by shaving 15 minutes off each service, it gives staff time to extra time to clean.
The church will be practicing social distancing, which is why they decided to add two more services.
Anyone who wants to attend a service at Buck Run is asked to register online in advance, so they can plan where to seat everyone to maintain social distancing.
York said there is space for 200 people per service. Buck Run’s sanctuary seats 940 people, but on an average Sunday, pre-pandemic, 700 to 800 people attend the service each week.
Masks are strongly encouraged, even during singing, and York asks that there be no handshakes or hugging.
Parishioners are also asked to use the bathroom before they come to church and to try to refrain from using the bathrooms before, after or during the service.
The bathrooms will be open, but staff and/or volunteers will have to clean the bathrooms in between users. Childcare will also be closed.
In the video, York said he understands if some people choose not to come and to stay home to watch the service and no one will judge them if they decide to stay home.
As of Thursday morning, York said it looked like 450 people will be nearly evenly split among the three services this weekend.
Although times have been strange and difficult, York said now is a great time to learn what it really means to trust the Lord.
“I have as my bedrock belief that God is in control of all things,” York said. “And so I have that hope and confidence that even in times like this, God is not surprised. He is not flummoxed. He’s not wringing his hands. That even in things like this, he has a purpose and a plan. And that it is our job to discover how God can be glorified in our lives in times like this and it challenges us to trust.”
On May 6, two federal court judges ruled that churches can reopen despite an executive order from Gov. Andy Beshear ordering churches not to reopen until at least May 20.
York said he wanted to wait until he knew the church was ready.
“I think the fact that even still so many of our folks are not coming is evidence that was the right decision,” York said. “... We long for us to all be together again, but we don’t want to rush that and put anybody at risk unnecessarily.”
Buck Run Baptist Church is located at 1950 Leestown Road.
For more information on Buck Run and how to RSVP to one of its services, visit buckrun.org