MINNEAPOLIS (Star Tribune) – Many Minnesota churches opened to smaller than expected crowds Sunday, and most didn’t open at all, facing COVID-19 safety concerns and civil unrest gripping the Twin Cities.
It was the first weekend that houses of worship could open their doors since March 18, when they were required to close in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Under new state guidelines released last week, church doors could reopen at 25% capacity and safety restrictions.
But even at such limited capacity, many churches did not fill. Annunciation Church in Minneapolis, for example, had online Mass sign-up sheets showing attendance ranging from a quarter to a half of its 120 seats available.
The Cathedral of St. Paul also had lower than expected attendance at its opening Mass Saturday evening, said cathedral rector the Rev. John Ubel.
It was mainly Catholic and evangelical churches opening their doors this weekend, as Protestants and other faiths argued that a large group gathering could jeopardize the health of their members and staff.
But many, if not most, Catholic churches in Minneapolis and St. Paul kept their doors closed as well because they didn’t have time to put required health safety measures in place.
And churches such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis, which mid-week was planning to reopen, later posted on its web page that it would not hold public Mass this weekend for safety concerns.
With the death of George Floyd on the minds of many religious leaders, a group of Catholic priests plan to pray at the site of Floyd’s death at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, said the Rev. Paul Jarvis, of St. Bridget Catholic Church in north Minneapolis.
Other religious leaders were taking different actions. The faith group ISAIAH Minnesota, petitioned Gov. Tim Walz to place the Minneapolis Police Department into public receivership “under the control of state or county democratically-elected officials” and to remove Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman from the George Floyd murder case.