An eastside Indianapolis church with nearly 11,000 members has worked during the pandemic to maintain accessibility to its worshippers. Like many other places of worship, Eastern Star Church offered virtual worship services and ministry meetings. Executive Pastor Anthony Murdock speaks with WFYI’s Terri Dee about the precautions being taken for a safe return to in-person services at their three locations.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: Eastern Star Church is a fairly large church with thousands of members. A reintegration plan is going to be quite a task. Could you explain to me the overall plan to get in-person services revived again, and what factors played a role when comprising this plan?
ESC Executive Pastor Anthony Murdock: Phase one started back when the pandemic kind of hit us last March. So we were in phase one of total virtual services until the outdoor worship service that we had at each campus on towards the end of May, around May 23, 2021. That was the beginning of phase two.
A lot of what is impacting how we move and make decisions is based on the science, but also how our community, primarily Black and brown people that we serve, how they are doing, and also how they're looking in terms of what the health department is saying locally and also at the national level. We have a committee of people who include members of our ministry, from our youth ministry all the way up to our senior saints. We also have staff people, several medical professionals, doctors, microbiologists, and executives from pharmaceutical companies. We meet on a regular basis to discuss where everything is in the areas they serve. So, we get both a ministry and community perspective. But we also get a medical perspective.
We are currently into our next phase, which we have limited live worship, and everyone in that group, they're all vaccinated, and based on where things are and with our committees, we're hoping and praying that we can then come back with something a little bit more extensive beyond where we are, but we're only working with maybe 50 to 60 people right now.
Dee: Has the leadership at Eastern Star Church received feedback as these plans are going forward? If so, what has that feedback been?
Murdock: A lot of times we received questions of why are we not back in person like other churches or ministries. We're trying to make the best decision to be as safe as we can and as cautious as we can to ensure that when we do come back, that everybody is safe.
Another piece that's very difficult is the fact that we have so many people and so we want to definitely be careful as we try to come back and reintegrate to ensure that we can always abide by all of the guidelines. Even though the vaccine is out and there's vaccination, unfortunately, those numbers may not be as high in our community as other communities. So, we've tried to also reach out and partner with other health organizations and hospitals in the Marion County Health Department to assist and educate in the area of what's available to help people, if they choose, to want to be vaccinated.
Dee: Have other churches approached Eastern Star and said, "Hey, what's your strategy? How can we, perhaps, model our strategy after what Eastern Star Church is doing?"
Murdock: I, myself, have spoken to a number of churches locally; also churches across the country. So we've kind of tried to learn from them and they've been learning from us.
Dee: Thank you for your time today. Mr. Murdock,
Murdock: Thank you so much. God bless you.