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Arkansas churches react to the end of the state’s mask mandate



Arkansas — Governor Hutchinson lifted the state’s mask mandate just days before the biggest church event of the year, Easter.

We spoke with several denominations to see how they’re handling this change in policy. Some are taking a hard line, saying they will still mandate mask-wearing. Others are leaving that decision up to their parishioners.

Preparations are underway for First NLR’s Easter Eggstravaganza. Before COVID, it was one of their biggest events of the year.

First NLR typically has about 5,000 to 7,000 people show up on Easter.

But this go-around, the Eggstravaganza will be a drive-through model.

“We still have a sense that it’s not yet time for large groups to come together in small spaces,” said Pastor Rod Loy.

Loy says as a church, they never mandated mask-wearing.

“But everyone wore masks,” Loy said. “It wasn’t a rule. It was, we love and care for each other.”

He expects his parishioners to continue to wear masks.

For Catholics in Little Rock, you won’t have much of a choice.

The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock released this statement about mask wearing:

“Even though mask-wearing requirements have been loosened by public authorities in other settings, gatherings for Catholic worship have their own dynamics and so mask-wearing will continue to be obligatory for everyone at least until May 12, when we will reassess this requirement in the light of the situation then current.  Masks can be removed by lectors when reading and priests at the altar but it is preferred that masks stay on even then.”

And Methodists?

“You still need to wear masks for all in-person events at United Methodist churches,” said Bishop

Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Mueller says they’ll do this until scientific data clearly shows that masks are no longer needed.

“We need to hold steady just a little longer because people’s well-being is far more important that our individual comfort,” Mueller said.

Church leaders are eager to celebrate the resurrection, but not at the sacrifice of the health and safety of their flock.

We did reach out to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention to see how they’re handling the end to the mask mandate. They say they person who would normally comment on these things wasn’t available today.

Once we find out their plan, if they have one, we’ll let you know.