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Places of worship still hold social distancing services

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 24, 2020

Governor Cuomo announced Thursday churches can now re-open with gatherings of ten or less people. But the Evengel Assembly of God in Lockport is sticking to larger gatherings, but from their car. Those in the Muslim Community also celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, from their cars as well.

Dozens of members of the church drove out Evengel Assembly of God to observe Sunday service.

"Well, I'd have to do 50 services to have 10 people in church, so that wouldn't work for us," said Pastor Patrick Hilkey.

For the past two weeks, he's been preaching from the roof of the transit drive-in as he waits to re-open his church.

"Churches are in phase 4, which is a little bit disappointing. I was hoping to be in phase 2 or 3,” Pastor Hilkey said, "We're a very friendly church, we're a touchy church, we all hug each other, shake hands and now you can't do any of that.”

He hopes to re-open by mid-July. Until then, he'll be here at the drive in.

"It is what it is, I know they care about trying to keep people safe and not trying to spread the virus, so we're trying to follow along,” said Pastor Hilkey.

"And of course, this applies to all faiths and religions, so while the people of WNY wait for the buildings to re-open, it seems the common theme is worshipping from your car,” said Pastor Hilkey.

Those in the Muslim community celebrated the end of Ramadan from their car as well.

"Muslims completed the month of fasting last night. This generally is a very big celebration,” said Khlaid Qazi, the founding president and senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

To celebrate Eid al-Fitr hundreds of cars paraded through Western New York.

"The whole community has been cooped up so long, we thought this might be a way to give them an opportunity to be in the spirit of this holiday,” Qazi said.

Qazi said he doesn't know when mosques will re-open, but they're working on a plan.

"We are considering right now the state reg in terms of 10 coming to the mosque, I think we will implement that as we get ready for it,” Qazi said.

Both religious leaders said it's all a work in progress.

"For all of us, especially churches, we really want to be together and we're looking forward to that future we're going to have,” said Pastor Hilkey.