CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court barred New York State from enforcing certain attendance limits at religious services.
In Texas, attending in-person services is important to some people, like some families who attend services at Church Unlimited in Corpus Christi.
Mariza Robinson and her family live in George West, a town located in Live Oak County, 68 miles from their church in Corpus Christi. They make the hour drive each weekend to make sure they can attend in-person service.
"It's just something about the feeling about being there in person,” Robinson said. “When you're there in person, there's no distraction. You get to just connect with the Holy Spirit, and not have anything else drained out.”
Robinson said attempting to attend service virtually allowed her to be distracted too often. Between television, kids, the phone and other distractions, it was hard to focus on the service.
Another family that attends service at Church Unlimited in-person is the Montoya family. Julio and Sarah live in Portland, but frequently visit Julio’s mother in Santa Rosa to help take of her. Despite the up to three-hour drive back to Corpus Christi, they would make sure they were back in time for Sunday morning services.
"Sunday morning or Saturday night, we drive the three hours just to make it to church on time,” Julio said.
"We wouldn't stay on Sunday, we would come back late Saturday just so we could be at church Sunday,” Sarah added.
The Montoyas feel the same way as Robinson in regards to prioritizing in-person service to a virtual one.
“Watching online is not the same, I don't get the same feeling,” Sarah Montoya said. “When you're in the temple, and the music's going, and the preaching's going, you just feel, in my opinion, the presence of God so strongly,” Julio added.
The Montoyas believe, since they risk exposure to COVID-19 in other facets of their life, they are willing to risk it for church as well.
"We take the risk going to buy groceries, a lot of times you go and it's so crowded. We take a risk when we have to pick something up at the mall, or even going to work. We take a risk to provide for our family or feed our family, we can take the risk for our spiritual life too,” Julio Montoya said.
Church Unlimited currently limits attendance of services, and has other safety measures in place to protect attendees. Both families said the church’s safety precautions are part of the reason they feel comfortable attending in-person service. However, in their opinion, in-person services are so important to mental and emotional health, that they would continue to attend even if the church allowed more people to attend.
“Me and my family would still go, it's not mandatory for us to shake hands, or give them a hug or come in contact with them physically,” Robinson said.
"I feel we’d still attend, even if the numbers were a little bit greater. We would still attend, but just really try to emphasize on the safety part,” Julio Montoya said.
Both Robinson and the Montoyas agree that being able to attend services in person is good for their mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
"From when the doors have opened to now, our life has really, really been so positive,” Julio Montoya said.
"I don't know if we would be able to get through [this year] without church,” Robinson said. “Especially in 2020, I think that a lot of people are feeling alone, there's a lot of emptiness. Even just connecting on an emotional level, not so much on a physical level, just being there and connecting in the room emotionally speaks so much volume.”