By Rachel Menitoff

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Helping houses of worship reopen safely – that’s what the City of Baltimore is working to do with help from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

They’re piloting a program to pair healthcare professionals with the City’s religious institutions.

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“Our faith community in Baltimore has been there since the pandemic showed up on our doorstep, and, we know, that it will be along with us every step of the way,” Mayor Brandon Scott said Monday.

Healthcare providers will be able to answer questions, anything from CDC protocol, to health and hygiene and cleaning.

They’ll be able to perform building walk-throughs and help to adapt religious practices for congregants and staff.

After months of virtual worship, First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in Baltimore will welcome parishioners inside for Sunday service. It will be a change from their zoom gatherings, but certainly a welcome one.

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“It’s a much warmer, interactive thing when you have people, even if it is only 32 out of a potential much larger number,” said Rev. Chris Iosso, the minister of First and Franklin.

He explained that the first 32 people to sign up online will get an in-person spot for the service. Everyone will be spaced at least 6-feet apart from one another, masks will be highly encouraged and singing will be limited.

Rev. Iosso has also changed the way he delivers Communion. Congregants will pick up pre-packaged Communion Cups and perform the ritual individually.

“That’s a real limitation we hope our theology can stretch,” Rev. Iosso said.

Even with a number of limitations, the Reverend said he can’t wait for the connection inspired by the members of his congregation.

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“We are respecting the science and we don’t feel that conflicts with our faith,” explained Iosso.

Rachel Menitoff