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Supervisors make change to policy on services held in church parking lots

In response to strong objections from area pastors and church leaders, the Panola County Board of Supervisors rescinded a resolution they adopted Wednesday afternoon that would limit the number of people allowed to gather in church parking lots for services.

A State of Mississippi order already prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people in public areas, including churches, but the supervisors met Wednesday to clarify their position, saying that even at church meetings held in parking lots with worshippers remaining in their vehicles the limit of 10 people should be observed.

The backlash from congregations was swift. By Thursday morning the supervisors were receiving calls from citizens who have been meeting in their church parking lots to hear a sermon over loudspeakers or to watch on internet streaming services.

Many people have said the ability to gather with fellow worshippers, even if everyone stays inside their vehicles, is encouraging and helps retain a sense of normalcy during the trying times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Three pastors – Rev. Tim Ellis, Rev. O’dell Draper, and Rev. Damon Plummer – met with the supervisors to voice their objections to the 10 person rule. They said their congregations were looking forward to the Easter Sunday services and gathering in vehicles only would not pose a health risk.

The board voted 4-1 to amend yesterday’s guideline, with Supervisor Earl Burdette choosing to keep the same position he held before.

Supervisors said churches are now able to have services in parking lots, but those attending must remain in their vehicles.