SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Archdiocese of Newark started phase one of reopening Sunday, allowing its church to welcome visitors for private prayer after being closed for weeks.

There are some new changes in place that will help people find solace and peace during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pews were sprayed and wiped down at Saint Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

There are blue markings on church benches in Saint Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, so that all visitors sit at least six feet apart. (Credit: CBS2)

Father John Paladino says they are taking safety precautions seriously.

“One way in, one way out,” he said.

Inside his church are bottles of hand sanitizer and signs telling people to wear masks at all times.

There are also blue markings on church benches so that all visitors sit at least six feet apart.

“It’s important that we move forward,” Paladino said, “but at the same acknowledging the fact that our faith in god is important and that we need to come to him in times of turmoil and trial, tribulation.”

For now, there are no masses, just time for personal prayer, and schedules vary from church to church.

Those CBS2’s Cory James spoke with were impressed by the conditions and relieved to be back inside their spiritual home during a time of uncertainty.

“That’s the cleanest spot in Scotch Plains right now, I think,” Scotch Plains resident Mike Driscoll said. “No one is going to be apprehensive at all once they walk inside there.”

“When I walked in, it was almost like a physical feeling. I just needed to have that feeling of warmth and love kinda wrap around,” Carol Driscoll said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

While the Archdiocese of Newark is starting a three phase reopening for its 200 churches, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark is holding off for now.

Rev. Candace Sandfort is the priest at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Montclair.

“No, we are not gathering as a church,” she said.

She says her congregation is still meeting virtually, but unfortunately technology is not always on their side.

“Our Zoom did not happen this morning,” Sandfort said, “and we’re still trying to figure out what happened this morning, but I have a very forgiving congregation and everybody was, ‘Aw, fine, we’ll just watch national cathedral today.'”

There’s still no timeline for the episcopal church.

The Archdiocese of Newark has a task force that is working on the timing of the next two phases, but for now, they say phase two will incorporate the celebration of weekday masses and phase three will allow Sunday masses to take place.

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