On Monday, February 22, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Executive Order No. 225, which increases capacity limits for religious services and large sports and entertainment venues.
“As our COVID-19 metrics continue to trend in the right direction and as we continue our aggressive vaccination effort, we believe we can safely take this step,” said Governor Murphy. “We have always strived to make accommodations wherever safely possible, be it with religious services, sporting events, entertainment venues, or in other sectors. I am pleased that we are able to increase these limits today and hopeful that the numbers continue to point in the right direction for further reopening steps.”
Effective immediately, religious services and celebrations – including wedding ceremonies, funerals, and memorial services – will be able to operate at 50% capacity of the room in which they are held, with no cap on the number of individuals permitted to attend. Services were previously limited to 35% of the room, up to 150 individuals. Individuals attending services will still be required to wear masks and sit six feet apart from those outside of their household group.
The executive order allows for limited spectators at collegiate sporting events, mirroring last week’s announcement on youth sporting events. On March 1, large sports and entertainment venues with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or more will be permitted to host a number of patrons and members of the public equal to 10% of capacity indoors and 15% of capacity outdoors.
On Facebook, pastors immediately rejoiced upon hearing the announcement regarding religious services.
“Well, this sure helps for Easter!,” said Tim Lucas, pastor of Liquid Church.
“Great news,” said Pastor Wesley Kenyon, of Wyckoff Assembly of God.
Matt Jones, pastor of Mountaintop Church in Hackettstown, posted that the capacity limit will enable the church to hold one larger service on Sundays.
“This is great news as Mountaintop Church plans to go to one 10 a.m. SERVICE starting Sunday, March 7, 2021,” he said. “This gives us plenty of room to grow as people feel comfortable returning and attending services in person.”
“Things are getting better,” said Pastor Gary DePasquale, of International House of Prayer Eastern Gate in Cranford.