An evangelical church network in California has said it will ignore Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive prohibitions this month, in opening sanctuary doors for communal worship despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Newsom, the first governor to introduce a statewide executive stay-at-home order, finally pushed California into Phase 2 of its reopening effort on Friday, allowing retailers to recommence on-site sales under substantial health and capacity restrictions.
Newsom did not, however, definitively indicate when the “Phase 3” reintroduction of public dining and in-person church services might come — and that left local church leaders unwilling to cooperate.
California Church United, representing roughly 3,000 churches and over 2.5 million congregants statewide, announced Thursday that it will return to conducting in-person services by Pentecost on May 31 rather than await the third phase of planned societal reopening.
Churches across the state have been steadfast in adhering to Newsom’s orders with few exceptions, conducting Sunday worship and other gatherings online. With no end to the ongoing pandemic in sight, however, with political leaders seemingly in no hurry to reopen places of worship, the church network saw no better time than Pentecost to revive in-person services.
According to Water of Life Community Church senior pastor, Danny Carroll said, “Our churches are part of the answer, not part of the problem. We’re an essential part of this whole journey and we’ve been bypassed … kicked to the curb and deemed nonessential.”
However, this decision was reportedly not easy for church leadership, leaving several pastors torn between extending more personal care to their local congregations and submitting to the authorities, who they conceded are doing their best to protect the health of the community.
“My church made 10,000 masks and gowns for doctors while practicing social distancing. We feed people and procure electronic devices for seniors who are isolated. [Newsom] has no problem with all of that. But when we want to gather to worship, he has a problem,” Brown said.
An fficial statement publicized through the church network’s legal representatives, shows that some churches had seek to get started even earlier but the statement said that symbolic Pentecost reopening may not in fact occur that early.
“Our fear is simply this, Congregations of people from far and wide coming together in a closed space at a large scale remains a point of concern and anxiety for us. We are working on guidelines for physical distancing and working with faith leaders talking about unique conditions in their own facilities. Nothing is etched in stone,” governor Newsom said.
I take very seriously those concerns about people of faith and I’m very sensitive to those who want to get back to church, but the health of those communities is foundational,” he added.
But Danny Carroll insist saying, “we are not the MLB or the NBA, We are not a gathering of strangers. As pastors, we bury these people. We bleed with these people, we are a family, not a group of strangers.”