When you drive past many churches on Sunday you will see parking lots filled with the vehicles of those attending a weekly church service. As the coronavirus pandemic expanded, local places of worship had to take various measures to keep communities active.
Almost all of them make Sunday sermons available online. Some hold services outdoors. And some have brought the church back into their homes despite a state order.
“I’ve seen an incredible amount of creativity,” said Angelo Frazier, a pastor at RiverLakes Community Church. “I’ve spoken to a lot of pastors. There’s a tremendous amount of frustration because of the inconsistency. And our leaders, some of them say one thing and then do another. “
According to Frazier, Riverlakes has offered services both off-site and online. While external ministries have been a blessing in some ways, they have also presented challenges. Due to the heat, noise, air quality, and cold, a variety of disturbances can dampen any preacher’s preaching.
“When you’re not in a building, you are exposed to the environment,” he said. “And the air quality here, we have seniors who are struggling.”
Churches across Bakersfield have been forced to balance the needs of their communities with coronavirus precautions and government orders. Although church services were generally allowed for a short time as COVID-19 cases spread faster, the county and much of the state have been placed on the most restrictive purple level that doesn’t allow indoor worship.
Still, some churches have decided to promote indoor services.
“We always say we’re doing more than Costco or Albertsons or any of your grocery stores,” said David Buck, pastor of Laurelglen Bible Church, which has been worshiping indoors for several months.
He described numerous health practices Laurelglen had put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19. He said the church has done its part to prevent the spread of disease while providing something the community desperately needs.
“The amount of advice we are doing now. People are really frustrated with society, ”he said. “You have a job, I have a job, but that’s not the norm. The church must be able to help. “
Part of that help is meeting indoors.
“We cannot ignore the negative impact that failure to meet has on our ability to meet the needs of our church body. Many of them have increased due to the pandemic and the restrictions it has brought, ”said a letter on Laureglen’s website. “Our people need mutual support and the care of their leaders and pastors in ways that are simply not the same unless the body congregates.”
However, public health officials were suspicious of allowing indoor services. The California Department of Health said in industry guidelines that common practices like chanting and chanting increase the chances of transmission of contaminated water droplets and negate the effect of physical distancing.
“Even when physical distance is maintained, being called to a ward from several different households to practice a personal belief carries a relatively higher risk of widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” CDPH wrote in the guidelines, “and can lead to an increase. ” Infection, hospital and death rates, especially among more vulnerable populations. “
Some religious leaders have said that state rules allowing indoor retail activities are hypocritical. A legal challenge has also shown the potential to lift the ban on indoor services.
On Thursday, the US Supreme Court rejected a decision by the Central District Court of California that upheld state restrictions on churches. The Supreme Court recently issued a 5-4 ruling on a case in New York that found the coronavirus restriction on places of worship to be unconstitutional. In light of their New York ruling, the justices sent the California case back to the lower court for reconsideration.
Still, many Bakersfield churches do not wait for judgment to act before holding services.
“I think people choose to do what God has given them,” Frazier said. “They will do what they have to do and the consequences will be what they are.”
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