Sacramento County public health officials on May 26 announced that places of worship can reopen for in-person services.
Local religious organizations were previously only allowed to have online services over the past two months, due to the state’s stay-at-home order that aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In late May, the state allowed places of worship to reopen in Sacramento County since the county had low COVID-19 infection and death rates for a population of its size.
However, the state still has many restrictions that religious leaders must follow. Places of worship must operate at limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity or admit no more than 100 people.
The California Department of Public Health warned in its guide for religious organizations there is still a high risk of COVID-19 transmission in a congregational setting.
“In particular, activities such as singing and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing,” the guide stated.
A few local religious leaders and representatives told the Citizen last week that their places of worship did not have plans to reopen for in-person services soon.
Pastor Matthew Pearson of Elk Grove United Methodist Church said that his church moved their worship services and most of their church activities online. He said that while he appreciates the state’s new guidelines, he noted that his church has a high number of vulnerable members.
“To open our doors right now would be reckless and selfish,” Pearson said. “Staying apart from each other is how we minister with each other in this time.”
Mark Jansson of the Elk Grove Stake in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) said that his church does not have plans to reopen in June.
“The Area Presidency does not plan to open meetinghouses in June, because of the continuing infection rates and government restrictions,” he said. “That does not mean the meetinghouses will open in July, (it’s) just that they will not open in June.”
Jansson mentioned that LDS President Russell M. Nelson advised Mormon churches to not rush back into holding in-person meetings until it’s safe to do so. He also noted individuals and families have been holding home-worship services.
As for the Sacramento region’s Catholic churches, Sacramento Bishop Jamie Soto announced on May 29 they can resume in-person Mass services as soon as June 8. He noted that elderly worshippers or church members who have underlying health conditions are advised to either stay home or watch online Masses.
Soto also said there will be safety practices such as the removal of shared church items like hymnals, the social distancing between church members who don’t share a household, and the suspension of Communion cup practices.
Patty Suter of Elk Grove’s St. Maria Gorreti Catholic Church said that her church’s staff is now working on reservation system for all Masses, due to the 100-person limit for in-person services.
Creekside Christian Church to start
Creekside Christian Church, a large church that overlooks Highway 99 from East Stockton Boulevard, will start a series of “drive-in” services, starting on June 7.
The church’s senior pastor, Scott Hansen said that his church campus has a “huge backyard” or a back parking area where many church members can stay in their vehicles and use their car radios to hear church leaders and worship music. Church volunteers will wear masks and the church service will be held on an outdoor stage.
“We expect these services to be well-attended and it we also expect a lot of happy campers as we finally have a chance to meet publicly after 12 weeks of being only a web-based church,” Hansen told the Citizen.
His church will have their drive-in services at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on June 7 and 14.
“We’re going to give it a shot and see what happens,” Hansen said.