For the first time in more than a year, when Pastor Miles McPherson looked out into the Rock Church auditorium during Sunday’s Point Loma service, the faces of his congregants were looking back. He was beaming.
“It was so good to see our family back together,” he said of the weekend service. “It was like Thanksgiving or Christmas when you get to reunite with your family and reestablish your relationships.”
Unlike some other large churches, The Rock hasn’t held indoor services since the state first announced restrictions for places of worship that aimed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Following the state’s decision to lift mandatory restrictions for churches last week, The Rock welcomed people inside. More than 5,000 attended indoor services across four campuses on Sunday.
The decision, leaders said, has been months in the making. Planning began in February when the Supreme Court lifted California’s ban on indoor church services, but maintained that the state was still allowed to cap attendance at 25 percent of a building’s capacity.
Then, on Tuesday, the state announced that capacity limits on indoor church services were no longer mandatory, but still strongly encouraged. The updated guidance from the state’s Department of Public Health recommended that counties in the state’s purple and red tier, where the spread of the coronavirus is considered widespread or substantial, limit capacity to 25 percent of a building’s capacity. Counties in the orange and yellow tier, which includes San Diego County, were encouraged to cap capacity at 50 percent.
Leaders at The Rock did not choose to limit capacity, but they did institute several safety precautions. Auditoriums are cleaned between services, and high-touch areas like bathrooms, handrails and door handles are cleaned every 20 minutes. Congregants were required to wear a mask while entering and exiting the building, but could remove the mask during the service if they so desired. At the Point Loma campus on Sunday morning, many attendees removed their masks once seated.
Social distancing was not required, but ushers were available to help people find seats in less crowded areas should they want more space to themselves. People who weren’t comfortable with the idea of sitting indoors could watch the sermons on monitors outside, or stream the service digitally.
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SOURCE: The San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyndsay Winkley