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Trump says churches should open immediately. Kern pastors say not yet.

Coronavirus

On Friday, President Trump declared churches essential, saying they should be allowed to reopen immediately.

In California, churches are categorized in Phase 3, which still hasn’t gotten the green light to reopen from Governor Newsom.

It’s unclear if President Trump’s declaration has the authority to override state’s policies.

Newsom announced guidelines for reopening churches will come out on Monday, but Trump wants to expedite that process.

“Who do we listen to first? Is it local, is it state, or is it federal?” asked Pastor Eric Van Scharrel with St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Until the confusion is cleared up, St. John’s doesn’t want to jump the gun.

“We never want to be reckless, and we never want to rush into anything,” Van Scharrel said. “We don’t want to put our people in danger, and we have a lot of elderly people too, and they’re the people who miss in-person services the most.”

Even with a go-ahead from President Trump, many large churches in Bakersfield say they won’t be ready to reopen by this Sunday.

“I think if we were a small ministry, it would be a lot easier to jump right back in,” Van Scharrel said.

Immediately after Trump’s declaration, 65 local pastors had a virtual meeting with Mayor Karen Goh, Senator Shannon Grove, Assemblyman Vince Fong, Supervisor Mike Maggard, and Kern Public Health Director Matt Constantine.

We asked to listen in, but we were told it was invitation-only.

They also discussed a phased reopening process starting with Sunday worship, then moving slowly into Bible studies and children’s services.

Some suggested inviting limited parts of their congregation back first, mainly young, healthy people.

As for Catholic churches, the Diocese of Fresno says they have their own task force to discuss reopening.

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