Places of worship are reopening in Kern county now that it’s entered the red tier for coronavirus restrictions. This could change your Sunday routine, because places of worship are permitted to reopen for indoor services with modifications under state guidelines. The Kern County Department of Public Health states that services may only hold up to 25 percent of a building’s capacity or 100 people, depending on which number is fewer. Some religious leaders are reluctant to return to the pews.
“We’re gonna continue as far as our worship with outdoor services,” says Dr. Roger Spradlin, the lead pastor of Valley Baptist Church. “It’s a great atmosphere. And for those that are maybe fearful or have health conditions, we’re online and we have thousands of people that join us that way.”
Some local synagogues are taking a more cautious approach, suspending in-person services indefinitely. Temple Beth El is holding all of its services online, with leaders citing the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to vulnerable members of the congregation. Rabbi Jonathan Klein says the risk of in-person services outweighs the potential benefits.
“We have an idea of pikuach nefesh, which means that saving a life is more important than the observance of the laws,” he said. “We don’t want to go overboard and say the laws don’t have value. But we know that our tradition suspends all sorts of laws so that we can save lives.”
Spradlin and Klein use different methods to ensure the safety and spiritual fulfillment of their respective communities. However, they agree that a connection with a high power is a priority.
“Just as it’s inconvenient that human beings are immortal, it’s inconvenient that we have a pandemic. And in both cases it is what it is, we can’t circumvent the realities around us,” said Klein.
Kern Public Health says places of worship holding services indoors have to hold off on singing or chanting. Some local congregations believe it’s best to pray from a distance.