Bakersfield, California 2020-10-14 22:00:00 –
Despite being able to resume indoor services with limited capacity under the latest COVID-19 preventive classification in Kern County, various local religious leaders do not return indoors, but instead how they serve the congregation Stay creative about.
On Tuesday, Kern County moved from the most restrictive purple layer to the red layer in the state’s four-layer system. This classification allows restaurants to serve customers indoors. This means cinemas, places of worship, personal care services, and gyms can now be reopened with COVID-19 precautions and capacity limits.
Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Temple Beth El said he will continue to offer virtual services via Zoom. He said this decision was partly due to the fact that much of his congregation was “much older” and immunodeficient.
“We want to make sure we can make people safe,” Klein said. “Nothing upsets me more than opening prematurely and causing people to get sick and die.”
He also cited the unknown long-term consequences of COVID-19 as another reason to take a cautious approach to returning to indoor services. Klein said while some members of Temple Bethel were infected with the virus. Thankfully, no one is dead.
Klein said he took over the rabbi at the synagogue in May and could use the pandemic as an opportunity to connect with the community.
“I was able to shift my focus from day to day so that I could meet the entire congregation,” Klein said. “The pandemic allowed me to work hard and achieve greater results. I was forced not to rely on people thinking they would come to me.”
Similarly, Rev. Angelo Frazier of the River Lakes Community Church said his church will continue to worship on Sundays, both outdoors and virtual. He said recent outdoor services have attracted about 200 to 300 worshipers.
“I don’t think we have any plans to move everyone yet,” Frazier said. “Some people are really worried about returning to the building because of the possibility of a second wave (this winter).”
He said the church would start by moving small worship groups and youth groups indoors. The heat wasn’t too detrimental to church attendees, as their Sunday service was from 9 am to 10 am, Frazier said.
Frazier said he was concerned that it might take years for people to get back indoors and be comfortable for the gathering.
“The disease itself has killed people, but the policies surrounding the disease have been detrimental,” Frazier said. “It will be difficult to get things back.”
Dennis Mackenzie, Safety and Risk Manager for the Roman Catholic Parish in Fresno, said all 25 parish churches, missions and stations in Kern County were informed that indoor services could be resumed. She was excited about the news, but said some churches chose to keep their service outdoors and in virtual environments.
“Everyone has a lot of cleaning and labor-intensive things to keep safe,” Mackenzie said. “All our churches are different in size, so we may have to limit who can attend the indoor mass.”
She said parishioners were informed that they did not need to go to Mass if they had concerns or underlying medical problems.
Klein talked about how he could help the community stay connected on a much larger scale. He said they had reconnected the children of the congregation they had moved to the temple from a distance to Nevada, Northern California, and even Alaska.
“In terms of returning to full service, we need to understand how to establish a virtual connection once the pandemic of new participants (from a distance) is over,” Klein said. “We don’t want people to feel that this is the moment they have to connect.”