Several Fresno area churches are planning to hold indoor services this coming weekend despite the county’s demotion back into the most restrictive COVID tier earlier this week.
In the ‘purple’ tier, restaurants, various businesses and churches are not permitted to offer indoor services, according to the state’s ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy’.
The state’s website is pretty specific about places of worship. “Can open outdoors only with modifications.”
Despite this, pastors at People’s Church, The Well, and New Covenant Community Churches have all said they’re moving forward with indoor services this weekend.
LifeBridge Community Church in Madera is taking a hybrid approach, opening large “garage doors” built into their North Campus church building to create an “outdoor” environment, lead pastor Kevin Foster said in a video message on Facebook.
“The health officer for Fresno County said that if a bird can fly in one side of the building and out the other side of the building, they consider that outdoors,” said Foster. “We will give people the option to sit inside of the building. But the building has a huge garage door on the back and three garage doors on the front that will be open.”
Brad Bell, lead pastor at The Well church, posted an online video on Nov. 1 outlining his position.
“The prospect of the gospel we think at his point is being hindered,” says Bell. “Yes we will have in person gatherings. But we will also continue with an outdoor offering as well as online.”
He says he believes the church has abided by everything so far during the pandemic, but the time has come to take a different path.
“We have no desire to grab our torches and pitchforks and to rebel. This isn’t a statement,” say Bell. “We’re not trying to raise our fists in defiance up. This is simply saying that for seven months we shut down as we were requested to do.”
In an follow up video Thursday on Instagram, Bell reinforced The Well’s position, saying “you can’t hide” from the virus.
“COVID’s not going away, by the way. And, can I just be honest with you? You can’t hide from it,” Bell said. “It’s a virus. You’re gonna get it eventually.”
Bell said masks would now be required for those attending indoor services and any worshippers who object to masks have the option of participating in the church’s outdoor services or by watching online.
People’s Church posted a message to their website to address questions about its plans for services.
“We will continue our indoor gatherings at 9am and 11am in the Auditorium,” the statement reads. “We are requiring all of our staff and key frontline volunteers to wear masks at all times, with the only exceptions being when they are communicating from the platform or leading in singing.”
Although not requiring members to wear masks, the church is, “humbly requesting and firmly recommending that all attendees do the same.”
New Covenant Community Church
Senior pastor Scott Borman sent an email to his congregation saying he understands COVID-19 continues to cause friction.
“No doubt this will affect our growing numbers on Sunday morning, but in good conscience I cannot stop the in-person gatherings,” Borman wrote. “The uncertainty and constant changes have really led me to draw a line in the sand. Please know that I understand that there are a variety of opinions and legitimate feelings in regards to COVID, the governor and his guidelines.”
(This story has been updated to include an updated video message from The Well pastor Brad Bell.)