Following the California Department of Public Health’s lifting of church closures due to the coronavirus this week, County health officials say local places of worship can now reopen, with certain guidelines to prevent continued spread of the virus.

Sacramento County Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson said churches are OK to resume face to face services if they limit the number of attendees to either 25 percent of their building’s capacity or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower.

Other safety protocols include training and temperature checks for employees and volunteers, implementing cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and setting physical distancing guidelines. Eliminating singing and group recitations has also been suggested. “These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” reads a press release from the State. Many churches are choosing to remain closed.
Bishop Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr., pastor of Center of Praise Ministries, says he’s taking “a responsible approach” and will continue to hold services online.

“The cathedral is closed, but we are continuing to do the work God has called us to do,” Bishop Lovelace said in a video he posted on the church’s website.

He voiced concern for his members and the wider community and asked parishioners to remain “patient and postured.”

“There is so much ministry to be done and we want to continue to do that,” Bishop Lovelace said.

Rev. Anthony Sadler, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, says he’ll remain closed as well.

“Just because they say we can go back doesn’t mean it’s a good time for us to go back given the fact that many of our members are at high risk and the disproportionate rate infection rate for African Americans,” Rev. Sadler said.

Shiloh staff, he says, are praying and preparing. They’re working to make sure they meet County guidelines for holding “normal” in-person services, including adding hand sanitizer stations and mapping out social distancing inside the sanctuary.

The Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and head of the local NAACP chapter, led a protest Monday against reopening.
“We are not going to be rushing back to church,” he told the Associated Press by phone, noting that many leaders of his denomination have been sickened or died nationwide. Freedom of religion is “not the freedom to kill folks, not the freedom to put people in harm’s way. That’s insane,” he said.

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer