Ready to Open the Doors of Worship


Reopening faith-based services is the news many religious leaders and congregations have been waiting for since the Safer at Home orders due to COVID-19 went into effect. But with this news comes a feeling of great responsibility for those leaders who must combine faith with realistic health cautions to make certain congregations are safe as they head back to the pews.

“We want to comply with all the guidelines,” said Father Rob Holman of St. Luke’s Anglican Church. 

When CVW interviewed Holman on Tuesday, he and members of his congregation were waiting to hear if Los Angeles County was going to allow houses of worship to reopen. That announcement came on Wednesday along with some guidelines that include allowing in only 25% of the building’s capacity or 100 people, whichever is the lower number. But for churches it is not as simple as opening the doors and allowing a limited number of people in; there are many things that must first be worked through before in-person worship can begin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set guidelines for churches but, in many cases, individual religious leaders have set forth guidelines as well.

At St. James the Less and Holy Redeemer Catholic Churches Parish Priest Michael Grieco is looking beyond how many will come to the service to how he can make certain those who come will be protected. 

“Archbishop Jose Gomez had sent us clear guidelines,” Grieco said.

Those guidelines require each parish to come up with an action plan regarding worship spaces and how members will implement their plan. This, according to Grieco, will include having someone at the door making certain everyone who enters has face coverings and then disinfecting the facility after each service. Disinfecting has become an issue because Grieco said finding the correct disinfectant and hand sanitizer has been difficult. Hiring a company to come in to do specialized cleaning would be cost prohibitive. And then there is figuring out what to do with folders and hymnals. Members cannot handle these items. Making certain everyone is six feet apart will probably mean utilizing every other pew, too.

“So even if we have all these things in place and have the plan approved we won’t have the right [cleaning] chemicals or hand sanitizer,” Grieco said. “We cannot open until we have all those pieces in place.”

Holman is looking at the same issues but added his concern about the older members of his congregation.

“There is this emotional factor,” he said.

He said it is one thing when everyone is required to stay home. It is another when others are allowed to come back to in-person church and, because of health risks, others must stay home.

“We have to understand it is not just psychological, the call [to worship] is to all the community,” he said. “It is about gathering together.”

For Rev. Beverly Craig of Center for Spiritual Living-La Crescenta getting ready for her small congregation to return includes the same preparedness that other churches will face. Her members have been filming services and putting them on YouTube. They now have their own YouTube channel and have a growing number of viewers, more than normally attended the regular Sunday services.

St. Luke’s Anglican, Holy Redeemer and St. James the Less have been holding virtual services since the Safer at Home order and leaders are getting more comfortable with the technology.

Holman added his church has invested in better technology and will continue to have virtual outreach for those members who don’t return to in-person service right away. St. Luke’s Anglican has used Facebook Live but are looking into switching to YouTube.

All are cautiously looking forward to opening their church doors once again. Craig said she is also looking forward to having that one-on-one social time.

“We always have lunch after our services, and we haven’t figured out how to do that yet. Our congregants really enjoy our hospitality hour,” Craig said. “This may not sound like much of a problem, but it really is.”

And it will be those little things that were so easy to deal with in the past that will be center stage as the churches prepare to open; however, opening the doors of their houses of worship is something these faith leaders have been waiting for.

“We are excited about starting [services],” Holman said.

In upcoming weeks CVW will follow how churches are dealing with the new way churches will be conducting worship in a COVID-19 world.