As you are aware, local concern and precautionary measures surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) are rapidly increasing. Our concern focuses on the health and wellness of our members and constituents, and we are closely monitoring the progress of this situation with our constituents’ needs and well-being in mind.
The Governor of the state of California on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, stated that all gatherings of more than 250 people through the end of March should be canceled or postponed with tight restrictions on smaller meetings as well. (See the press release here.)
At this time, in order to both comply with current guidelines and understanding that these guidelines are changing quickly as the virus continues to spread, the Southern California Conference has made the decision to suspend in-person worship services at all of our churches regardless of size, effective immediately. This has been done after much deliberation and prayer in order to assure we follow regulatory and public health guidance while we protect the health of our parishioners, many of which fall into high-risk categories. At this time, this suspension of in-person services extends through the end of March of this year. Please have the appropriate number of individuals for your church available outside your church for members and/or visitors who do show up so they can be informed of the cancellation.
We understand that this information will generate many questions. This situation is extremely fluid, and we will share further updates as they become available. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and your family. Stay rested and hydrated, and remember to continue washing your hands and sanitizing commonly touched surfaces. (Refer to the CDC guidelines here.)
The “social distancing” that we are experiencing both within our church and in the community at large does not mean social isolation. We are relational beings, and our relationships are a vital part of our faith. Please support one another by increasing personal communication as much as possible during this time to provide much-needed support to each other.
Let us take this time to unite together in prayer and support as a church family. While we must adopt proper precautionary measures and hygiene practices, we need not panic. We cannot neglect prudent care of ourselves and our families, and we can trust the Lord that He will guide and protect us. Let us hold to the promises found in Scripture, like those found in Psalm 91.
Q: How can our church continue to worship and fellowship together from a distance?
A: If your church is regularly livestreaming its services, this may be a great way for the church family to stay connected and healthy at the same time. It is acceptable to livestream from the local church with the necessary support personal as long as they follow the 6-foot rule for social distancing and follow recommended hygiene practices (see the CDC guidelines for this counsel here). Adventist Giving is another way for church members to stay engaged and committed from a distance.
Q: Can a small group of worship leaders be present at our church on Sabbath morning to do a livestream?
A: Yes. In fact, each church should have someone present (maybe the pastor) on Sabbath morning to greet visitors and church members who did not get the closure message. Still, remember to follow the social distancing guidelines.
Q: Do these guidelines apply to other church events outside of the Sabbath morning church service?
A: Yes. All church and conference events should cease for the remainder of this month.
Q: Are funerals to be canceled?
A: No. However, please provide signage asking guests to practice social distancing as much as possible (6-foot separation, except for family members who live in the same household), as well as encourage handwashing, sanitize commonly touched surfaces, etc.
Q: What about churches that rent out their facility?
A: These recommendations, including canceling in-person services for the remainder of March, will likely apply to groups renting from our churches for religious services. Further guidance will be issued next week after we have conferred with legal counsel on this question. Rentals for schools, pre-schools, etc., will remain in place subject to regulatory guidance related to these activities.