By Debra Moore
The Lake Almanor Community Church opened its doors to its congregation the past two Sundays with social distancing and safety measures in place. To do so, church leadership prepared a two-page document outlining the new practices.
“We met last night to re-evaluate and there was very little that we felt we needed to change,” said Lead Pastor Paul Bernard during an interview last week. The May 31 and June 7 services were the first in-person gatherings since March 15.
“Everybody was happy to be in church,” Bernard said. “We kept in touch, but it’s not the same as being together.”
While the in-person services were put on hold, Bernard posted a weekly virtual service to YouTube and Facebook, which drew a lot of viewers. Weekly services draw approximately 250 congregants, while the church averaged around 500 online viewers.
“We were putting a ton of time and energy to online,” Bernard said, and added that he knew “We’re going to get good at this and then it will be over.” Here is a link to the May 31 service, which features the first in a series of topics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2VjTgssnfs
For Bernard, the biggest adjustment going online was talking to a camera rather than to a full church. Now, he is transitioning to talking to a church audience with social distancing measures in place, which means some attendees are inside spaced apart, while others are on the outdoor patio listening via speakers. A television is being added so that the service can be live streamed to the outdoor audience.
Lake Almanor Community Church attendees noticed some changes in the physical space, as well as in the service itself when they returned these past two weeks. Following are some of the new procedures in the church’s reopening plan:
- Two services: one at 8:30 a.m. and one at 10:30 am to maximize social distancing.
- Church seating reduced to accommodate 100 maximum inside, with chairs reduced and separated.
- Seating on a first-come basis.
- Outdoor seating option, with masks not required outside.
- Face masks required in the building.
- Greeters wearing gloves and opening doors for people.
- Lobbies and halls kept as clear as possible.
- Church cleaned before every service.
- Fellowship and coffee time discontinued for now.
- Hand sanitizer placed throughout the church.
- Tithes and giving are online only; no passing of the basket.
- Prepackaged communion will be served the first Sunday of the month.
Bernard said that he has shared the reopening document with other churches to help them navigate the new requirements in the wake of coronavirus. “What we’re trying to do is follow the guidelines that the county gives us,” he said.
Churches around the county are resuming in-person services, while others continue to hold virtual services. Check with your church for details about what is being offered.