Churches continue outdoor services in red tier
Sets of one to three chairs, covered in violet fabric, dot Trinity Episcopal Church’s labyrinth patio Sunday afternoons. Three rounds of parishoners come to partake in Eucharist, a sacrament where bread wafers are consecrated and eaten. But before they eat the bread, there’s a few safety protocols to pass.
Upon entry, church members and visitors get their temperature checked. Newly cleaned umbrellas sit beside hand sanitizer stations. This is part of the protocol Trinity set to provide a spiritual and safe experience.
Although churches are able to open at 25% capacity in the red tier, many in Santa Barbara are keeping doors shut and opting for outdoor service.
Many have been utilizing live streaming services while meeting outdoors and at a distance. Worshippers bring chairs or blankets and leave masks on to sing.
Other churches are purely online, without a proper outdoor space.
Resources are part of the reopening discussions churches are having.
Trinity’s rector, Reverend Elizabeth Molitors, said the church needs to upgrade its ventilation system before opening the 108-year-old building.
“Safety is utmost in our mind, and this setup has worked pretty well,” she said. “At the time that we move inside the building, we’re gonna have to rewrite all these protocols.”
Rector Molitors washes her hands during the service before handing out wafers to participants. Everyone wears masks except for a few seconds to eat the wafer.
There are take-home Eucharist bags too for those who don’t feel comfortable meeting in person. Volunteers deliver the bags and pray with parishioners.
The Liturgy of the Word, which is when the scripture is read, is live streamed on Zoom.
“We have an awful lot of people who don’t feel comfortable coming out here,” Rector Molitors said. “So we want to continue to make some sort of worship available to those people.”
She expects to continue this format for the foreseeable future, even as restrictions loosen. She expressed concern after seeing other cities open up and have an increase in cases.
“We’re expressing an abundance of caution,” she said. “And we have something that works well outside.”
The Eucharist service is something that’s hard to do virtually.
“It is something that I can’t do by myself. I need to have at least one other person there with me because we see Jesus embodied when it’s all of us together,” Rector Molitors said.
The rest of Trinity’s programs can be carried out virtually. The staff meets online as well as Bible studies. Even children’s programs are on Zoom.
Six members of the choir created a germ pod, meaning they only meet with each other, and record new songs every week for the Sunday service.
“The people of Trinity have been amazingly flexible and upbeat. They understand that it’s most important for us to be safe,” Rector Molitors said. “And so they’ve been very accommodating and accepting of doing things in a different way.”
The Justice and Outreach Council has changed what it takes on during the pandemic. It has focused on monetary support and writing letters to the city council and other governmental bodies.
Two volunteers from the council deliver Ralphs gift cards to people in need at the park. Usually, the church may serve a cup of coffee or snacks to those seeking food that come during the day. But since the building is closed, they decided on handing out gift cards.
For Rector Molitors and her congregation, the pandemic has offered a new way to look at service. The patio wouldn’t have been used in this format before, but she likes it and expects to keep it this way for now.