Some churches take measured approach to reopening
A new health order allows Santa Barbara County churches to reopen their pews at limited capacity.
Some local churches are taking a measured approach to reopening instead of rushing to fill the pews.
Carpinteria Community Church Office Manager Lisa Bonet said the church has been holding drive-in services since the coronavirus outbreak forced churches to close in March. Carpinteria Community Church is located at 1111 Vallecito Road.
“Through the month of June or indefinitely, we’re not sure, we’re going to be doing a drive-in church. It allows people to drive in their own and see each other, but they’re social distancing,” Ms. Bonet said.
She explained that a parking usher lines up the cars in rows and the churchgoers tune in to an AM radio frequency and listen to the service over the radio.
“It’s only good for a certain distance so the people have to be on the property. The pastor and a lay leader take a ladder to one of the rooftops, and on the rooftops they set up a table and cross and they lead the sermons on top of the roof,” Ms. Bonet said.
She said church leaders held off on bringing the service into the church building to protect their elderly members.
Thirty-eight cars pulled into the first drive-in service on Easter Sunday. Last Sunday 43 cars attended the service.
Ms. Bonet said there are two people per car on average.
“They’re a little bit more high risk and we want to be extra careful. We’re also the only church in Carpinteria offering this type of service so we get visitors — folks from other churches or people who have never gone to church. They can receive a message of hope in their own car with their own people. So that and the health and safety reasons,” Ms. Bonet said.
She continued that the drive-in services have been the talk of the town in Carpinteria and feedback has been positive. She added that the speaker system attracts neighbors who listen to the service on lawn chairs at the church.
“Some of the neighbors are walking over and sitting in these chairs we’re setting up six feet apart. Everybody has their mask, and we’ve got ushers with masks that give programs to each person that comes to the service,” Ms. Bonet said.
Pastor Tommy Schneider from Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara said he is also working carefully to resume in-person services. He plans to resume in-person service on June 7.
Calvary Chapel is located at 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, No. 21, in Santa Barbara.
“The last thing we want to do is open up and have people rush in and not be able to really have all the protocols in place. We are respecting our city and our community really well and our leaders, civic leaders as well as meeting the needs of our church community,” Pastor Schneider said.
Pastor Schneider celebrates virtual services over Zoom. Viewers can also tune in on KEYT at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
“We’ll actually even still have some bible studies and small groups that will continue to meet through Zoom meetings and Google meets and things like that just because it works really well for those who are not able to get around or don’t feel comfortable with that yet,” Pastor Schneider said. He noted that the church website, calvarysb.com, offers online resources including faith-based podcasts and video archives.
While church leadership have used technology to continue to spreading God’s word, Pastor Schneider said he looks forward to reuniting with his congregation when he is ready to provide in-person service.
“You think about the disciples, right; they gathered together with one accord. They loved the intimacy of being together. They called it koinonia. It was an intimate fellowship with God and so that’s a special thing and it will be so fantastic to see the faces even behind masks, you know, at a distance and give air hugs,” Pastor Schneider said.
Rabbi Stephen Cohen of Congregation B’nai B’rith said temple leaders created a task force to determine when the temple, at 1000 San Antonio Creek Road. in Santa Barbara, will resume in-person services.
“We have a very robust online program going online right now with multiple activities happening online every day. We are very conscious of the risks involved in gathering together these days. The task force is creating a plan by which we will follow in returning to being able to gather together physically when it is safe,” Rabbi Cohen said.
On Friday, temple leaders will hold a drive-in graduation ceremony for the congregation’s graduating high school seniors. The ceremony will start on Friday at 4 p.m. at the temple.
“In an ordinary year we would have a big celebration of them in the context of our Friday night services so this seemed like one way we could celebrate them and be as physically present as possible,” Rabbi Cohen said.
Trinity Episcopal Church, at 1500 State St. in Santa Barbara, will continue to offer online worship over Zoom.
“This Sunday, which is the feast of Pentecost in the Episcopal Church, we will offer our worship via Zoom,” the Rev. Elizabeth Molitors said. “We don’t have a date set yet for when we will resume in-person worship in our church sanctuary, but when we do so, it will be with every safety precaution in place, to make sure that people’s health is protected.
“Our call as Christians is to love our neighbor, and at the most basic level that means doing everything possible to ensure others’ well-being,”