▶️ Faith leaders differ on whether congregations should gather

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Local churches can begin hosting gatherings for up to 25 people, under the Phase I reopening plan, provided physical distancing requirements are maintained.

Local church leaders like the idea of hosting gatherings but are not in a rush to do so.

Father Jed Holdorph has been offering sermons and reflections on Youtube and Facebook since the doors of Trinity Episcopal Church were closed two months ago to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“If we were given permission to gather in small groups this weekend, we wouldn’t do it this weekend,” said Rev. Jed Holdorph, Trinity Episcopal Church. “We have some meetings coming up to begin to look at it. I think we are going to have to phase some things in rather carefully, slowly, incrementally. Small gatherings at first and how do we decide to do that?”

Two Bend churches joined a lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown claiming the stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional. That suit had its first hearing today in Baker County.

“I’m not saying we should all get together and have some mosh pit and start laying hands on each other,” said Rev. Stephen Williams, Bend Community Church Lead Pastor. “All we are saying as pastors is just give us the respect.”

Reverend Williams says churches have been harmed by the governor’s executive orders.

“They are not being able to meet. They are not being able to make disciples. They are not being able to connect with their congregants, as they are called to.”

Father Holdorph said it’s painful not to meet together. ”

“It’s so hard not to be able to exchange greetings in the ways we’ve always been used to. But for the good of all, for the love of our neighbor, we need to be cautious and careful about that.”

Until there’s a vaccine, he remains wary about faith gatherings in enclosed spaces.

“We are going to listen carefully to health experts. Get some guidance from people who understand these things. When it’s a good idea for us to begin gathering, we’ll begin gathering.”

“During this time of isolation, there’s a lot of hurting and hopeless people,” said Reverend Williams. “My assertion is it’s precisely pastors who can meet with those people and provide hope and encouragement and disciple their congregants effectively through this very difficult and fearful time.”

Local churches will post updates on when each congregation’s in-person worship services might resume.

Until then, plan on watching more live streams.

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