By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Redmond State Rep. Jack Zika sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown this week, urging places of worship be included in Phase One of Oregon’s Reopening Plan, calling it a “moral obligation” to include them in the conversation.
“There’s a lot of homeless shelters, food donations, getting together as a group,” Zika said. “Places of worship provide much more than just going on Sunday.”
Zika added that it’s up to each person to decide whether or not to attend services once they reopen.
“I think it’s a personal responsibility. Oregonians have already sacrificed a lot by continuing to stay home, and we’ve shown that we care about each other, and we’ve shown that we wanted to flatten the curve, and we’ve stayed home, and the curve is flattening,” Zika said. “So if you’re a part of the vulnerable population, I think that maybe you should still watch the church proceedings online.”
“It would be a mistake to open up too soon and go back to normal too soon,” said Westside Church’s Creative Arts Pastor Evan Earwicker.
Earwicker says he and other faith leaders are happy to be included in the conversation about the state’s reopening plan, but says that opening churches should be done cautiously when the time is right.
“How can we gather hundreds of people in a room together? We need to explore ways to rethink how people come into a building, and where they sit and how do we take care of their kids during a service,” Earwicker said. “All of those questions need answers, how we make it safe to the point where people feel safe showing up.”
Discussions about how to worship together when restrictions are lifted, are ongoing.
“What is it going to look like when we reopen? And the truth is, we don’t know!” Earwicker said. “What we’re looking at ism could we meet in smaller gatherings even in homes during phase one, during phase two before we get to the point where we’re having everyone come back into a single location?”
Earwicker added that different churches with different sized congregations each have a responsibility to ensure that their churches open safely.
Zika says that, while the situation is always evolving and changing, we could see re-openings taking place as soon as mid-May.