Churches response to COVID-19

Hundreds of people attend weekly services at Real Life Church in Valencia. Dan Watson for The Signal

Following the latest updates on the coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak, local churches are taking steps to slow and limit the spread in their congregations. 

There has been one confirmed case of the virus in the Santa Clarita Valley, from a patient who tested positive for the virus at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, which was announced Friday morning. Los Angeles County now has a total of 40 confirmed cases of the virus, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a press conference Friday afternoon. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, along with Ferrer, has suggested that gatherings of 250 people or more to be canceled or postponed for the coming weeks. 

With a lively religious community in Santa Clarita, many congregations are beginning to take steps and moving to an online platform in light of this information. 

Rusty George, lead pastor at Real Life Church, has postponed all weekend services as they are outlining a plan for how to conduct services going forward. 

“To slow the spread of the virus, we are postponing our weekend services this weekend as we wait to see what we should do next,” said George. “We are going to push our online campus.” 

Throughout the week, the church has been open to the public for prayer; however, they have had to limit the number of people on campus, George said. Hand sanitizers will be present and hand washing stations will be fully stocked in the church.

At Temple Beth Ami SCV, Rabbi Mark Blazer said the synagogue does not seat up to 250 people; however, they are still taking the proper precautions following the latest coronavirus updates. 

“We are moderating what is going on and referring to assessments done by health agencies to see what we should do,” said Blazer. “Not cancelling any events or services, but down the road we will make decisions regarding that.” 

During events or services where food is present, an ample amount of hand sanitizer will be available for others to use. In the congregation, many members have been affected by the virus in different ways. For example, some members have had their trips to Israel canceled. 

A common message shared among the Real Life, Temple Beth Ami SCV and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church is their continued effort to remind the community to stay home if they feel sick. 

“First and foremost, if anyone is not feeling well, they should stay home,” said the Rev. Albert H. Avenido, of Saint Kateri. “We need to continue to encourage everyone to wash their hands.” 

In mass, the “blood of Christ,” a wine served during communion, has been suspended until further notice, according to Avenido. Additionally, when members receive the “body of Christ,” or the sacramental bread, it will not be administered directly into the member’s mouth, but rather placed in their hands where they can eat it themselves. 

Prior to Newson’s announcement Thursday, Avenido had begun to cancel all events at the church that held more than 200 people. It is unknown as of Friday afternoon if Saint Kateri will be canceling mass and prayer. 

During a time of unanswered questions and panic, faith has remained a constant for many members in the community. 

“In moments like these, we question the things we believe the most,” said George. “We rely on our health, our job and our security… faith reminds you what matters the most.”

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