Newsom to break down church reopening guidelines Monday

Senior Pastor David W. Hegg speaks to the audience during a Good Friday service at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita on March 30, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to issue new guidance Monday for religious institutions ready to reopen as Santa Clarita Valley churches chisel their plans to safely welcome back what could be a small amount of their total congregation. 

After President Donald Trump deemed churches “essential” Friday, Newsom said his administration has met with religious leaders to create a plan for the safe reopening of faith-based institutions of all sizes, one that would ensure appropriate physical distancing, enhanced sanitation and other measures. 

“We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner and we have guidelines that we anticipated completing on Monday and we’re on track to do just that,” he said Friday during a live broadcast. 

The announcement comes after 17 SCV pastors, including David Hegg of Grace Baptist Church, created their own guidelines to safely reopen. In a letter to the community, published in the Sunday edition of The Signal on May 17, the pastors said they have agreed to open their campuses when the following two conditions are met: 

First, to receive a green light from either the state, county or city to reopen and be able to hold in-person services, and second, that churches can meet the physical requirements and safety protocols. 

“We’re absolutely excited on several fronts (to hear Newsom’s announcement) and I think it’s good for us as a church that with this coronavirus thing that hit us all, there seems to be a sign of some sort of normalcy,” said Hegg, who prepared and delivered several sermons and services through his iPhone and other virtual methods. 

Grace Baptist, with a congregation of about 2,500 people, and others have discussed multiple ways to keep their congregations safe while being able to worship together, such as looking into spaced seating, wearing masks while singing and sanitizing between services. 

The main question: How many people will be allowed in a church at a time? 

“We hope to find out Monday and on Tuesday afternoon 17 of us pastors will be talking about these updates,” said Hegg, who added that some have decided to reopen on Father’s Day, with others waiting until Los Angeles County’s targeted countywide reopening date of July 4 and others planning to do so at a slower and more gradual timeline. 

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