Mountain Park Church opened its doors to the community June 7 — and the church has managed to get creative by live streaming services in separate rooms, allowing community members to return in-person.
Senior Pastor Gregg Borror said that following the governor's restrictions for Phase 1, which limited gatherings to 25 or less, the church felt they had enough rooms in the building — and a steady WiFi connection — to separate people by ages in various rooms and live stream services.
"It seemed like the easiest thing to do," Borror said. "People have loved it."
But not all churches have the ability to operate that way, and not all feel safe to do so.
Lake Oswego United Church of Christ is staying closed through Aug. 31.
"Primarily for safety and public health," said Pastor Jennie Ott, adding that there are other community members who share the facility as well. "We're trying to follow all the safety protocols for the county and the CDC. We also have a vulnerable population."
Since the churches closed due to COVID-19 concerns and gathering limitations, many have been recording and showing their worship services online.
Ott said the LOUCC has shown the worship services on YouTube every Sunday and they've had more people participating online than if they were meeting in person.
"Even more than we typically have on a Sunday," Ott said. "Surprisingly there's been benefits through this process as well."
Lake Bible Church is also in the process of working toward reopening with a tentative date set for Sunday, July 26.
"We're deferring it to that date because we have a COVID-19 Committee that is working very hard to put all the protocols in place, have all the equipment we (need), and have everyone practice to monitor the protocols," said Senior Pastor Jim Andrews, adding that he personally doesn't think everyone avoiding each other is much of a church service. "It's not my idea of a worship service — everyone coming in looking like masked bandits."
Andrews said when the church does reopen, they can space people out and accommodate most who will come in the auditorium. For people with children, the Great Room upstairs will be available. There will not be childcare available.
"There are some who have underlying conditions and they don't plan to show up for a while," Andrews said. "We've got some people that are still very fearful and cautious of big crowds."
Andrews said people can attend the service by reservation only.
"Everything will be closely monitored where people come in, where they exit. We will allow families to be closer together," Andrews said. "We will have masked singing … we'll have my message — I will not be masked when I bring the message — we will probably have communion but it'll be self-serve; we will not have people passing out communion cups and the bread."
Andrews said it's unhealthy for a church body to be separated for an extended period of time and that it's not only a spiritual institution, but a social hub where people value love and support.
Andrews reiterated that opening the church is not an act of rebellion.
"We're trying to cooperate with the program, but we think that time has come," he said.
Borror said Mountain Park Church will continue the live stream service and the video-based ministry during summer.
"We're trying to make it so people can connect with us however they want," Borror said. "We want to make it (live streaming) as good as we can afford to make it."
When Clackamas County enters Phase 2, the gathering size will be doubled.
"That would be pretty close to normal for us," Borror said. "We have a big enough space to do that. We are super excited about Phase 2."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.