A month after Rock Church in San Diego, California, held their first indoor worship service since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the church has suspended indoor worship at all campuses for May 23, except at the Point Loma and microsite locations, after multiple staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
“We have recently learned that some of our Rock Church employees have tested positive for COVID-19. We are working with and helping these members of our Rock staff get the care and help they need. Some of our campuses and teams are directly affected by this and are self-quarantining. Out of an abundance of caution, our in person Sunday services will be limited to our Point Loma and Microsite locations only on May 23rd,” the church said in a statement posted on their website.
Executive Pastor Lisa Penberthy told Fox 5 that 15 employees across the church’s five campuses had tested positive for COVID-19, but none have been hospitalized.
“None of our staff have been hospitalized. They are about split of symptomatic and asymptomatic. They are quarantining and doing well,” she said.
The church noted that as the staff members get the medical care they need to recover, they have also been working to do everything they can to prevent the spread of the virus at their campuses.
“To help prevent the spread of COVID, our facilities undergo a thorough cleaning and disinfection multiple times throughout the week, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations. We will continue our cleaning regimen in accordance with CDC recommendations,” officials noted.
Speaking with The San Diego Union-Tribune after his church’s first indoor service since the start of the pandemic on April 18, Rock Church Pastor Miles McPherson, who did not move to hold indoor services until state officials lifted mandatory restrictions a week earlier, revealed how happy he was to reunite with his spiritual family.
“It was so good to see our family back together,” he said. “It was like Thanksgiving or Christmas when you get to reunite with your family and reestablish your relationships.”
More than 5,000 attended in-person services across four campuses, and 300,000 also watched Rock Church services online, the publication noted. But for those who attended in-person, the feeling was special.
“It’s my birthday today, and we’ve been gone for so long that it feels like a gift from God and Pastor Miles that we can all be together again,” said Karla Ghancous, 27, who recalled the first time she walked through the doors of the Point Loma campus.
On April 12, California lifted capacity limits on houses of worship after a controversial year when several churches challenged the state’s ongoing pandemic restrictions in court.
“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” an update posted on the state’s COVID-19 website reads.
In February, the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom was forced to revise guidelines for indoor worship services after the U.S. Supreme Court granted an emergency injunction blocking a complete public health ban on indoor worship services in some counties. But the court kept in place restrictions on singing, chanting and a 25% limit on crowd size.
The state completely lifted all mandatory restrictions after the Supreme Court ruled against the state’s limits on in-home Bible study and other forms of worship on April 9.