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Churches Open Up Again in San Francisco

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Fr. Eugene courtesy Church of the Epiphany website.

On Sept.29 Mayor London Breed announced that San Francisco churches could gather in person in accordance with the state health regulations.

Allowing no more than 25% of the church population or 100 people per gathering, attendees must wear masks, bring their own hand sanitizers, and maintain 6-foot social distancing unless in the same family group was some of the rules to be enforced along with keeping church windows and doors open for circulation.

Also, offerings may be collected in baskets only.  Only one musician can be present. Communion can be taken sans mask and then mask-wearing resumes.  No events before or after services can be held.

The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco said “I want to thank Mayor Breed for recognizing that faith is essential.  As well, I want to thank the thousands of San Francisco Catholics and others who joined the processions, the more than 35,000 who signed the petition . . . came to St. Mary’s Cathedral’s outdoor plaza in witness to our faith, wrote letters to the editor or op-eds. And who generally spoke up with one united voice under the barrier. We are essential!  Free the Mass!”

Father Eugene Tungol of the Church of the Epiphany courtesy of the Church of Epiphany Church website.

Father Eugene Tungol of the Church of the Epiphany, a Roman Catholic parish of the Archdiocese of San Francisco at 827 Vienna St.,  held his usual seven services on Sunday but with only 300 attendees in accordance with health and safety guidelines instead of the pre-COVID-19 2,000 parishioners.

Temperatures were taken, social-distancing enforced, limits of people in pews, seating in every other pew, masks required, ingress and egress from separate doors, cleaning in between masses, hand sanitation, and all COVD-19 safety protocols were in place.

Archbishop Cordileone believes “the state of California’s limit of no more than 100 people inside of a house or worship regardless of the size of the building is still unjust. We want and we intend to worship God safely with masks, social distancing, sanitation, ventilation, and other such safety protocols.  But we will not accept believers being treated more severely than other, comparable secular activities.”

The Archbishop continued:  “[t]his movement is not over.  Our work and victories have just begun.  Thank you San Francisco people of faith and the thousands of others across the nation who are joining us at benedicinstitute.org/liftunfairrestrictions.”

Glide Memorial Church did not have in-person services.  Rev. Marvin K. White live-streamed his portion and was the only one present in person.  Everyone else was remote or previously recorded.

White echoed the sentiments of many churches:  “ [y]ou are allowed 25% capacity up to 100 people.  The science is saying don’t rush.  Do you have a health and safety plan in place?  Are you prepared to do temperature checks at the door?  Can your congregation and visitors safely physically distance?  How are you addressing air quality, ventilation, and HVAC issues?

“How are you rethinking your rituals?  There is no singing.  There is no singing along from the congregation.  There’s to be no woodwinds or brass instruments in the music.  Seems like a lot of challenges, right?” White said.  “We are so clear that the church is made for this moment.  What a time to be a Black, queer, theater and tech geek!”

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