Church services in Santa Clara are slowly returning after Santa Clara County Public Health eased restrictions following the shelter in place. On June 5, the county started allowing for small outdoor religious gatherings in groups no larger than 25.
Our Lady of Peace Church on Mission Boulevard resumed services in its courtyard in mid-June after receiving an okay from the Diocese of San Jose.
“We will follow the directives of the Santa Clara County Public Health Officer, who at this time is permitting outdoor worship in groups no larger than 25 persons. We will insist that all persons over the age of six attending these in-person celebrations wear face coverings, practice physical distancing of six feet between non-family members, and sanitize their hands when entering the worship space and immediately before receiving Communion,” said San Jose Bishop Oscar Cantu in a statement to all local Catholic churches earlier this month.
Our Lady of Peace Church has courtyard mass guidelines clearly posted on its church doors. Parishioners are required to take their temperature before arriving and are asked to stay home if they feel ill. They must bring their own mask, hand sanitizer and chairs. Attendance to the courtyard mass is limited 25 people and social distancing between households is maintained. Holy Communion is only done by hand and parishioners must use hand sanitizer before receiving Communion.
The church also holds parking lot masses where families are required to stay in their cars and Communion is brought to them.
“It is essential that our in-person worship not be the cause of further outbreaks of infection, and so we will insist on these safety measures. If infection rates and hospitalizations do not spike, then we can expect the limitations on numbers and place of worship to be modified in due time,” said Cantu.
While many large churches have the space to resume, smaller local churches are waiting for the county to loosen restrictions more until they reopen for in-person services.
“At the very beginning, we really weren’t here all the time, but now somebody’s here every day,” said Vicki from the First Presbyterian Church on Homestead Road. “We’re hoping [to open] but it depends on what the county guidelines are…We have to, prepare for reopening now. We have a service come in and do disinfecting and various other things.”
Despite being closed, the church is still very much in contact with its parishioners.
“Throughout this, every day, we do a Zoom thing at five o’clock called Alive at Five. Somebody gives a daily devotional and then there’s prayer and people talk. We’ve had anywhere from probably 25 to 50 people on those. So, it helps everyone to stay in touch with each other,” said Vicki.
Other local Santa Clara churches continue to provide online services. Many are posting their sermons on their Facebook pages or YouTube channels.
Churches should continue doing what all non-essential businesses do. Conduct their business online. There is no excuse for risking people’s health for religious services. Religion cannot Be allowed come before human health.