Grace Community Church on Sunday defied a judge’s order not to meet indoors during the pandemic, with pastor John MacArthur telling attendees that the state’s restrictions for legal outdoor services would make it “impossible” to follow and result in the congregation shutting down.
The church met indoors multiple times Sunday, three days after California state Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued an injunction against such services and upheld Los Angeles County’s health restrictions on large gatherings.
Beckloff said the county’s order allows worship to occur outdoors, although MacArthur – during Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. service – said the various restrictions on outdoor worship are impractical.
The California Department of Public Health released a 14-page document July 29 outlining requirements and recommendations for churches to legally meet. Los Angeles County issued its own requirements and recommendations in July that churches in the county must follow.
“The question has come up a number of times about why Grace Church does not just comply with the orders that have been laid down for churches,” MacArthur said. “And I thought it might be helpful to give you the list of things that are required of us as a church, so that you understand how utterly impossible that would be.”
The church, which has several thousand members and attendees, would be limited to 350 to 400 people in a tent if it followed all the restrictions, MacArthur said.
He listed the following “orders” from the county and state:
- "Pre-registration of every person who comes on the church property."
- "People only allowed on church property for scheduled events."
- "Every person who comes on the property has to be screened and have their temperature taken at the entry."
- "We all must maintain six feet of social distance at all times everywhere, including the parking lot and the restrooms."
- "Every other parking space must be left vacant."
- "Mark[ed] pathways to maintain social distance, keeping people apart, monitored by staff monitors."
- "Everyone always wearing a mask."
- "Restroom monitors to control six feet social distancing and restrooms [must have] tape on the ground marking distance."
- "Signs indicating these mandates."
- "Restrooms are to be used during the service to minimize the rush."
- "No hymn books."
- "No communion." (The California Department of Public Health recommends "providing pre-packed communion items on chairs.")
- "No offering containers."
- "No pew Bibles."
- "No singing."
- "No hugging."
- "No shaking hands."
- "Disposable seat covers changed between services, and the services have to be shortened."
- "Anybody who comes in contact with someone outside their family for more than 15 minutes must self-quarantine for two weeks."
MacArthur told attendees: "You can see that these other requirements would completely shut the church down."
"Obviously this is not constitutional," he said. "But more importantly, it goes against the will of the Lord of the church. He calls us to gather."
Photo courtesy: John MacArtuhr Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.