Some are offering hybrid online services, others stay online-only
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With all three Central Oregon counties in Phase 2 of Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan, some places of worship have started welcoming people back for indoor services, with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Outdoor venues are allowed up to 250 people, as long as they can maintain six feet of distance. Indoor venues are allowed a maximum of 100 people.
The statewide mask mandate still requires people to continue wearing face coverings indoors and outdoors where six feet apart cannot be maintained.
NewsChannel 21 spoke with several churches in Bend Tuesday to learn which ones have decided to transition to in-person services, and which ones will continue offering services online only.
Central Baptist Church has no physical building of its own, but meets at the Pine Forest Grange in northeast Bend.
Laramie Schroeder, the pastor, said the church decided to fully welcome people for indoor services in June, after 10 weeks of virtual-only services.
“We love being able to meet together, because we get to see each other, we get to see each other’s faces. Some wear masks, some wear shields, encouraging one another,” Schroeder said. “Some of those were hindered before.”
Seats are offered in groups of three, spaced out about six feet apart. The church also offers clear face shields.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Schroeder said, more than 35 people attended in-person services. Now, some have chosen to stick to the virtual format.
“We have a number of people in the higher-risk category who are wisely choosing to stay in right now,” Schroeder said. “We’re still trying to connect with them by making things available online, through phone calls and emails.”
The First Presbyterian Church in northeast Bend, across from Bend Senior High School, has decided not to return to its indoor services for now.
“We believe to love one another is to actually care and love the most vulnerable,” said Pastor Steven Koski. “Our theology struggles with this idea that if you’re over 60 or if you’re immuno-compromised or vulnerable in any way, you’re not allowed in the doors.”
Koski said the virtual format has allowed the church to reach more people outside of Bend and in other countries. Still, he said he waits for the day people can return to in-person services safely.
“When we can all gather together as one, that’s when we’ll gather together,” he said.
Trinity Lutheran Church, also in northeast Bend, said it will transition to indoor services this Sunday, following all OHA guidelines.