By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Like every other institution and facet of life, churches in San Juan Capistrano have been forced to pivot and adjust operations during the 2020 health crisis.

In uncertain times, they are finding ways to continue inspiring their congregations and bringing positivity to the community. Places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower, under current state guidelines. Places of worship are encouraged to continue facilitating remote services and related activities for those vulnerable to COVID-19.

Todd Rodarmel, lead pastor at Mountain View Church, said they moved services online before the stay-at-home order was issued in California by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Service videos have been posted to their YouTube channel.

“We’ve had a lot of people that have started attending services online,” Rodarmel said. “We’ve improved the quality of it over the past few months.”

Mountain View Church has turned to YouTube for worship services, as the COVID-19 pandemic upends face-to-face gatherings.

The hard part of the transition is there being no substitute for gathering together in person, said Rodarmel, who further noted people are anxious to do so.

Mountain View Church staff has also been meeting on Zoom. The church has a plan for when they resume in-person gatherings but want to roll that out slowly, Rodarmel said. Church staff could know more about resuming in-person events in the next week, depending on if a second wave breaks out and how conditions develop.

Mountain View Church staff right now feels they can do a better job online instead of trying to hold gatherings with restrictions, Rodarmel said.

However, the church is encouraging congregation members to personally get together at home while practicing social distancing. Church members have stayed in touch during the shutdown.

“We’ve started using the phone again to make calls, which is amazing,” Rodarmel said.

The church has also been busy preparing meals and working with other organizations for community food distribution during the health crisis. People need relationships and connections outside their family now more than ever, Rodarmel said.

“I think the church is more alive than ever,” Rodarmel said. “We closed the building as far as large gatherings, but I feel we’ve reached out more than ever before.”

Matt Wish, Creative Director at South Coast Christian Church, said they’re doing great right now, though conceded the first week after the stay-at-home order was an adjustment, because they tend to have a lot of people and activities on the grounds.

South Coast Christian quickly moved operations online and has increased their digital presence with live-streamed sessions. Those sessions used a minimal group of participants, emphasizing social distancing and disinfecting surfaces.

“We pivoted on the fly, and I feel like we nailed it,” Wish said. “We reached our usual congregation and a lot of people in San Juan Capistrano who needed community.”

South Coast Christian reopened for services this past weekend, which Wish called a phenomenal success. They have tried to be extremely respectful of state and county guidelines and consulted CDC guidelines on church reopenings, Wish said.

They also opened a Saturday night service and encouraged people to attend that one, so service crowd totals don’t become excessive. Service attendees have their temperature taken and have to wear face masks.

Wish estimates 60 to 70 percent of church members have returned. South Coast Christian is still offering live-streamed services and is not pushing for people to attend in person.

“We had a really good turnout this weekend,” Wish said. “A lot of positivity.”

Church staff aimed to come out of the closure different and better, Wish said. The church has partnered with the City of San Juan Capistrano for the Meals on Wheels program during the pandemic.

“We want to be a light in our community, and love and serve everyone,” Wish said. “I’m proud we did that.”

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