Compton Pastor Ron C. Hill says he’ll be guided by the Holy Spirit on when to reopen his church, not by California’s governor, who ordered churches to close in March as part of the state’s stay-at-home COVID-19 restrictions.
In an interview with us, Hill said he is anxious to welcome congregants back to his Love and Unity Christian Fellowship church because they need spiritual nourishment during these difficult times.
“People are suffering financially and emotionally and they need the support of the church to feed them the word of faith, the word of love, and to be that support system,” stated Hill, who is pictured in the image above.
The pastor was one of more than 1,200 spiritual leaders across the Golden State who signed a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, saying they plan to resume in-person services on May 31, with or without the governor’s approval.
Hill said he’s not sure when he’ll reopen, but it will ultimately be up to God.
“I can’t say that I’ll open up on the 31st or not,” Hill explained during an interview at his church. “The same God that told me to shut down, can be the same God that tells me to open up. But I think that pastors ought to have the freedom to open up the way they feel that the Holy Spirit is directing them.”
Attorney Robert Tyler wrote the letter to Newsom, which he called a “Declaration of Essentiality for Churches.”
Last week, President Donald Trump joined the debate by declaring churches across the nation “essential,” and demanding they be allowed to open their doors immediately.
On Monday, May 25, Newsom responded to the controversy by issuing new guidelines for churches to safely hold in-person services. The rules posted on the governor’s website say churches must:
-Put a social distancing plan in place
-Limit attendance to 25 percent of building capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower
-Employees and volunteers must use face coverings
-Churches should prop or hold doors open during peak periods when people are entering and exiting facilities
-Houses of worship should close children’s play areas
Newsom’s new guidelines also say houses of worship should get approval from their county health departments before they resume services.
.@CAPublicHealth announced the statewide reopening of places of worship for religious services and in-store retail shopping.
Learn more: https://t.co/48ZAhw2Iwl
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) May 25, 2020
Newsom skipped his daily coronavirus briefing on Memorial Day, but he addressed the church issue on Friday.
“We take the issue very, very seriously and to heart, and we have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and will meet their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith,” he said.
This back-and-forth comes after a church in Northern California was linked to a coronavirus outbreak following in-person services on Mother’s Day. In a news release, Mendocino County health officials said at least nine people contracted COVID-19 in connection with the service at the Assembly of God Church in Redwood Valley.
Meanwhile in Butte County, also in Northern California, health officials said 180 people were exposed after an infected person attended a Mother’s Day service at an unidentified church.
“The infected person received their positive COVID-19 diagnosis the day after the service and is now in home isolation,” officials said.
As for Love and Unity Christian Fellowship in Compton, the pastor insists he has a plan ready to keep church members safe.
“We will make sure that we practice social distancing,” said Hill. “We’re going to have someone out in the foyer to take their temperatures, and if anyone has a temperature, they can’t come in … We’re going to have hand sanitizer and do anything that they would do at any other public place, like the restaurants that are opening up.”
But with 3,000 members at his church, it remains to be seen if Hill will adhere to Newsom’s recommendation that no more than 100 people be allowed in a church.
A version of this story aired on the Black News Channel.