|SACRAMENTO — Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has issued a call for churches across the U.S. to begin reopening after halting in-person services for more than seven weeks since statewide lockdowns began.
“Gathering in worship is part of every church’s DNA,” Rev. Rodriguez said. “Our faith was never meant to be lived or experienced alone, but in a community. That’s why our churches cannot remain in lockdown forever. We must seek the appropriate and responsible paths for our churches to reopen, caring with the utmost care not only for the physical health but also the spiritual well-being of every member in our communities.”
The NHCLC, which represents over 45,000 Hispanic churches in the U.S. and Latin America, released general guidelines for reopening churches in four phases:
- Phase One: week 1 and 2, a return to 25% capacity of religious facilities.
- Phase Two: week 3 and 4, a return to 50% capacity of religious facilities.
- Phase Three: week 5 and 6, or when strong indications of reliable Covid-19 treatment and therapeutic options exist, a return to 75% capacity of religious facilities.
- Phase Four: when Covid-19 treatment and therapeutic options prove effective, the CDC no longer classifies the virus as a national health threat or pandemic, or a vaccine becomes available, a return to 100% capacity or discretionary use of religious facilities.
Beyond releasing general guidelines, the NHCLC is encouraging churches to seek legal counsel and implement individualized reopening plans depending on their location and specific needs.
“The NHCLC guidelines are meant to help churches develop a reopening strategy that aligns with CDC guidelines and protects the most vulnerable members of our communities, but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the NHCLC. “Guidelines vary by state and even by city, so each church must assess its specific needs and risks to determine the best way forward. Thankfully, there are organizations providing legal counsel and help for churches. What we must not allow is for churches to be prevented from seeking ways to reopen so they can minister to their communities.”
Suarez pointed to organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel, which are helping churches navigate the legal challenges they face due to Covid-19.
Additionally, the NHCLC is encouraging churches to continue with online and drive-in services as innovatively viable ways of meeting religious requirements and fostering worship experiences for the foreseeable future. Churches who host multiple services should plan for an adequate amount of time between services to ensure adherence to CDC guidelines.
Earlier in April, Rev. Rodriguez was appointed to The Heritage Foundation’s National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. The commission has released recommendations crafted by a team of expert advisers. Read the executive summary here.
In addition to his participation with the commission, Rev. Rodriguez, along with a selected group of national faith leaders, continues to consult with the White House on reopening the country.
To request an interview with an NHCLC spokesperson, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.