Faith leaders debate whether to continue mask requirements after term ends – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel
Religious leaders across the state are debating whether to continue requiring their worshipers to wear masks, after California dropped its COVID-19 mask mandates last month.
As of March 12, masks are no longer required in indoor settings in California, with the exception of public transportation, healthcare facilities, long-term care facilities, jails, and jails. The California Department of Public Health now strongly recommends continuing to wear masks in indoor settings, including K-12 schools.
Reverend John Cager, senior pastor of the Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, told Ethnic Media Services that his church – which has served the local community since 1902 – will continue to require masks at all of its indoor services, as well as proof of vaccinations. “Our church has a high percentage of seniors, an age group particularly vulnerable to COVID-19,” he said, noting that one in 100 people in the United States age 65 and older have died. of COVID-19.
As of March 30, about 728,616 people over the age of 65 had died of COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
“We don’t want to live in a perpetual state of fear, but we have to live in a perpetual state of awareness,” said Cager, whose church has yet to relax its mask requirements.
Like state health officials and other faith leaders, Cager said his church is looking at data and the spread of the BA.2 variant to guide decisions. Some worshipers resisted, saying the restrictions were too strict, while others embraced them, in an effort to protect all families attending services. About 300 families belong to Ward AME Church and 200 people attend services each Sunday.
Before the lockdown began on March 17, 2020, Ward AME Church sent volunteers to the homes of elderly worshipers to install apps and software on their smart phones and TVs to enable them to attend church services remotely. . At the start of the lockdown, the services were also broadcast live on social media. Cager stayed in touch with those unable to attend remotely via phone calls and emails.
The church also served as a pop-up clinic for vaccines and boosters. Cager said he has worked hard to assure his followers of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, working against much misinformation and an inherent distrust of government that is prevalent in the black community. “God gave vaccines for a reason,” he tells his members.
Pastor Anthony Kim, of Choon Hyun Mission Church in Los Angeles, said his church is following state and county guidelines. Initially, the masks were necessary because the church resumed regular services last fall. “Our parishioners agreed with this; there was no real resistance,” Kim said.
But as California lifted its mask mandates, church leaders moved to make masking optional. Kim said some members continue to wear masks, while others do not. He encourages this as a choice for individual devotees.
Kim said he wears a mask when a devotee wears theirs but not when others go without. “We want to display Christ’s attitude of tolerance towards all,” said Kim, who leads the church’s Christian education program.
Many church parishioners have themselves been impacted by COVID-19, Kim said. Some have caught the virus themselves, while others have seen family members suffer. Others have lost their jobs or their homes. He said children in his church have been deeply affected by mental health issues, with the loss of in-person learning and friends. “We tried to help, through prayer, pastoral care, doing what God wanted us to do,” he said.
“When we go through hardships, that’s where our true nature shines,” Kim said.
Bomi Patel, president of the Zoroastrian Association of Northern California, said the organization must determine its own masking policy as it prepares to celebrate the New Year — Nauroze — on March 20 at Oasis Restaurant in Fremont.
The Zoroastrian faith is one of the oldest in the world, originating in Persia in the 6and century before our era. The community has shrunk to less than 200,000 Zoroastrians worldwide. Observers celebrate the New Year on the first day of spring.
“It was our first celebration since March 2019,” Patel said. “We asked everyone to get vaccinated and wear a mask.”
To be on the safe side, ZANC rented a room with a capacity of 240, but then limited tickets for the event to just 150. Instead of the usual 10 seats per table, each seat had only eight, so that there was more room between places.
Celebrants wore masks as they entered the hall, but most took them off soon after. Patel said he kept his on all evening, only removing it when giving a speech and to eat.
The small Zoroastrian community in Northern California has remained engaged during the pandemic with online bingo and game nights, and guest lectures via Zoom. Last January, the organization restarted its Sunday school program for children to learn the old faith. Masks were mandatory for Sunday School, which was initially held outdoors but later moved indoors.
“There was no resistance to masks,” Patel said. “Everyone just wants to stay safe.”
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