Local Church Adapts to Renewed CA COVID-19 Lockdown: “The Church Has Left the Building!”

 

 

By George Miller

Calvary Chapel Oxnard (Web, Facebook) has operated locally for over 40 years, in increasingly larger buildings. Last year, the large and diverse congregation of 1200+ moved into a much bigger industrial building adapted for church requirements. They were running three church services on Sundays, one on Wednesdays and other events, such as their weekly food bank, children’s ministry and more.

Hundreds of Calvary Chapel Oxnard congregants meet for service in parking lot on 7-19-20. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

However, this building expense and effort were negated when COVID-19 lockdown orders from CA Gov. Gavin Newsom first closed churches, then allowed them to re-open, but only with drastically reduced seating, social distancing, masks and other requirements. Attendance dropped drastically, due to the restrictions and fear of the virus. Then the state recently forbade singing and chanting (CCO did not comply).Then, last week, Newsom ordered indoor churches (and many other operations) closed again.

Calvary Chapel Oxnard sanctuary reconfigured from 600 to 100 seats. It is closed now. Photo: George Miller/Citizensjournal.us.

CCO for years has conducted online services (web and Facebook) on Sundays and Wednesdays and has hundreds of online followers, so services never completely halted. Many people who had attended church before the COVID-19 closures and restrictions switched to the online services, but online attendance has been slowly tapering off. People have told us they miss the sense of community and fellowship. Some congregants, especially some of those who are older or poorer, are not on the Internet.

Church revenues have also dropped drastically, due to attendance dropping off and severe financial problems for many congregants brought about by the lockdowns. Contributions are used to pay for the buildings, employee compensation, expenses and several rather ambitious charitable works. So, pastors made a rare, stronger appeal for donations. Operations Manager Eric Robbins has previously estimated that church families donate approximately 4% of their income.

“The church has left the building”- Pastor Rob Branchflower

But last Wednesday and today, they held outdoor services in one of the parking lots. Church officials told congregants to bring chairs and social distance, not knowing what reaction to expect. CCO required pre-registration, answering questions, having temperatures taken and barring sick people. Hundreds of people showed up on Sunday, with hundreds of chairs and about half as many masks. They set up spread out, in family units. People seemed very happy with this approach and just to be back. Someone even suggested a tailgate party next week.

Pastor Rob Branchflower conducted the worship service (singing) and Pastor Jeff Atchison taught from biblical passages in 1 Chronicals 17 (watch session) . Branchflower even saw an upside to being kicked out of the building and into the parking lot, in that it helped to emphasize that the church is not a building and that it is the congregation/ the Body of Christ. Calvary Chapel is known for its strong emphasis on biblical teaching. Its services consist of worship via hymn-singing and sermons built on biblical teachings, but addressing today’s issues and concerns, too. The church has a calendar for covering books of the Bible.

Pastor Rob Branchflower conducts Calvary Chapel Oxnard worship service in parking lot- 7-19-20. Photo: George Miller, CitizensJournal.us

While this calendar was not altered for the major crises happening this year, the message is tailored to address them and is very relevant. When I remarked on that later to Senior Pastor Lance Ralston, he told me that history repeats itself, repeats its challenges, that the Gospel is relevant to every age and everyone. He wrapped up by telling me “We speak a timeless message of Christ to our time.”

 

“We speak the timeless message of Christ to our time”- Senior Pastor Lance Ralston

 


George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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William Hicks
William Hicks
4 months ago

As a practicing Christian I appreciate this. As a retired employee of The Los Angeles Unified School District I would like to add that some of these practices could be applied to school opening with a little imagination. For schools that have athletic fields, while weather permits, outdoor classrooms, while using distance, masks and sanitation, could start this Fall. Many school in The Conejo Unified School District also have adjoining parks that could expand open air classrooms.

DeeAnn-4Eph5:11
DeeAnn-4Eph5:11
4 months ago

Thank you Citizens Journal for providing this very informative and inspiring report! God bless the Pastoral leadership of Calvary Chapel-Oxnard for their very brave and caring decisions to shepherd their flock in spite of Gov. Newsom’s draconian COVID-19 church social restrictions. Jesus said: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18. Gov. Newsom is guilty of many abuses of power during this COVID-19 Plan-demic that sadly include violations of First Amendment Rights under the U.S. Constitution, and he has clearly demonstrated discrimination against the Church in this regard! Praying for God’s deliverance from all evil abuses of power in these challenging days. Sincerely in Christ, Dee Ann