By Andrew Ficke
Like many local businesses and organizations, Grace Community Church of Seal Beach has tabled plans to reopen for indoor services in light of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Monday, July 13, order closing houses of worship throughout the state. Senior Pastor Bob Wriedt confirmed the development on Tuesday, July 14.
“We’re hoping to be able to do something outdoors,” said Pastor Wriedt. He said the church is trying to figure out the details.
Recently, the state had allowed “places of worship” to partially reopen their doors to their congregants as a part of the Phase III state reopening plan.
For the first time in more than two months, Grace Community Church of Seal Beach had opened their doors on Sunday, June 28 for their first of three “dress-rehearsal” reopening services. While the services went smoothly, their intent was not to reach the majority of the congregation, (which were still reached by pre-recorded and live streamed broadcasts on YouTube, Facebook, and SBTV Chanel 3), but rather to test out many new procedures that would be required to keep future attendees safe. Director of Operations Christa Heideman and custodial staff members Tim Rameriez and Dean Yacoubian used the opportunity to test out new cleaning gear and disinfecting procedures specifically aimed at cleaning areas before and after any contact. Paul Kneeland, the head of the Grace Security Team used the opportunity to implement new policies and procedures learned from his management position at Gelson’s Market Grocery Chain, such as enforcing mask-wearing and encouraging social-distancing.
Congregants who volunteered to attend were seated by family, with each family being separated by more than 6 feet in all directions. Lines in front of the church before and after the services were calm and orderly, separating those waiting to enter by tape marks and rows being dismissed in tern to limit unnecessary exposure.
In an emailed statement, sent prior to the governor’s July 13 closure announcement, Senior Pastor Wriedt made it clear that reopening was a priority, but also the safety of the entire Seal Beach Community. He wrote: “We’re learning from other churches in the area and using that information to make the best decision for our community that we can.”
The Church has also remained compliant with local and state guidelines regarding their reopening policies, and has even created a reopening team of medical professionals and others with experience reopening businesses during COVID to help make decisions regarding the safety of the Seal Beach community during the church’s reopening process.
The church will continue to serve a large majority of the congregation online, as their weekly YouTube and Facebook Live services consistently draw over 700 views every week.
The author, Andrew Ficke, is an employee of Grace Community Church of Seal Beach.