Faith Leaders Help Prepare Sonoma County For Church Return

Faith leaders representing 60 Sonoma County religious congregations are anxious to resume gatherings for their parishioners following ongoing meetings with county leaders.

The congregations include Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and non-denominational churches, and Jewish synagogues. Each has been offering services and counseling online or by telephone for over two months since the coronavirus pandemic started, prompting shelter-in-place orders and restricting movement across the Bay Area.

"All of us are Zoom’d out or Skype’d out at this point," Healdsburg Community Church Pastor Dean Kladder said. "We desperately need human community."

Faith leaders believe the demand for their help is greater than ever as congregants suffer from unemployment and other newly-emerged stresses the pandemic has brought with it.

But, the pastor said they want to be safe as faith communities reopen in stages.

The first COVID-19 fatality in Sonoma County was a member of his church.

"It has been good to hear on the line of the guild of pastors and other faith leaders saying 'We don’t want to do this' (and) 'We’re not rushing into things,' because that would be the worst-case scenario," Pastor Kladder told KCBS Radio.

The group of faith leaders have had online meetings with Sonoma County supervisors and have offered a multi-stage plan so they can safely get back to helping their congregants.

"I think that we’re trying to give at least a bit of guidance to the board and to the leaders that be instead of just kind of waiting in the wings hoping that something will happen," Pastor Kladder said.