LODI, Calif. (KTXL) – Church leaders across California have been ordered to shut their doors again.
In Lodi, there’s at least one pastor who says closing churches is a great step in order to protect the most vulnerable.
“I think we worship God by protecting our neighbor,” Pastor Nelson Rabell explained.
During service at St. Paul Lutheran Church, there are no congregation members in the pews and no audience to lock eyes with, just Rabell with his virtual community.
“In this moment, we may not be able to worship God together. But in a way, we are because we’re loving each other and respecting each other by not being together,” Rabell said.
His church has been closed for months but the pastor said it’s essential in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Rabell’s wife, an epidemiologist, helped set up the church’s guidelines.
“A blessing to have her guide my thoughts and guide the way we reacted to this pandemic,” Rabell said.
Even when religious institutions were allowed to reopen last month, St. Paul Lutheran Church remained shuttered.
“I think Governor Newsom’s decision to shut down churches and other businesses as well is a good decision,” Rabell explained.
Rabell told FOX40 his regional and national bishops are working to protect their faithful following who happen to be the most vulnerable and essential workers.
“That’s why we’re trying to protect our people, do the right thing and actually follow God’s command to love our neighbor,” Rabell said.
Even though the congregation has not been physically together since mid-March, Rabell said they’ve been supporting each other online, even sending their offerings online.
As this global crisis presses on, the pews will remain empty.
But Pastor Rabell said he and his congregation are still connected by their faith.
“It’s not a matter of individual freedoms or choice, it’s actually about the common good,” he explained.
Rabell added their church is set to revisit the issue in October and if the numbers are low enough, they will reopen with physical distancing guidelines set in place.