Harvest Church in Arroyo Grande plans to re-open May 31 despite state orders

Posted at 10:32 AM, May 22, 2020

Churches and other places of worship aren't allowed to reopen in California until Stage 3, but more than 1,200 pastors statewide say they'll resume in-person services starting May 31, including Harvest Church in Arroyo Grande.

May 31 is Pentecost Sunday and even though reopening for in-person services would mean going against the state order, Harvest Church wants to give its members the chance to worship inside their doors.

"We decided to go ahead and join those who are going to be starting church, live church on Pentecost Sunday, on May 31st," said Steve Henry, Harvest Church lead pastor.

Harvest church's lead pastor announced on Youtube Wednesday the church's plan to reopen.

"We just want to make this service available to those who do feel like the time is right and do feel like they want to join in," Henry said.

Tim Theule, lead pastor for Grace Central Coast, represented SLO County's faith sector during development of the county's reopening plan.

After communicating with 150 faith leaders, he believes that cooperating with the state's guidelines is the best plan of action for churches in the county.

"Those who choose to do their own thing and reopen sooner, we respect their right to do that, but we've just taken a different posture so far," Theule said.

Harvest Church says there is a plan in place to protect the health of members and staff, with indoor and outdoor seating, hand sanitizer and cleaning before, during, and after services.

"There's not a right or a wrong way to handle this necessarily, so we're just doing our best to navigate it, respecting what's going on in the culture, doing our best to respect one another, and keep each other safe, while at the safe time beginning to move toward some normalcy," Henry said.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow announced Thursday that his office will not seek criminal enforcement for churches allowing in-person services, as long as social distancing and other health guidelines are followed.

Dow says he will err in favor of religious freedom protected by the Bill of Rights until his office receives more clarity.