SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Governor Gavin Newsom has given the green light for places of worship to reopen, with some modifications. But not all churches are ready for worshipers to return.

“The church is not the building, the church is the believer and because of that we encourage you to worship in place, and shelter in grace,” said Pastor Joseph Bryant.

He was one of several Bay Area ministers who gathered on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall at a safe distance to call for more testing and education in the black community. They rallied to keep church doors closed, particularly because African Americans struggle with disproportionate COVID-19 death rates.

“We have too many preexisting conditions, we have too many seniors in our congregations, we have to do too much work in our buildings to make them right,” said Bryant. “So just because we can do a thing, doesn’t mean we should do a thing.”

The governor’s new guidelines for religious gatherings include limiting congregations to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower.

Worshipers will be required to wear masks. They will not be allowed to share prayer books and collection plates will not be passed around.

The governor is leaving it up to counties to decide whether the facilities within their jurisdictions may reopen.

“At a time of so much anxiety and uncertainty, faith and that devotion to something higher and better and bigger than yourself becomes even more pronounced and more profound,” said Newsom.

Meanwhile, two new cases of COVID-19 have been tied to a Mother’s Day church service in Butte County. It was held despite county rules.

Pastor Mike Jacobsen of Palermo Bible Family Church spoke out on social media about his decision to hold the service that more than 180 people attended.

“Unfortunately, when you step out in front and stride to lead, you become a target. I’m not perfect. I’m going to make mistakes, but when you step out you become a target,” he said.

In Mendocino County, a total of nine people have now tested positive after a Mother’s Day service at Assembly of God church, in Redwood Valley.

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