CONCORD (KPIX) — A rise in COVID-19 cases has prompted Contra Costa County to once again cancel all indoor church services just days after they were allowed to reopen.

In the Bible, God tests the faith of a man named Job by subjecting him to one misfortune after another. In the story, there is the line: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” They know how that feels at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Concord.

“We were so excited — hopeful, you know?” said Fr. Ismael Gutierrez.

Sunday was a day parishioners were looking forward to for months: the first indoor Mass since the stay-at-home began. They had been holding drive-in services in the school parking lot and offering communion to people in cars but, to many, watching a live stream of a Mass on a screen just wasn’t the same.

“It’s not something we can do virtually and still accomplish the same thing,” said Lisa Caputi. “It’s so important that we go to Mass.”

Sunday’s Mass was a bit different. Every other pew was blocked to allow distancing, there was no singing at all and there were no handshakes or hugs. Everyone was required to wear a face covering. But, for the faithful, it was good to be back in a community.

“You know, if I have to have this veil on my mouth then, OK, I’ll do it while we have to but it’s so important to be able to come here,” said parishioner Therese Caples.

Nearly as soon as it came, it went: with the county’s infection rate climbing, the health department again issued an order banning all indoor church services, effective midnight Sunday.

“Unfortunately, things are changing so we have to adapt to our reality,” said Fr. Gutierrez. “So next week we start again — we go back to the parking lot.”

Just one day to savor a small taste of normalcy before going back to pandemic reality and some in the congregation wondered why this had to happen.

“We can figure out how to do this safely, it shouldn’t be closing,” said Caputi. “We ought to be protesting about this a little bit stronger.”

But Fr. Gutierrez took a more philosophical view.

“Hopefully, this will teach us to appreciate life,” he said, “to value what life is and our families and the most important things in life.”

It may feel unjust to some but — just like Job — churches have discovered that what the county giveth the county can taketh away.

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