The debate over whether churches are essential has come to a head in California.
The small congregation of Rushing Winds Ministry in Oceanside met Sunday for service, and thousands of other Christian churches statewide say they'll open the last day of May with or without the state's permission.
Rushing Winds opened its doors last week but services were held in the parking lot.
The pastor said the turnout proves people aren't getting everything they need from what the governor calls essential businesses; they also need hope.
Video of Sunday’s service appears to show very little if any social distancing and few face coverings, which weren’t required.
"The spiritual gloves are coming off,” Pastor Fred Zariczny told worshipers.
A federal judge ruled last week California’s governor could ban church assemblies in the interest of public health, but Zariczny said he has a flock that needs tending.
"We have recovering addicts that need the church,” he explained. “They need that fellowship, they need that contact, they need to hear the word of God."
But not every house of worship is so eager.
Before the stay at home order Iglesia Ancla, a parish of 2000, was meeting at San Ysidro Middle School.
"Church from home, church online, it’s not the best. Yes, there is frustration, but more than a frustration. We are just trying to be cautious,” Iglesia Ancla’s pastor Esteban Grasman said.
Grasman is handling services online and serving parishioners on Zoom calls. Even if the state allowed churches to open at the end of May, his church would not be one of them. That’s because social distancing, face coverings, and gloves are not the true church experience, he says.
“In our church, we made the decision if we cannot create the same experience that we should have, we would rather just wait,” Grasman said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state will issue guidelines by Monday for the reopening of churches and other houses of worship across the state.
For Zariczny, that’s 30 days too long.
“Churches are essential. That is the trumpet I will blow 'til the day I die,” he said.
Zariczny’s Sunday service wasn't a one-time exercise in civil disobedience. Services are scheduled for this Sunday at 10 a.m. and the church is willing to face any consequence.
Outdoor church services could return immediately under San Diego’s accelerated phase 3 pilot program if Newsom approves it.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Newsom asking him to make more accommodations in his reopening plan for places of worship.