LAUGHLIN — The Laughlin Community Church opened to the public Sunday morning for the first time since March — the last time the church held a worship service.
An order by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak halted large public gatherings (including church services) and closed casinos and school campuses because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
More than 40 people came to the church service. The current size limit for religious gatherings in Nevada is 50 people.
“The number of people at a regular pre-corona(virus) service is about 200 on a Sunday,” said Pastor Ryan Stotler.
More than 100 seats were removed from the worship area. Social distancing guidelines were in effect. Virtually everyone had on face masks and hand sanitizer was pumped out freely.
Collection bowls were replaced with a collection box on a table where programs, information and forms were laid out alongside a bottle of hand sanitizer, and face masks were offered to those who needed them.
Young church members performed a program of religious music.
They stood a lengthy distance from the older members to whom they were singing such selections as “Reckless Love” and “Waymaker” and were able to not wear masks while they performed.
Their song lyrics were projected onto the wall behind the youths:
“There’s no shadow you won’t light up
Mountain you won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall you won’t kick down
Lie you won’t tear down
Coming after me.”
The service was planned by the church’s youth group, which is composed of school-age church members in grades 6-12. They decide on most aspects of every service that falls on the fifth Sunday of the month.
Pastors Stotler and Tristan Beloat, who had been working with the youths on their Sunday service but didn’t tell them what Beloat planned to say, highlighted the importance of “Moving Forward.”
Along with the economic and social upheaval that has come with efforts to slow movement of the virus through the population has been protests across the country against police brutality.
The death on May 25 of an African-American man named George Floyd was recorded on video and spread at a viral pace. A police officer in Minneapolis was shown kneeling on top of Floyd, who was on the ground and in the process of being arrested.
The video showed that the officer had shoved one knee deeply into Floyd’s neck. After begging for the officer to remove his knee because he couldn’t breathe and was in pain, Floyd died.
“The United States is in turmoil,” Stotler said about the moment. People are worried about what might come, or even dealing with serious troubles — health or financial.
Other “are screaming out for justice,” he said.
In reference to the current state of the nation and world, Stotler offered a prayer for “the powder keg we seem to be sitting on.”
When Beloat spoke, he stressed that life — and faith — aren’t supposed to stop even if church services do.
It’s important to know the difference between caution and fear.
Being cautious is prudent and sensible. But fearing life — and God — isn’t a good thing.
“Even though I know I’m going to heaven, I don’t want to die yet,” he said.
Keep dangers in mind but find safe and reasonable ways to live and love everyone, he stressed. Not living and loving others isn’t moving forward.
Open, loving, faithful people are like lights in the darkness, Beloat said.
“The church can’t move forward unless you move forward,” Beloat said.
Church members were invited to watch or listen to services during the closure period by live streaming or by dialing in, Stotler also said.