Center Chapel Reopens with safety in mind

Janell J. Lewis Ford, NTC/Fort Irwin Garrison Public Affairs

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The National Training Center’s Main Post Chapel in Fort Irwin joined many other churches nationwide in allowing limited congregants to participate physically for Sunday Worship on June 7, as part of the “Opening Up America Again” initiative, in the state’s second of a three-phase plan.

Center Chapel currently offers two Sunday Services: The Catholic Mass at 9 a.m., live streamed on its Holy Family Catholic Community Facebook Page; and The Protestant Worship at 11 a.m., which is live streamed on the Fort Irwin Chapel Facebook Page,

Many said they couldn’t wait for in-person services to resume.

“I am personally so excited to see the chapel re-opening,” Lector and Parishioner, Nikki Shaffer said. “I have missed our community and fellowship so much during the Covid-19 shut-downs. While I appreciate and applaud all efforts to create inclusive online and streaming options, our family genuinely missed being in the chapel.”

Despite the parameters set by the California Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for social distancing, sanitation, facial coverings, and COVID-19 preventative training for staff, some congregants like JoAnn Kim, prefer to continue streaming the Sunday services.

“We go to church to worship, but a huge part in that is community and relationships,” she said. “So, church is very difficult when it’s all online. I miss the people, physically being able to greet each other and share meals, coffee, and even grow together in our Bible studies. It is not our preference to continue to ‘go to church online’, but it is out of necessity during this time for us.”

For the Fort Irwin community specifically, Kim further commented on the benefits of online streaming.

“Since our soldiers are in the Box each month and many are not able to attend church services a couple of times a month, I think it was very important for our NTC Chapel to have their services online. I’m so glad they finally do.”

While the sound and video quality continue to improve with live streaming Sunday services, Archbishop for the Military Services reminded the faithful in an issued letter on May 7 that, “Last March when I gave the rather broad dispensation from physical presence at Sunday Mass, because of the pandemic, I made clear that ‘Virtual presence is never a substitute for physical presence’ at the celebration…”

Guidelines from the CDC specifies that, “places of worship must limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity of a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.”

Due to chapel events at the 9 a.m., Mass throughout the month of June, the Chapel leadership offers parishioners advanced sign-up opportunities through a Sign-up Genius digital method for a max capacity of less than 60 individuals.

“To my knowledge, all 60 slots are usually filled prior to Sunday,” Shaffer said.