Cathedral of Faith considers in-person sermons after canceling them in 2020

Senior Pastor Ken Foreman preaches at the amphitheater in front of a masked audience during a COVID-19 service in the fall of 2020. (Photo courtesy of CoF’s social media team.)

Cathedral of Faith (CoF), UPA’s campus provider and a church with campuses in San Jose, East San Jose, Morgan Hill, Milpitas, Gilroy and the Philippines, is considering restarting in-person services in the coming months after canceling them when Santa Clara County entered the purple tier in November.

Jolly Tyrell, CoF’s communications director, said in November 2020 that due to winter weather and Santa Clara County entering the purple tier, all in-person services had been canceled for the rest of the year.

“It’s hard to have outdoor services,” Tyrell said. “People are freezing or it starts raining, so we have decided to host our services online-only. We already have them online but now that will be the only way that people can tune in to our [services], but we’re also really looking forward to all of the things that we have planned throughout the rest of the year.”

Back in March when churches were provided COVID-19-safe guidelines by the City of San Jose, Santa Clara County’s Emergency Operations Center, the State of California and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CoF started hosting services online through various media.

“We had to amp up our cameras and our sound and everything so that we could effectively communicate each weekend online through [online platforms],” CoF Pastor Wayne Mancari said. “We had [broadcasted services] on television for about 10 weeks.”

Even when CoF events were moved online, Pastor Rick Robinson, who leads the technical team for CoF, worked on plans in September to return to in-person services. At the time, plans included a second LED wall and adapting the parking lot with solar panels for a drive-in style service.$

Cars line up under the solar panels in the main campus’ parking lot to view a service during Cruisin’ Thru Cathedral in the fall of 2020. (Photo courtesy of CoF’s Social Media Team.)

“The technical aspects are not gone,” Robinson said. “Boy, we’re busier today than we’ve ever been. We’re doing more tech-related stuff than ever before.”

These plans, however, were stalled by weather-related struggles.

“We did a Saturday night service, and then it rained, so we had to cancel our Sunday service,” Robinson said. “And then we were going to do it the following weekend, and that’s when all of the fires started. Then we had to cancel all of our outdoor services due to the fire.”

CoF’s Reaching Out program continued to distribute food to help underprivileged South Bay residents even through pandemic restrictions. They offer groceries at all of the Bay Area campuses, except for the East San Jose campus. Tyrell said CoF had continued to improve its Reaching Out program. Since March, more and more people have been going to CoF for food.

“We have our Reaching Out food program that partners with organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank, Whole Foods and many more, who can help people by providing food,” Tyrell said. “So far in 2020, through the end of August, our Reaching Out food program has already distributed over $25 million worth of food to food-insecure families in the South Bay.”

For comparison, in 2018, Reaching Out distributed $15 million worth of food over the year. According to the CoF website, Reaching Out services will still continue, regardless of the purple tier.

However, not all CoF programs have been able to maintain their services like Reaching Out has.

Previously, CoF offered Upward Basketball for 21 years, in which children in first through sixth grade engaged in activities that promote the Christian faith through sports and prayer. Due to COVID-19, program manager Pastor Robert Mize had to cancel Upward Basketball.

Similar to Upward Basketball, another canceled program was MySchool, CoF’s daycare program for babies and toddlers. With dwindling demand, MySchool was canceled before the start of the school year.

With regular social interaction becoming unrealistic for many during the pandemic, CoF has worked to maintain the mental health of its members. CoF formerly held various in-person group meetings, all of which have since moved online.

“The problem is you can do a lot of social media, texting back and forth, have a nice laugh, have a good smile, but it’s not quite the same as the person-to-person touch,” Mancari said. “We just believe that the mental health of our community is also vital at this moment, and we’re just trying to find ways to maintain good mental health for people who are struggling in this time of isolation.”

The CoF main campus is decorated with lights and lit trees by CoF, as done in previous years for Christmas. The stage in front of the campus is used for performances. (Photo courtesy of CoF’s Social Media Team.)

CoF has been helping members by keeping communications open in small groups online, four times a week, every week, CoF Pastor Irene Thompson said.

Junior Anthony Clement Jr. said that before Santa Clara County entered the purple tier, in-person meetings for band members and high schoolers at CoF maintained a sense of community.

“We’re in person so we can physically see a lot of the people that we saw in the pre-Corona times,” Clement said. “It’s almost like the pre-Corona times.”

Though after Santa Clara County entered the purple tier, Clement expressed regret that in-person meetings had been canceled.

“It’s kind of sad that I won’t be able to see any friends and be in person for the rest of the year,” Clement said. “But I can still experience the community through Zoom meetings and YouTube services.”