As Santa Rosa pastor battles COVID in intensive care, 3 herd members fear epidemic risk
Johnston and the two sources – one a longtime Rock participant, the other a former staff member with close ties to the church – say Ross Reinman, his wife Barbara Reinman (who is director of the ministry of women and children) and several other members of the management team contracted the virus. Only Pastor Reinman fell seriously ill.
Reinman was diagnosed with coronavirus on June 29 and was admitted to Healdsburg District Hospital on July 4. The Rock canceled its three Sunday services that day and closed.
After five days, the front desk was staffed again and the facility resumed its usual list of community gatherings, one of the sources said.
“They have regular prayer meetings every morning, opening the church,” the member said. “Believe me, I get people who need to be in church at a time like this. But when you risk your life like that? This is an absolute epidemic. “
The Rock kept the members informed of Reinman’s state of health and asked for prayers. The most recent bulletin, released Thursday, mentioned that doctors had removed the ventilator from him. But no one has announced that the church’s spiritual leader has been diagnosed with COVID – simply that he has pneumonia, which is technically true.
The only public acknowledgment of Reinman’s infection came from Facebook posts, such as his son Zack Reinman’s July 11 post. At least one other church faithful mentioned the coronavirus in a Facebook comment.
Church officials told the congregation in an online newsletter that several families have fallen with cases of coronavirus, but said nothing of their own struggles. Staff took home tests after Reinman’s diagnosis, according to Johnston and the current church member, and nearly half have tested positive.
Johnston estimates that there have been 15-20 known cases at The Rock since the end of June – a number he says is lower than the actual total as many church members refuse to be tested even though they are do not feel well.
Wilson, the associate pastor, said that was a false description.
He said the church canceled a Wednesday night service after Reinman’s diagnosis and announced within every government department that gatherings were canceled for this week, including July 4 services. He said the church had sent several church-wide emails announcing cases of the virus within several families.
“At the start of the following week, reports of new cases of COVID ceased, and we continued to stay in touch and provide appropriate care to those who had been affected,” Wilson wrote.
The Rock canceled another service on Wednesday that week, Wilson said. And after reopening in the absence of new cases, the church “requested that people attend only if they were 100% healthy.”
“Until this email was written, there have been no new reports,” he wrote on Friday.
Critics insist that warnings to stay home when sick are summed up in the fine print at the end of longer messages.
Resistance to health restrictions linked to the coronavirus
Calvary Chapel The Rock has never welcomed government health restrictions. On April 5, 2020, as the pandemic began to bloom, Reinman tweeted a link to an anti-lockdown video from conservative website PragerU titled “The neglected victims of the quarantine”. From the pulpit, he frequently taunted the county’s stay-at-home ordinances and pushed their limits on worship, sources said.
Many of those messages arrived during Reinman’s pre-sermon presentations to the congregation, which are not posted online, Johnston said. But in a May 30 sermon available on the internet, the pastor told his flock, “We had to make a decision as a church about a year ago, what to do. We will either obey man when it comes to running the church of God. Or we will obey God. So all we did was wait on the Lord and do what we thought was right, serve him and be open.
The result? “A rushing and mighty wind has swept over this church,” said Reinman, who went on to describe The Rock’s membership growth, mission projects and charitable giving during the pandemic.
He said the congregation had almost doubled in size during this time. The church, Reinman added, was “not perfect, but blameless.”
Johnston and the two sources say, however, that The Rock fostered an atmosphere in which few worshipers wore masks during services and those who did were greeted with rolled eyes and at times openly mocked. Hardly anyone maintained 6 feet of social distancing at the chapel, and The Rock never stopped singing hymns inside, even when this activity was banned for fear it would spread the virus through droplets exhaled.