'Manage The Best We Can': Hispanic-Led Church In Weld County Adapts To New COVID-19 Reality
In a large commercial building in Evans, there is a big auditorium. It’s dark inside, but the stage is backlit by purple fluorescent lights shaped like diamonds.
The Latin band on-stage is jamming, singing a Christian worship song.
“Yo soy el bendecido, porque bendecido estoy,” they sing in Spanish, that they are blessed that Jesus Christ came and transformed their life. “Es que vino Jesuscristo y mi vida transformo.”
This is Mosaic Church. Every Sunday there are three services, two in English and one in Spanish.
Angel Flores, Mosaic’s lead pastor, is bald, stocky and wears a v-neck sweater and slacks. Flores is 48, but looks a decade younger. As he shares a funny anecdote about his bad singing voice, his warm smile is infectious.
“If I sing, you won’t worship God,” he says as the congregation laughs.
Angel and his wife Diane founded Mosaic Church 13 years ago with a group of friends in their kitchen.
“We felt like there was an opportunity to create a church for unchurched people,” he said. “Our original tagline was a church for people who don’t really like church.”
“We strive to make Mosaic as welcoming, unweird, as we can,” she said. “You can invite your friends.”
Mosaic is an evangelical church. It is open to anyone and counts many young, working class families among its congregation. A year ago, nearly 700 people would come worship on any given Sunday. Then COVID-19 started, and congregants who are first responders or work at meatpacking plants started getting sick.
Keeping the congregation safe
After the service, Angel and Diane Flores sat in his office in bright gray and orange armchairs. As they talked about how the church has adapted to COVID-19, their easy, loving banter underscored their three-decades-long marriage.
They are working through the coronavirus pandemic together, which includes getting tough calls from church members.
“We got a call from a lady in our church who said, ‘Pastor, they’re about to intubate me.’ And so, I mean, that was that. It got real quick,” he said. “As her pastor, I’m telling her, like, ‘look, it’s going to be OK, you’re going to be fine. But real talk, you might be meeting the Lord soon. So, let’s, you know, let me pray with you.’”
During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, about two dozen congregants got sick with COVID-19 and recovered, including the woman who called Angel as she was being intubated. As a precaution, the church shut its doors in mid-March and moved online.
In April, Weld County had one of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths per capita in the state. Since then, the rates have dropped, but one statistic has remained constant: Hispanics and Latinos have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“I think that takes a mental toll on the community,” Angel said. “Everybody’s stressed out. Everybody’s tired of this. Everybody’s worn out.”
While Mosaic Church was doing its best to hold on, Angel and Diane Flores also had to navigate local politics. Throughout the pandemic, Weld County commissioners have not enforced the state’s COVID-19 regulations. They’ve encouraged personal responsibility instead, allowing residents to decide which public health guidelines to follow.
Over the summer, when Angel and Diane decided to restart in-person services, they were determined to do it safely.
“I’m called to love other people and so love our community,” she said. “The way that we love them the best is to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe and do our part.”
But the couple wasn’t sure what they should actually do. Since Weld County did not have any specific policies in place, they chose to follow Larimer County’s guidelines instead. They removed every other row of chairs and asked people to leave space between families or groups.
“We ask everybody to wear masks. We bought gallons of hand sanitizer,” he said. “Honestly, nobody really knows what we’re doing. We’re just trying to manage it the best we can.”
The new normal
In mid-June, Mosaic began worshiping again in-person at a greatly reduced capacity. Meanwhile, church members kept contracting the disease. Angel had three family members pass away from COVID-19 in a week.
“People are scared. So, they don’t want to come to church, we get that,” he said. “So that’s why we’re doing the online stuff to try and still keep them connected and engage their church family. But yeah, it’s been a trying time for sure.”
Mosaic streamed their services on several online platforms and utilized Facebook for announcements, prayer and fellowship.
But not everybody uses social media and one of Mosaic’s biggest struggles, said Diane, has been keeping congregants engaged.
“It’s hard to know that some people fell through the cracks and we don’t know where they’re at and we don’t know if they’re OK,” she said.
At the beginning of November, Angel tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m so bummed out to tell you this is happening to me,” he said in a video posted on Mosaic’s Facebook page. “Because the last thing I wanted to do was bring this into my house and to bring this into my church family.”
Diane also tested positive along with several staff members. So, in November the church had to close again for two weeks. In his Facebook message, Angel urged the congregation to remain diligent and stay safe.
“If you’re feeling sick, like get tested. This is serious, this whole COVID thing is not a joke,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says about the politics behind it or any of that ridiculous stuff, it’s real and it’s terrible. And I’m thankful that I seem to have gotten a mild case of it.”
Today, Mosaic is open with in-person services that continue to be streamed online. This is the new normal. Even though their delivery methods have changed, Angel and Diane plan to keep doing what they do, connecting people to Jesus and helping them grow their faith.
“I think our main focus during COVID is to provide hope for people, remind them that this will pass,” she said.
“This is not forever,” he interjected.
“This is not forever. There is still hope,” she continued.
“Once we get through this,” he said. “I know I’m going to appreciate worshipping with other people more than I ever have. Gathering with family, hugging people, shaking hands.”
This is part three of KUNC's series, "Over-Infected, Under-Resourced: COVID-19 Hits Colorado Latinos Hard." Click here for more stories.