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Pastor beats COVID, returns to pulpit, but his Santa Rosa church remains unmasked

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“For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living!”

Ross Reinman called out that message to the congregation of Calvary Chapel The Rock, the Santa Rosa church he pastors, in his prayer to start off the 9:30 a.m. service last Sunday.

Reinman put particular emphasis on “land of the living,” and his words were greeted with thunderous applause and whoops of joy.

Pretty much everyone in attendance at The Rock knew Reinman had come perilously close to exiting the land of the living. As the pastor went on to recount in his “pre-sermon,” as his opening remarks are known, he had spent two weeks in a hospital ICU, stricken with a serious bout of COVID-19, then had labored through another month and a half of slow recovery.

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Spring Hills Church agrees to stop indoor services after fines for violating Sonoma County public health order

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People walk through the parking lot between services at Spring Hills Church in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sunday, January 31, 2021. (NO BYLINE/ The Press Democrat)

A north Santa Rosa church that refused to curtail large, indoor services in defiance of Sonoma County health orders and state guidelines agreed to change course Sunday after the county fined the church twice over the weekend.

Spring Hills Church Pastor Bret Avlakeotes said the church would yield to the county’s direction to move services outside while holding out hope — and leading his congregation in prayer — for a U.S. Supreme Court intervention.

“We’re not looking to prove anything, and we’re not looking for a fight, alright?” Avlakeotes told his congregation Sunday. “If the county’s going to come in and is going to fight us all the way, then we’ll probably let them win this one. We’ll go outside.”

Avlakeotes, who announced the new direction Sunday during three indoor services at the Fulton Road church, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

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