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Oregon churches face challenge of vaccination checks

It's the first Sunday since Oregon guidelines require proof of vaccination to go unmasked inside. Portland churches are taking different approaches to the guidance.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It is the first Sunday since Oregon changed its mask guidelines to require proof of vaccination before being unmasked indoors. It appears many churches around Portland are deciding how best to deal with the guidelines, while some are disregarding them altogether.

At St. Mary's Cathedral, it's a Sunday Mass, with or without masks. The Archdiocese of Portland is not requiring them and is not following state guidance to verify vaccination at the door.

A group outside attended a smaller baptism ceremony before Mass. A young woman told KGW she's unvaccinated and was glad the church didn't ask.

“I think that's right, I don't think places should be able to require that and ask that of someone's medical history,” said Maria Salazar.

Other parishioners KGW spoke with were supportive of the church as well, but also prepared with masks.

“I feel like you have to trust people, you know it's too much of a hassle to ask everybody to pull their cards out to make sure that they're vaccinated, I'm gonna trust that they are,” said Julie Tierney, who said she’s vaccinated but wearing a mask to be extra safe.

Inside St. Mary’s Cathedral, it appeared roughly 70% of people were wearing masks.

Just two blocks away, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in NW Portland has been streaming services online during the pandemic.

And for the past few months has held in personal worship, gradually increasing the number allowed in, and requiring masks and social distancing.

“We've actually gotten really good at keeping each other safe; that really felt like holy work, loving thy neighbor is looking out for the safety of thy neighbor," said The Very Rev’d Nathan Larud.

Larud is Dean of the cathedral. He said they're up to 150 people inside, and following church guidance on vaccine checks.

“We're under pretty clear instructions from our Bishop that we will never police vaccination statuses, and so we don't police anything right; so you don't have to be a member or baptized or Christian to be a part of this space, so it doesn't make sense to make that a litmus test,” said Larud.

At Trinity Episcopal, everyone wears a mask, so there is nothing to compel asking for proof of vaccination.

And so they will stay masked for now, as people look forward to filling this cathedral with up to 600 people, hopefully in a few week's time.  And they look forward to getting back to all of the traditions.

"Just being able to sing together is one of the most powerful things and that's what I want my people to be able to experience. We have been without this for a long time and we need it,” said Larud.