Churches take precautions against coronavirus


Houses of prayer aren’t immune to the coronavirus, and as the disease spreads nationally, local churches are taking precautions to protect their congregations.

This list is not exhaustive. The Herald sought to provide a sampling of how local churches are responding to the virus.

In Jasper, Redemption Christian Church has canceled all of its in-person masses. Following the governor’s request to limit large crowd gatherings, a group of leaders at Redemption has decided to take its services online.

“At least for this weekend,” Daniel Ross, executive minister at the church, said this morning. “So, what we’re going to do, is we’re going to record a service here in actually just a few minutes, and have that available on demand starting Sunday morning at 8 o’clock Eastern time.”

That service will be available on YouTube, as well as the church’s application that can be opened on smartphones and other streaming devices. Redemption is encouraging members to gather in small groups in their homes while they take in the word. Ross explained that while online services are not ideal, the need to continue them will be assessed on a week-to-week basis.

“Because we are a larger church, we want to honor the governor’s request to limit those large crowd gatherings,” Ross explained. “We want to be good stewards of the public health, we want to love our neighbors, we want to strive for public safety.”

He continued: “And this is a unique time in the nation, so we’re asking everybody to just live their lives like Jesus has called us to live our lives. So, we don’t live in fear, and we don’t live in a panic, but we remember that God’s in control. We want to live our lives in light of that.”

Smaller churches are taking smaller precautions. Friday morning, Kim Mohr, office administrator with Salem United Church of Christ in Huntingburg, said the church will still host its 10 a.m. service on Sunday. The passing of the peace, a traditional service staple, will not be part of the sermon, and hand sanitizer has been stocked in pews.

Jan Renner, who serves on various leadership councils at the church, encouraged people to stay calm. Don’t panic, but stay well, she said, adding that anyone who has a fever or is sick needs to stay at home to avoid the spread or contraction of illness.

“That’s probably the biggest thing in Huntingburg,” she said. “Stay home.”

According to a press release from the Catholic Diocese of Evansville, parish Mass and other sacramental schedules remain in effect as usual.

“If you are ill, you are excused from attending Mass,” the release reads. “However, Bishop [Joseph] Siegel has issued a dispensation from the obligation of Mass attendance on Sundays and Holydays for all the faithful in the diocese and travelers present in the diocese. Members of the faithful who are elderly, particularly those with underlying health conditions, and those with a comprised immune system or who are ill are encouraged to take advantage of this dispensation. Those who take advantage of this dispensation are encouraged to pray at home and/or watch a televised Mass if possible.”

The diocese called for parishes to cancel, without exception, religious education and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes, youth and young adult ministry events, meetings of parish committees, fish fries and other fundraisers, through April 6.

Based on these measures, Mass will also continue as planned at Christ the King Parish in Ferdinand and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Huntingburg. At St. Isidore Parish in Celestine, decisions will be made this afternoon within the parish, and at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper, updates will be made this afternoon.

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