Easter, Passover bring renewed warnings over gatherings during stay at home order

Posted at 4:28 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 14:20:13-04

Public health officials are issuing renewed calls to refrain from public worship services during the coronavirus outbreak as both Easter and Passover approach this weekend.

While the vast majority of worship services have been suspended or moved online, some have not.

Solid Rock Church outside of Cincinnati recently posted a notice on its website that while "it has scaled back services and practicing social distancing," it remains open.

The church says its worship space is large enough to avoid contact with others.

Last week, Governor Mike DeWine emphatically urged churches to voluntarily observe the state's stay at home order.

"Any pastor who brings people together in close proximity is making a huge mistake," warned Dewine.

In Northeast Ohio, at least two much smaller churches remain open.

Pymatuning Community Chapel in Andover reports on a video on its website last week that "We are here tonight with a skeleton crew with tape measures making sure we're social distancing--not making fun of that--just for the record."

Another Ashtabula County church, "TheMoveMinistries", also posted on its website that "the church is essential and should remain open."

Neither church responded to our request for an interview.

Meanwhile, larger, mainstream denominations are complying with the request to voluntary close public worship services.

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland as well as many parishes are live streaming Sunday liturgies --including daily Mass.

Many others have gone online as well, such as Strongsville United Methodist Church, where Pastor David Scavuzzo concedes "its really hard--people are grieving, not being connected in worship, not being in groups face to face."

David Bernard, the General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International with 200 churches across Ohio and nearly 5,000 in the United States and Canada, says he has "encouraged them to follow public health directives".

"We trust God and we pray. But we respect government authority in their sphere of influence," says Bernard.

But as the coronavirus is approaching its peak in Ohio, there are renewed calls for compliance.

The Summit County Health Department is issuing a new warning to churches urging compliance and enlisted the help of a local pastor and longtime Summit County Judge Todd McKenney to get out the message.

"First, I would tell pastors--it would be best not to do this, it's just not good right now. And to the people in the churches I would say this is a good Sunday not to go."

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