CLEVELAND — The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio announced Friday that it will be ending all in-person worship by Sunday. Dec. 13.
Congregations will be moved to online worship and will continue that way “until further notice,” according to Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.
The religious organization said that it expects in-person worship to be suspended through the end of the month and “very likely” into the new year.
All other in-person gathering will also be suspended, aside from feeding and clothing events as well as recovery ministries, the organization said.
Churches will be able to livestream or pre-record worship services from their buildings with a limited number of participants who are masked and at least six feet apart.
Episcopal Diocese of Ohio said that drive-thru and drive-in worship service will continue to be prohibited, as will any form of “virtual communion” in which a minister “blesses” bread and wine through a phone or online, or distributes pre-consecrated bread or wine to the congregation.
The Diocese of Ohio consists of 48 counties in northern Ohio and is based in Cleveland.
The suspension of in-person worship comes at a very meaningful time in the church, with Christmas approaching.
Episcopal Diocese of Ohio said that to address that, the Diocesan and Cathedral staffs are working to hold a diocesan-wide Christmas Eve service of Holy Eucharist and an intergenerational Christmas Day virtual service.
"As a religious community, we may be afforded certain exemptions by our government. As Christians, however, we are never exempt from caring for our neighbor and putting the safety of others before our own needs and desires. Taking these steps in this unprecedented emergency is, indeed, an act of faith and a witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus,” said Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., Bishop of Ohio. “I appreciate all that you continue to do in modeling and meeting the practical responsibilities demanded of us in this time of challenge, and thereby providing hope and companionship to those who are suffering illness, fear, and loss. In spite of all of this, we will hear again the angels sing and proclaim joy to the world with unfailing confidence in the incarnate love of God, who is Christ the Lord.”