SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine’s ban for mass gatherings does not apply to religious services, but local churches are taking their own precautions.
For the rest of this month, Catholics in Ohio are not obligated to attend Sunday services. And two churches in northeast Ohio are offering online alternatives.
Some religious leaders say this outbreak is pushing churches to think outside of the box. Like shifting their strategies for holding the Sunday services so many need right now.
“It is forcing us to think about, more widely, how do we engage our congregation beyond the traditional ways of gathering?” Reverend Courtney Clayton Jenkins, the Senior Pastor and Teacher at South Euclid United Church of Christ, said.
“We want to utilize technology to bring hope to people in their homes,” Pastor Jenkins said.
For the South Euclid UCC, people are still welcome to come to services, but they’re encouraging parishioners to tune in to its “online ministry” where people can “attend” through broadcasts on Facebook, YouTube, and soon, Instagram.
But Pastor Jenkins says the broadcasts are about more than just being accessible. The goal is to still "fully engage" with people at home as if they were in the pews.
“Putting the lyrics on the screen allows them to sing from where they are. Utilizing the comments section allows people to give their prayer requests and share their concerns,” Pastor Jenkins said.
And even though large gatherings are discouraged, the church is asking people to gather in what they call "growth groups" only made up of a few people to worship together.
“Yes, we need social distance, but at the same time, engaging one another is what reminds us that we're human, that we need one another.”
The Word Church is also taking action by canceling all of its services this weekend.
Senior Pastor, Dr. Rainnell Vernon, says the church can easily bring in 10,000 people at all three of its locations combined, so at the advice of his doctor he wanted to err on the side of caution. He will still preach on Sunday and his congregation can watch from home.
“We're blessed to have so much online capability. We come on television every morning, we've almost perfected the idea of our members watching this at wordcity.org,” Pastor Vernon said.
And even though the circumstances are far from ideal, Pastor Jenkins says she's hopeful this will spark a creative change in church communities all over.
"What is the creativity, what is the imagination, what are the stories that that need to be told?”
The Word Church's services are streamed on their website on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. and Sundays at 11:15 a.m.