To church or not: Alabama churches alter worship plans for virus concerns

Some Alabama churches are calling off traditional services and moving worship online this weekend after confirmation of the state’s first case of the new coronavirus.

The Episcopal bishop for Alabama, Rt. Rev. Kee Sloan, has told all the denomination’s churches to cancel their usual services, meetings and even postpone funerals for the rest of March.

The church has about 32,000 members and nearly 90 parishes in the state.

“I hate to do this. The gathering of God’s people in worship is such a huge part of who we are and what we do. But I think that this is the best way to serve our congregations and the communities in which we live,” said a statement from Sloan released Friday.

Several large Baptist and Methodist churches also canceled in-person services and planned to livestream worship so people could watch on their computers or phones.

Some churches that intended to continue operating as usual made plans to quit greeting members and visitors with handshakes and to collect donations in ways other than the usual method of passing an offering plate.

The state health department advised organizations to cancel any gatherings of 500 people or more Friday after announcing a person in Montgomery County tested positive for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

A large church with nearly two dozen campuses all over the state, Church of the Highlands, said it planned to continue with usual worship services but was in contact with government officials.

“Of course, use wisdom as you plan your weekend and the days ahead. If you’re feeling sick in any way, stay home, and join us online,” the lead pastor, Chris Hodges, said in a message to members on Instagram.

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