(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include First Christian Church and St. John United Methodist Church among local congregations that have suspended in-person worship. This story includes a partial list of Hopkinsville churches and their plans for worship during the coronavirus outbreak. Any church that would like to be added to this list should email information to email@example.com.)
At least four Hopkinsville churches are suspending in-person worship services, and some will instead ask parishioners to watch clergy conduct the Sunday service through a live video feed on Facebook or a church website. Other churches are changing long-standing practices, including how and when communion is served, to deal with concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
New Work Fellowship, First Christian Church and First United Methodist Church all plan to live-stream their Sunday, March 15, services rather than having in-person worship. Ministers expressed concerns that large gatherings might pose health hazards. In addition, St. John United Methodist said it would not have services or events for two weeks.
Kevin Lee, the pastor of New Work, said in a Facebook video that church leaders determined, “The wise and loving thing for us to do is to temporarily suspend all on-campus gatherings until Easter, April 12. Believe me, we feel the weight of that length of a suspension and we pray that circumstances change.”
The church’s priority is safety and to stay connected through the online platform and conference calls, he said.
Early in the week, Gov. Andy Beshear asked Kentucky churches to not conduct worship services this weekend. Most churches in Hopkinsville did not heed the governor’s request, but several acknowledged the concern and said they would follow health guidelines prevent more infections.
At First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Wade Miller announced late Saturday a change in plans. His sermon will be streamed live on Facebook at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. After the sermon, church leaders will meet to discuss how First Christian can respond to community needs. That could include making the church a meal site for children while schools are closed.
Here is a list of several churches and their plans for worshipping Sunday, March 15:
Durrett Avenue Baptist Church, 1919 Church St., will meet at its regular times Sunday — 9:30 a.m. for Sunday school and 11 a.m. for church.
First Baptist Church, 1400 S. Main St., will have its regular 10:45 a.m. Sunday service at the church. In addition, the service will be available live on Facebook.
First Christian Church, 2601 S. Walnut St., will not have in-person worship. The minister’s sermon will be live-streamed on Facebook.
First Presbyterian Church, 303 E. Ninth St., will have its regular worship service at 10:45 a.m.
First United Methodist Church, 1305 S. Main St., will not meet in person this Sunday. It will live-stream the service on Facebook at 9 a.m. In a Facebook post, the church announced, “After extensive discussion and in consideration of the recommendations of health care officials per preventative measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, it has been decided that (First United Methodist) will not have in-person worship services this Sunday, March 15. We will Facebook LIVE broadcast the 9 a.m. (modern) worship service using a format that should be easier to follow from home. We hope you will join us then if you either do not have a church home or aren’t able to attend your regular Sunday church service.”
Freeman Chapel CME Church, 137 S. Virginia St., will encourage members to keep a “social distance” in the sanctuary. Sunday school is at 9:30 a.m. and the worship service is at 11 a.m.
Grace Episcopal Church, 216 E. Sixth St., plans to meet this Sunday at its regular time, 10:15 a.m. Then the church vestry will determine its schedule on a week-to-week basis.
Hillcrest Baptist Church, 920 Skyline Drive, will continue to meet in its sanctuary. Sunday services are at 9 and 10:30 a.m. The second service is live on Facebook for anyone who is uncomfortable or unable to attend the service in person.
New Work Fellowship, 5050 Canton Pike, has suspended all gatherings at the church until Easter Sunday, April 12. Pastor Kevin Lee announced in a Facebook video that online services at regular times — 8, 9:20 and 10:50 a.m. Sundays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays — will be streamed live on the church’s Facebook page and on the church app. The church has set up a special web page with information about changes resulting from the coronavirus.
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 902 E. Ninth St., will continue its regular schedule for Sunday Mass — 10:30 a.m. for English and 2 p.m. Spanish. In addition, there are Masses at 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday. Parishioners who feel ill are encouraged to stay home and those who feel vulnerable, especially seniors and those with underlying health conditions, should not feel obligated to attend, the church said in a Facebook post. The Sunday Masses are broadcast live on WSPP Truth Radio, 93.5 FM.
Second Baptist Church, 720 W. Seventh St., will follow its regular schedule with worship at 10:15 a.m. The service can be seen on Facebook live. In a social media post, the church pastor described precautions that will be taken this week with communion. He wrote, “This week we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper in our service. As an added precaution, we will now change our process of delivering the bread and the cup. SBC has ordered pre-packaged elements that are individually sealed. We will pass out the elements prior to service to each person coming into the sanctuary. In this way, no contamination will occur from passing the plates down each row.”
Southside Church of Christ, 529 Country Club Lane, will maintain its regular in-person worship. A post on the church’s Facebook page included this explanation: “We will also be encouraging everyone to avoid any extra contact, such as handshakes and hugs — as difficult as that may be for some! … While we respect the governor’s recommendation, we believe that it is times like this when we most need the comfort, stability, and steadfastness that is provided by being a part of the church.”
St. John United Methodist Church, 2808 S. Virginia St., announced it would follow the recommendation of Bishop Leonard Fairley to not have services or events for two weeks.
(Jennifer P. Brown is the editor and founder of Hoptown Chronicle. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)