Cincinnati area interfaith leaders gathered Friday with Mayor John Cranley and urged people to use online worship services in the coming weeks in adherence with the Ohio order forbidding most gatherings of more than 100 people.
Churches are exempt from the order, but said they believed the faithful should follow best practices.
“The way to quell this thing is by containment,” said Pastor Damon Lynch III from New Prospect Baptist Church. “There is no vaccination that we know of, there are not enough tests. The only way to deal with this is containment.”
Crossroads Church canceled all services, said Crossroads Pastor Brian Tome.
“Our faith … says in the Book of Second Timothy, Chapter One, Verse Seven, God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of love, power and self-disipline so we have canceled all events at Crossroad this weekend.”
Tome continued: Some people would say ‘You’re giving in to fear.”
“No, we want to love people by not spreading a virus,” he said.
Some people who say “You’re looking weak.”
“No, we’re being powerful because we’re not being ruled by fear. We’re being disciplined because we love our city,” Tome said. “We love our region. We love our people. Just because we all canceled services, we still have significant and serious ministry to do.”
Some houses of worship are canceling all in-person services and asking people to livestream from home, while others are staying open with caveats.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has dispensed Catholics who reside in Ohio and all other Catholics currently in Ohio from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass for the rest of the month.
On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that all schools would be closed starting Monday and that any public gatherings of more than 100 people are not permitted except for a few exceptions that included churches and other houses of worship.
“Out of concern for the common good and the physical as well as spiritual well-being of all of the people of Ohio, we have agreed to cooperate with the governor’s direction to create ‘social distance,’” according to a statement from the Roman Catholic bishops of Ohio.
A release from the Cincinnati Archdiocese states those who choose to attend masses are allowed to do so with restrictions: no hand-holding and no exchanging a sign of peace.
Officials said the Archbishop has temporarily restricted reception of Holy Communion from the chalice but reception of Holy Communion in the form of the host will continue.
Those who choose to stay home can livestream Mass from the Cathedral of Saint Peter in chains online at catholiccincinnati.org.
“As much as possible, we would like to see parish Mass schedules remain unchanged to allow the faithful to offer worship to almighty God and receive the great grace of the sacraments during this trying time; however, we recognize that this may not be possible because many of our senior priests may themselves be at risk. We ask for understanding and flexibility in this regard,” Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr said in a statement.
Fish fries across Greater Cincinnati are also canceling events in light of the coronavirus.
Crossroads Church will be moving all weekend services online. All Crossroads buildings will be closed to the public until further notice. Regular services will be available online at crossroads.net.
The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, located in West Chester, has canceled both Jummah prayers for Friday, March 13. All other events – including Sunday School – have been canceled through March 24, according to a release. Shaikh Hossam will be livestreaming a Khutba.
Bishop Gregory Palmer of the United Methodist Church is strongly urging West Ohio Conference churches to cancel public worship for the next two weeks.
“These precautions are for the health and safety of everyone. He is not asking you to cease operations completely but to avoid large group gatherings,” a statement from the conference said. “Please remember the poor and marginalized still depend on our churches. The need may increase due to company shutdowns and closures for any period of time.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is suspending all church services worldwide until further notice.
No one is required to attend Mass the weekends of March 14-15, March 21-22 and March 28-29.
Danae King of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.