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Christians ask all priests and pastors to suspend in-person worship

Wednesday, March 18, 2020  
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An open letter from members of Faithful America asks pastors to "flatten the curve" by seeking new ways of providing pastoral care and community.

Nearly 5,000 Christians have signed an open letter calling on every church that has not yet suspended in-person worship services to do so immediately.

The letter was organized by Faithful America, the largest online community of Christians putting faith into action for social and economic justice. It reads,

"As Christians, we call on every church, bishop, pastor, and priest to suspend in-person events until the COVID-19's exponential curve has been flattened, including worship services.

"The best way to follow a savior who healed the sick is to slow the spread of this novel coronavirus, which we can accomplish only by loving our neighbors from a safe distance. Together we can find new ways of being God's church in the world, exploring innovative new approaches to worship, pastoral care, and community.

"To leaders who have already taken the painful step of suspending in-person worship, we say thank you."

In a statement, Faithful America campaigns director and Episcopal priest Rev. Nathan Empsall said,

"As moral leaders, it often falls to priests and pastors to make unpopular decisions. If a governor or mayor has not yet locked down a city over COVID-19, it is still the pastor's responsibility to care for their parishioners and do what is right for the larger community. Right now, that means saving lives by heeding health experts' advice to flatten the coronavirus curve.

"Faithful America's members take heart that when Jesus said he will be among those who gather in his name, he did not say they have to gather in person. Ultimately, the church is not a building -- it is God's people, wherever we are. If we have faith that God will show us the way, then we can spend these next few weeks prayerfully seeking new ways to offer God's children the love and support they need."

There are abundant resources available online to help pastors learn how to run digital services. Faithful America recommends beginning with the Sojourners article "Community Without Communing: Resources for Virtual Church." Churches whose parishioners are largely without computers might consider services like for audio-only prayer services.

Pastors may also consider directing parishioners to other churches already offering online worship in order to put their own time and energy into phone-based pastoral care, online Bible studies, organizing food deliveries and phone trees to support the shut-in, and promoting advocacy efforts that push the government and corporate employers to do more to protect the vulnerable.



Rev. Nathan Empsall
(203) 343-0549

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