Churches close, offer online services, limit number of people attending services


Local churches are finding creative ways to balance the need for people to come together to worship while still trying to keep them from potentially spreading the coronavirus.

While some religious institutions have decided to cancel services for the next few weeks, others are utilizing the power of technology and social media.

Even those churches keeping their doors open are implementing precautionary measures, including limiting the number of people gathering to 50 or fewer and observing social distancing practices.

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The Rev. Ralph Blomenberg, head pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour, one of the community’s largest congregations, said the church will not close but will offer other options for members, especially those most vulnerable due to age or compromised health.

“We believe worship services are essential gatherings and plan to have services as normal, while also taking extra precautions,” he said.

Immanuel’s Sunday service can be heard on local radio stations AM 1390 and FM 99.3 at 9 a.m. or live-streamed from the church’s website at

Due to the size of Immanuel’s sanctuary, there is plenty of space for people to distance themselves from others if they so choose, Blomenberg said.

The church also has increased sanitation in the sanctuary, including regular cleaning of door handles and pews, to help prevent the spread of illness.

“We will encourage good handwashing before and after contact with others, which is the single best way to prevent the spread of sickness,” he said.

Elders and all of those involved in the serving of communion have received additional instructions, and those receiving the sacrament will have choices as to how they receive it.

“We are not aware of any incidents where the virus has been spread in worship,” he said. “We trust that our members can make good decisions about attending worship.”

Father Dan Staublin of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Seymour said he will continue to lead daily Mass, but people are under no obligation to attend.

“We pray these adjustments to our life of faith are short-lived, but we must be attentive to the situation and be responsible,” he said. “Stay home and stay safe as we pray for health for each of us and our world.”

At First Presbyterian Church in Seymour, worship, Sunday school and Bible classes are going on as scheduled, but the church is making a couple of changes.

Rather than passing around offering plates, members wanting to give can do so by leaving money in the plates in the sanctuary, said Pastor Scott Hookey. During the normal offering time, members are asked to spend time in reflection, thanksgiving and prayer, he added.

Also, instead of passing around the elements of communion, members will be asked to come forward to receive the bread and the cup, Hookey said. Elders will serve those who are unable to stand on their own.

The Point in Seymour continues to hold its Sunday services but is abiding by state-issued guidelines to reduce the number of people gathering, said Pastor Steve Greene.

Members are being asked only to enter through the church’s main canopied entrance on the west side of the building so they can be counted.

Services can be watched online at

To ensure a clean and safe environment, the church is taking several steps to protect people.

Greeters will hold doors open or the doors will be propped open to lessen potential contamination, Greene said.

Also, greeters are being advised not to shake people’s hands but instead to wave and smile to visitors.

To keep people from touching the same surfaces, worship fliers will have to be picked up near the entrance to the church and will not be handed out. The same goes for offering plates. Congregants can leave their offering in the plates as they exit instead of passing them around.

Brownstown Presbyterian Church is still having services as usual and is inviting anyone displaced from their own church to attend.

“We have a small congregation, so we have plenty of room to spread out,” said member Megan White. “We certainly would welcome anyone who can’t make it to their home church because of numbers.”

But the church is mindful of people’s health and encourages them to use their best judgment.

“We are working on making worship services available online, as well,” she said.

Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Seymour will have services as usual but is taking precautions, too. The church is asking people to wash their hands, cough or sneeze into their elbow, refrain from shaking hands and other forms of physical touch, keep some distance from each other and use paper towels to turn sink faucets on and off as well as open doors.

“We are a small church, so if anyone has a church home that will be closed and you want to attend, we encourage you to check us out,” said Amy Roberson, wife of pastor Kenny Roberson.

But some churches have come to the conclusion that it’s better to be safe than sorry and are canceling services.

Brownstown United Methodist Church is closing for two weeks, but pastors will stream their messages live on the church’s Facebook page.

Uniontown Baptist Church also has canceled services for the next three weeks in an effort to protect its elderly members.

Pastor Brynen Chitwood of Crothersville United Methodist Church and Cana United Methodist Church in Paris Crossing said after much deliberation and prayer, a decision has been made to close both churches for the next three weeks. Services will resume April 5.

“We hope and pray that everyone will wash their hands, stay away from others that are sick and may God place his righteous right hand on this virus,” Chitwood said.

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