Local churches take differing approaches in response to virus

Catholic worship services will continue in the Diocese of Lexington, but Bishop John Stowe has said because of concerns over the novel coronavirus, Catholics are under no obligation to attend Mass.

The Rev. Frank Brawner, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Winchester, said Thursday he would urge his parishioners not to attend unless they feel they should.

All nonessential events and services are canceled, Brawner said, but Mass will continue on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. for those who feel they should attend.

The host will be offered in the form of the bread, but use of the chalice has been suspended for now, and the holy water font has been removed.

There will be no physical contact, the priest said, and church staff are working on a plan for “social distancing” of parishioners to keep them a few feet apart.

“There is no obligation to go to Sunday Mass,” Brawner said, adding that he recommends worshipers should “err on the side of caution.”

Confession will still be offered.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recommended Wednesday morning that churches cancel this weekend’s services because of several confirmed cases of the potentially-deadly respiratory illness in Kentucky.

In Clark County, churches have responded differently.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church, for example, following the advice of Lexington Bishop Mark Van Koevering, has suspended public worship, meetings and social gatherings for the coming weeks.

The Rev. Jim Trimble, the parish priest, said he will livestream morning prayer on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. Sundays, March 15 and 22, and he encourages parishioners to participate in the prayer service at home.

Trimble urged communicants to “practice a Lenten fast” from public worship for the next two weeks as “an act of love toward your neighbor, especially the elderly and vulnerable.”

For those who abstain from the sacraments, Trimble said, he will give a dispensation from their obligation.

Across town at Winchester First United Methodist Church, however, the senior pastor, the Rev. Farley Stuart, is taking a different approach.

In a letter to parishioners, he said he is inclined to have worship at the 10:15 a.m. service at the church’s main location on South Main Street, but said Sunday school would be canceled. That would be his recommendation for First Fire and Trinity UMC services on North Main Street as well.

He said he would also try to have the service live streamed on Facebook, and he urged caution in greeting those who do attend on Sunday. His reasoning, he said, is this is a time for people to come together and pray for the sick and vulnerable, medical professionals and others.

“This is a time we can stand in our faith and ask for God’s intervention in our world,” he said.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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