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Worship at home on holy days, clergy and officials plead

ST. LOUIS – This week is holy in the calendars of many faiths, and the faithful are being challenged as never before to find ways to observe the traditional rites in new ways. Ceremonies normally celebrated in groups have been canceled as the COVID-19 coronavirus ravages the world.

Al-Mu’minun Islamic Center, 1435 N Grand Blvd. in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood.
Easter, Passover, Ramadan – this year is unlike any other for Christians, Jews and Muslims, and the city of St. Louis is reminding residents that they need to maintain social distance. Confirmed cases of the virus are continuing to rise in the city and elsewhere.

A statement on the city’s website says that Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed is joining Bishop Elijah Hankerson of the Church of God in Christ and the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, and Pastor B.T. Rice of  New Horizon Seventh Day Christian Church, in urging churchgoers to worship from home, especially this Easter Sunday, April 12.

“While Easter is the holiest day in the Christian calendar, there are innovative ways that congregations can worship together, even from home,” Hankerson said.

“We must balance our faith, with love, care and compassion for the safety of our fellow parishioners.”

Reed warned area churches to follow the Stay at Home order .

“As much as we all want to be together to celebrate Easter, it is not safe to join together this year,” Reed emphasized. “I am encouraging everyone to stay home so that we can all be together to celebrate later this year.”

Hope United Church of Christ, 6273 Eichelberger St. in St. Louis Hills.
Rice also appealed to pastors to tell their congregations to stay home. Staying home on Easter is a way of fulfilling the commitment to love our neighbor, he advised.

Also on the website, city officials offered some ideas for remote worship.

“The City of St. Louis Department of Health is encouraging religious leaders to consider live streaming services and meetings or send out prerecorded presentations to members,” the city said.

Newstead Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, 4370 N. Market St. in The Ville.
 “These spring celebrations traditionally bring members of faith communities together to rejoice in their beliefs and enjoy fellowship. But with local, neighboring jurisdictions’, and state stay at home orders currently in effect to help slow the spread of COVID-19, this year requires a break from tradition. Under the stay at home order issued for the City of St. Louis, these large gatherings are prohibited.”
The Old Cathedral near the St. Louis riverfront.
Mayor Lyda Krewson addressed residents Friday afternoon in a livestreamed news conference on Facebook. She said she understood the disappointment of churchgoers on Easter weekend, but stressed: “There can’t be any church this weekend. I’ll be so direct with you.”You’re not going to be able to have your traditional Easter dinner, maybe on Sunday, with your family.”That goes for member of all faiths.

Krewson noted that one of the leaders of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, the Rev. Carl S. Smith, died of the virus on Thursday.

Smith, a former city police officer, was vice president of the coalition, Hankerson, the group’s president, wrote in a Facebook post.

Fredrick Echols, Director of Health for the City of St. Louis, reinforced the message: “The Department of Health is appealing to religious leaders throughout the metropolitan area to cancel in-person services, observances, and meetings and lend their voices to asking individuals to stay at home.”

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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