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.
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.”
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.
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.”