Hillsboro church congregations alter service schedules due to pandemic

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Posted: Friday, March 20, 2020 6:00 am

Area churches are quickly altering service and activity schedules during the busy Lenten season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as church officials attempt to follow guidelines limiting gathering sizes and close physical contact.

Several churches have canceled upcoming services in an attempt to help parishioners self-isolate to limit potential exposure to the new coronavirus. 

But area pastors admit the current calendars by no means are set in stone.

“Changes can occur rapidly,” said Rev. Tim Bauer of Hillsboro United Parish, who noted that future cancellations could be adjusted depending on how the virus spreads.

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Hillsboro canceled all activities Wednesday, March 18, according to Rev. Julie Johnson.

She said the church’s executive committee would be meeting late Thursday afternoon “to discern and decide about Sunday services, Wednesday Lent services and other activities at church, including funerals.”

The executive committee meeting took place after the Banner went to press Thursday.

Bauer said United Parish has canceled all activities and services for the remainder of March and that resuming services in April will be discussed later this month.

Bauer encouraged all attendees to take proper precautions when services resume.

“Acknowledging and greeting one another can and will be accomplished without handshaking,” he said. 

While services are canceled, Bauer intends to reach out to parishioners from a distance.

“Weekly communications including focused devotions and reflections via USPS and email will become standard practice for a few months until the pandemic subsides,” Bauer said.

Hillsboro’s St. John Lutheran Church has canceled all services and activities until March 29.

Rev. Allen Kramp of St. John said the church is adhering to guidance issued by public officials and church leaders, and said the church will encourage parishioners to follow public health recommendations when services resume.

“St. John will also implement social distancing practices when we next gather, with no handshaking, passing of offering plates and increased use of sanitizers, encouraging our people to keep a distance from each other and those who are ill or with immune deficiencies to self-quarantine,” said Kramp.

No schedule changes have been made at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Hillsboro, although Father Casey asked that parishioners “exercise special precautions during the celebration of the Mass and implement protocols at parish functions” to help limit exposure to the new coronavirus.

He also asked that those in attendance at St. Rose of Lima functions avoid physical interaction, such as extending handshake greetings, and noted that antibacterial solutions and disinfectant wipes would be made available at church entrances.

Casey discouraged parishioners from attending services if they’re experiencing symptoms or suspect they may have been exposed to the virus. 

Those not in attendance can watch masses broadcast at ewtn.com or other websites.

Farther north, all worship services and activities for Central Valley Parish have been canceled until March 27.

Above all, church officials urged parishioners to exercise safe health practices and decide which services and events they attend when schedules resume.

“Individuals are encouraged to decide for themselves regarding their participation in activities,” added Bauer.

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