Churches Canceling In-person Worship Following Letter from Medical and Community Leaders
By LORETTA FULTON
More than a dozen Abilene churches, including one with two campuses, are canceling in-person worship services Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, and in some cases farther into the future, following a public letter signed by fifteen Hendrick Medical Center officials and community leaders expressing concern over the growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Also, Bishop Michael Sis of the Diocese of San Angelo, which includes Abilene’s four parishes, has dispensed Catholics in the diocese from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice.
One local congregation, Aldersgate United Methodist, announced it is canceling in-person worship through the end of the year.
Most of the churches canceling in-person services for the immediate future will livestream services on Facebook, YouTube, or the church’s website. Many also are conducting Zoom meetings and virtual prayer services. Check a church’s website or call the office for more information on accessing virtual services. If you would like to add a church to the following list, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Churches announcing temporary suspension of in-person worship:
- Southern Hills Church of Christ
- Aldersgate United Methodist
- St. Paul United Methodist
- Pioneer Drive Baptist
- Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
- First Central Presbyterian
- First Baptist
- Beltway (both campuses)
- Highland Church of Christ
- St. Luke Orthodox Christian
- Wylie United Methodist
- St. Mark’s Episcopal
- Grace Lutheran
Pastors announced the cancelations via email and postings on their websites. Some examples follow:
Beltway: “We as a church want to join our community leaders in seeking to bring a solution to this growing problem in our city. So, we as a church have made a difficult, but we feel necessary decision, to cancel our in-person services for the Sundays of November 22 and 29.”
Highland Church of Christ: “With the rising number of COVID cases in Abilene, the elders have decided to temporarily suspend our indoor, in-person worship service at Highland for the next two Sundays, November 22 and 29.” Livestsream services begin at 10 a.m. On Nov. 22, in-person services will be held in the outdoor settings, weather permitting. The Acre for university students meets at 9:30 a.m. Highland at the Park meets at 9 a.m. at Festival Gardens in Nelson Park. On Sunday, November 29 at 9 a.m., Highland at the Park will transition to “Highland at the Parking Lot,” which is the north parking lot on the Highland campus.
Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest: The Rev. David Romanik, rector, wrote in an email to parishioners, “I had hoped I would not have to write another one of these letters.” The email went on to announce that in-person services would be canceled for at least three Sundays, beginning Nov. 22.
On Thursday, Nov. 19, Hendrick Medical Center issued a public letter signed by hospital and community leaders titled “Calling all leaders in our community.” The letter began with a dire warning:
“Abilene is at a critical juncture, because what you do today affects what happens to our community and to our economy in two to four weeks. Hendrick has no open ICU beds in Abilene or Brownwood; there is no additional capacity. Hendrick has already started postponing “elective procedures,” including heart and brain surgeries, to preserve capacity for other critically ill patients. The unthinkable has happened, and we are on the trajectory to reach the level that will trigger a shutdown of our economy by the State within the next two weeks.”
The letter continued with pleas to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including canceling all non-essential gatherings.
“With the holidays approaching, we need you to be socially accountable for your actions. What you do today affects our community two weeks from now. Think of this holiday season as a season of sacrifice. Cancel all non-essential events. We cannot wait until after Thanksgiving to react to the climbing numbers in our community. Your actions can help us get to 2021 safely.”
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene