As the new coronavirus spreads throughout the state and the country, churches in Boulder County are beginning to cancel in-person services in order to preserve the health of the community.
The bishops of three Colorado Dioceses in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo have decidedthat they will cancel all public Masses, effective immediately. This announcement came justdays after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle suspended all public celebration of Mass,becoming the first Catholic archdiocese in the country to do so.
Mark Haas, the director of public relations for the Denver Archdiocese, said in a statement the organizations are prioritizing public health safety amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
Some organizations in Boulder County, such as Boulder’s Saint John’s Episcopal Church, will begin to participate in an online-only presence to prevent community spread. These organizations are using social media, like Facebook, to live stream services for people to tune into.
“Starting this weekend, we are moving our worship to an online presence,” said Reverend Amy Lythgoe, associate priest for family ministry at Saint John’s Episcopal Church. “We will not be gathering in person, but we still will be providing opportunities for both worship and faith formation connection.”
Lythgoe believes that the online worship sessions will not have a hugeimpact on what the community is trying to accomplish as a whole and that it serves as a reminderto people about what worship truly means.
“Sometimes I think we confuse what it means to worship,” Lythgoe said. “The ways we move through the world, the thoughts we have, the intentions we hold, and the way we interact is a way of expressing what we believe. In some ways, this experience helps us remember that what we hold dear isn’t reliant on a particular building or person. In my belief, God is with us in all of this and will be with us wherever we are and however we gather.”
But Minister of Community Engagement at the Refuge in Broomfield, Marrton Dormish, believes that the virus has made a very large impact on his community.
“It’s affected a lot. We’ve cancelled three events for this coming week,” Dormish said. “We will probably be meeting in smaller groups and using online platforms. What we will shift to is being a lot more focused on members in our community who are vulnerable and on their own. We are a community that tries to concentrate on being present for people who are at risk for different reasons.”
LifeBridge Church in Longmont is one of the many churches in the area that has cancelled church this Sunday and will update their website weekly about holding worship if it becomes safe enough to. The Hakubai Zen Center in Boulder has planned events in May but has cancelled practice upuntil the end of March due to the health concerns. They will also update their websites to updatetheir followers if it becomes safe.
The First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Longmont will also be closed for all gatherings for church members and the public. They are another church that hopes to re-open on April 4 for Holy Week services but will reassess the situation before deciding.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Boulder’s Well Church and Cornerstone Boulder have all moved to online services.
In Broomfield, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church will suspend all public workshops until at least April 1, Discovery Christian Church will be closed for two weeks but will have an online streamed service, Broomfield United Methodist Church is suspended until March 29, and Lutheran Church of Hope is also moving online.
Until there is a significant change about the health concerns surrounding the coronavirus, manymore churches and organizations may continue to move towards less in person meetings toprotect the health and safety of the community.
“It’s important to be together in a community, that’s just part of what it means to be human,” Dormish said. “We should postpone our gatherings for the benefits of our neighbors; none of us want to be responsible for making someone else sick. One thing we can remember at this time is how to love our neighbors.”