While large numbers of churches have canceled services over coronavirus concerns, one congregation in Ohio is continuing to hold worship services.
Solid Rock Church, a nondenominational megachurch with campuses in Lebanon and Cincinnati, has decided against canceling services.
On its website, which was visited by The Christian Post on Friday, Sold Rock Church included a pop-up message explaining their decision to stay open.
“We at Solid Rock Church share everyone’s concern to help keep people safe. The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees freedom concerning religion, expression, and assembly. It specifically forbids congress from restricting an individual’s religious practices. Therefore, the government ban on large gatherings does not apply to religious worship,” the church noted in its statement.
“There is no pressure from Solid Rock Church to require anyone to come to our services. We are respectful of every individual’s right to choose either to come to our service or to watch online. We do believe that it is important for our doors to remain open for whomever to come to worship and pray during this time of great challenge in our country.”
The church is not expected to face any legal trouble, as religious services were exempted from a state order banning large gatherings.
The move has received a great deal of negative feedback, however, with a live stream of their Sunday service receiving some 3,000 negative comments, according to news station WHIO.
One online critic, quoted by WHIO, stated “you have a moral obligation to protect your flock … God gave us brains to use them.”
In response to the coronavirus, there has been some debate among different churches over whether to cancel in-person services and events.
Influential pastor and author Joel Osteen, among many others, canceled all services at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and instead broadcast his sermons online.
In a statement shared with The Christian Post on March 16, Lakewood reported that the decision led to a record number of viewers online.
“We saw 4.51 million people tune in throughout the weekend across platforms,” the church said. “This broke our previous record of 4.17 million in November of last year when we broadcast Kanye West’s Sunday service from Lakewood. This number could increase throughout the week.”
Other faith leaders, such as Roman Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke, have argued that churches should remain open, with efforts being made to accommodate calls for social distancing.
“Just as we are able to purchase food and medicine, while taking care not to spread the coronavirus in the process, so also we must be able to pray in our churches and chapels, receive the Sacraments, and engage in acts of public prayer and devotion,” wrote Burke in a post to his website.
“Historically, in times of pestilence, the faithful gathered in fervent prayer and took part in processions. In fact, in the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope Saint John XXIII in 1962, there are special texts for the Holy Mass to be offered in times of pestilence …”
In Arkansas, nearly 40 members of Greers Ferry First Assembly in Cleburne County have tested positive for the coronavirus following a youth event in early March.
“We currently have 37 that have tested positive, with only a small handful that are still waiting on test results," said pastor Mark Palenske in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday.
“We are familiar with the expanding scope of the Covid-19 crisis and that daily individuals are being treated and advised accordingly. Our prayers are that God would strengthen them just as he did with us.”