BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - As new COVID-19 cases in Mississippi remain at alarming levels, churches are making changes to keep their congregations safe. Episcopal churches across the state are closing their doors in response to the record high numbers.
Generally on Sundays, a socially distanced crowd would fill the sanctuary of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. This Sunday, however, the Rev. Chris Robinson, priest in charge, preached to empty pews.
The church has returned to virtual services after leaders with the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi ordered last week for all in-person services to stop. In a letter, Bishop Brian Seage said the decision was made to fall in line with State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs’ recommendation against all social gatherings.
“I think it’s the right choice, it’s a difficult choice but I think the right choice at the right time,” said Robinson. “I hope and pray that our numbers will go down and get back in a safer place where gathering together is advisable.”
Robinson said moving to online only services was a difficult move, especially during Advent.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time trying to focus in on how do we present our services in such a way that they connect with our congregation and draw them into this mystery that is advent, even though we can’t be together in person.” said Robinson.
Since March, the church has switched to virtual services several times, but most recently, moved back to in person in September. While Robinson said he would love to see his congregation in person again, he puts their safety first above all.
He hopes other church leaders make the same considerations.
“While I know people want to be together, and want to be with their loved ones and with their church families during this difficult times, I think to ask themselves what’s the right thing to do for our church community,” said Robinson. “What would Christ call us to sacrifice and give up? And I think part of the thing to give up this year is that comfort of being around each other.”
The church hopes to return to in person in time for Christmas services, but said they are also planning for an online alternative.