Vet Voices

From gathering around a screen to gathering at the altar: New safety guidance for places of worship

Jefferson County

(WTRF) – In difficult times, some people turn to their faith, but in the height of COVID-19 gathering to worship became challenging.

No matter what denomination, precautions and guidelines were strict for safety. However, as the CDC relaxes its COVID guidelines churches have plans to do the same.

Had this occurred 30 years ago it would have been very difficult, but at least we have the virtual or online celebrations and I’m grateful to participate in it.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, Diocese of Steubenville

No matter what your faith online services became the short-term normal. In a time where worshipping together took some creativity, Temple Shalom in Wheeling turned to its spacious lawn to still gather. 

The scientific guidance seems to be that outside guidance seems to be very safe for everyone. We’ve embraced that and welcome folks to attend. We hope as the weather gets better that more and more people will join us.

Rabbi Joshua Lief, Temple Shalom

While outside and online services will remain there for a while, they are following along with the CDC’s guidance and fully-vaccinated individuals can go mask free. 

The Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is doing the same.

The danger is, and I will be monitoring this in the next few weeks, is all the folks who have not been vaccinated. They’re kind of on the honor system to wear their masks.

Bishop Mark Brennan, Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

Parishes are still social distancing in pews and using other safety precautions.

Bishop Brennan explained that he still washes his hands frequently during mass, wears a mask during Communion and when giving the sacrament of Confirmation to students.

I have to give credit to the people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and to the clergy and to their teams that sanitize the churches and all that because even up to this date we don’t know of any outbreak of Coronavirus traceable to a Catholic mass in West Virginia since May of last year.

Bishop Mark Brennan, Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

Bishop Brennan said he has a meeting next week with other Bishops in the Province of Baltimore and expects to have updated guidance for parishes then.

The Diocese of Steubenville plans to lift the majority of health restrictions on June 2, including mask wearing and social distancing so churches can return to full capacity. This coincides with the guidance for the state of Ohio.

However, certain guidance remain in place. Bishop Monforton urges parishes to frequently replace holy water to prevent the spread of germs.

There are those Holy Water fonts that constantly circulate water, which is very difficult for a virus to take root in there. Whereas other Holy Water fonts we’re familiar with that would be at the doorway, that water can stagnate. If you don’t’ change that water over a few days other things can happen to it as well.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, Diocese of Steubenville

The Precious Blood will also not be distributed to the congregation. The only two exceptions are for those who are completely gluten intolerant and cannot receive hosts and the bride and groom at wedding masses.

With all these orders, it also remains up to the discretion of the pastors of the churches. If they feel their congregation would like to still have certain guidelines in place, Bishop Monforton said they are welcome to keep them.

Bishop Monforton also adds that the obligation to attend Sunday mass and Holy Days of Obligation will be reinstated on June 5 and 6.

However, if your immune system is compromised or if just your body itself is having the challenges with regard to the immunity of COVID then of course you have to take that into consideration in determining whether or not you go.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, Diocese of Steubenville

All three leaders urge their congregations to get vaccinated. They said no matter what your faith, the message is the same; to love and protect thy neighbor. 

We just want to make sure that all of us are doing our part to think not only of our own health, safety and well-being, but also that of our neighbors and anything we can do to help folks feel safe and not get sick it’s our moral responsibility to do so. 

Rabbi Joshua Lief, Temple Shalom

Let’s fault on the side of charity and compassion. Jesus of course exercises his charity towards us and let’s be contagious with that charity towards one another as well.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, Diocese of Steubenville

To monitor the latest updates from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston visit dwc.org.

For the Diocese of Steubenville, visit diosteub.org.

Temple Shalom can be found at templeshalomwv.com.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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