Episcopal churches throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia area suspended worship services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bishops who oversee Episcopal congregations throughout the DMV said church buildings will be closed until March 25, The Washington Post reported. This includes Sunday worship services and weekday activities, Bishops Mariann Budde and Susan Goff said.
Services at the Washington National Cathedral, the second largest cathedral in the United States, will also be suspended. Chief Communications Officer Kevin Eckstrom told the Daily Caller News Foundation that one “virtual” worship service will be held on Sunday at 11:15, and people can tune in via cathedral.org.
The last time churches canceled all services over health concerns was for the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, bishops said. (RELATED: ‘I Am The Individual’: DC Priest With Coronavirus Reportedly Gave Communion At Services With More Than 500 In Attendance)
Sixty-year-old Budde is in charge of 88 congregations in Maryland and the District, according to WaPo. Goff, who oversees the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, said 179 Virginia churches will close.
Budde said she made the decision to suspend services after consultations with other national church leaders, reading guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and receiving anxious texts from priests about worship guidelines.
“They were feeling increasingly anxious,” Budde told WaPo. “The confusion was getting higher by the minute.”
The Episcopal Church contains many elderly people and Episcopal leaders do not want to put these elderly at risk, Budde added.
“The consequences are enormous financially,” she said. “We can’t put money first. If the church put money first, shame on us. We have to do what’s right. We’re part of the social fabric. We need to be part of the communal response to stem the tide of this virus.”
News of the DMV church closures came after a D.C. rector confirmed Sunday that he had been diagnosed with coronavirus. Christ Church spokesman Rob Volmer confirmed to the DCNF Monday that about 550 parishioners from the greater D.C. area who attended a March 1 service at the Georgetown church are in voluntary self-quarantine through March 16.
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