ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The pews are generally filled on Sunday at Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. But today, the sanctuary was nearly empty, except for a few with roles to play in Sunday service, as the church went virtual.
"You’re used to sitting here and shaking hands with people, seeing your friends, seeing your system of the community and that’s kind of different walking in and not seeing anyone here," said Bruce Bordeaux, a church member.
Bordeaux was there as his wife took part in the service.
"I’m glad that the technology is available to be able to do that. We can still reach the people in the church community and actually maybe other people that normally wouldn’t be here at this service," he said.
As a precaution during coronavirus concerns, the church made the decision to hold streaming services for at least the next couple of weeks.
"We wanted to do what we could to lower the curve of the pandemic spreading and we felt like this was the best way we could love our neighbors in this moment," said Rev. Andy Oliver.
Oliver said to help neighbors, they're starting a website to match those who can help with those who need help with things like errands and groceries.
"I know we can’t physically wrap our arms around each other in this moment, but we can find other ways to be church in this moment to be God’s loving embrace for those that are in need right now," said Oliver.
It's not the only church to make changes.
Hyde Park United Methodist Church announced it was suspending live worship services at the Hyde Park and Portico campuses, and using live video streaming for online worship.
Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa also announced it would take the same steps.
Grace Family Church in Tampa announced on social media it would hold only online services this weekend.
Village Presbyterian Church posted online it would have no church services or scheduled meetings until further notice.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended worship services and gatherings worldwide.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg also sent out a letter dispensing the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to those who are sick or their caregivers, those who are at a greater risk of contracting diseases due to age or infirmity and those who have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Rev. Gregory Park Parkes wrote in a letter, "As your Bishop, I encourage all of the faithful to unite in spiritual communion each Sunday whether you choose to attend Mass or not. Further, to protect public health and calm fears, I also dispense all the Catholic Faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass during the month of March. This dispensation will allow any who are concerned to stay home and avoid public gatherings in cooperation with civil officials. Please pray for courage and strength during this time."