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Tampa Bay area churches breaking from tradition to combat the spread of coronavirus

Local churches change tradition during lent in response to coronavirus
Posted at 7:25 PM, Mar 09, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay area churches are rethinking tradition in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Worshippers can expect changes from the pulpit during one of the holiest times of the year for Christians — lent.

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There is a break from tradition at Allendale United Methodist Church when it comes to hearing the word of God. Reverend Andy Oliver is taking action in response to the coronavirus by making serious changes.

“I think it’s important as a public gathering space to take an abundance of caution especially since this virus is affecting disproportionately those who are most vulnerable -— our senior citizens," he said.

During communion, they are no longer dipping consecrated bread into the chalice, a practice known as intinction. Instead of sharing the chalice, members will all get individual cups.

“The best way we can love our neighbor and specifically our older neighbors is to take this seriously and protect their health," said Rev. Oliver.

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When exchanging the sign of peace Rev. Oliver is asking for no hugs or handshakes.

“Encouraging people instead of hugging to tap elbows or to greet this way," he says as he bows.

One of the biggest sources of potential contamination is the offering plate. It gets passed from person to person. But now it is staying put. A box will stay near the front of the church. Members can drop- off their donations there. The reverend has also eliminated attendance sign-in sheets.

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He says he's ready for a more extreme measure should the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest it. No congregants in the pews instead they can tune-in to a live stream of Sunday service on social media. Allendale UMC already provides streaming of its services on Facebook.

“We have sibling churches in Seattle, which is ground zero for the coronavirus, they chose not to have worship this past Sunday so we will be listening to the CDC," he said.

Over in Washington D.C., a priest has tested positive for the coronavirus. Around the nation, other places of worship have taken steps to address coronavirus. Synagogues are similarily offering online streams of their services and for followers of Islam, the Muslim Pilgrimage of Umrah is temporarily suspended.