Solid Rock Church, a Monroe church that local and state leaders have urged to stop holding large in-person services during the coronavirus pandemic, has modified its worship practices but will remain open.
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“We agree that we must all comply with Governor DeWine’s administrative order and we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of anyone who comes to Solid Rock Church. We have scaled back our normal services; and there are not large numbers of worshipers in the facility, but we are open and continuing to practice and sustain our faith,” the church said on its website Saturday. “Fortunately, our facility is large enough that we are able to easily ensure that everyone who is physically in the facility is practicing the physical distancing; we are providing additional cleaning and hand sanitizing stations; and we are holding some services outside to allow for more distance.”
Church leaders said youth activities have been cancelled, older members are being encouraged to stay home and access services electronically, there are no shaking hands or hugs, and “there is no collection or communion in a normal sense, just prayer and worship.”
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But the church will remain open.
“We are so grateful that Governor DeWine provided for places of worship in his order, so it did not infringe on people’s religious liberties or the First Amendment. We can assure everyone that the health and well being of our members, staff and community is critical and the top priority. Yet after prayer and spiritual reflection, we made the decision not to close our church for those who need it because right now faith communities play a vital role for our members and especially the most vulnerable,” the website says.
The explanation comes after several weeks of complaints about the church continuing to hold worship services. Monroe Mayor Jason Frentzel has written to the pastors to implore them to reconsider holding in-person services for the protection of their members and the community.
In the letter sent Thursday, Frentzel told Pastors Darlene Bishop and Lawrence Bishop II that the city has received several complaints from residents and from surrounding communities about the continuation of their worship services during the coronavirus pandemic.
“While I understand that you have the right to assemble, I also understand the community’s concerns with having such a large gathering coming together in this current environment,” Frentzel wrote. “I implore you to please reconsider your choice to continue to offer in person services to your worshipers.”
On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine fielded two questions about churches and businesses that continue to operate or are not following state guidelines such as social distancing. He said the government has to take action when actions, even in happening in private lives, endanger others.
“Any pastor who brings people together in close proximity to each other, a large group of people, is making a huge mistake,” DeWine said. “It is not a Christian thing to do. It is not in the Judeo-Christian tradition to hurt people.”
He noted that many other faiths and congregations have cancelled their in-person services and have gone to remote or virtual services during the pandemic.
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Staff Writer Ed Richter contributed to this report
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