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 her son 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.”
Bishop said he talked to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and was asked by him to practice social distancing, which Solid Rock has done, officials said. A notice on the church website says families are kept six feet apart from one another, there are an increased number of sanitizing stations, the sanctuary has been scrubbed, there is no hand-shaking or hugging, youth groups have been cancelled and seniors encouraged to watch live video of the services, among other precautions.
Bishop said they are not trying to go against the government. He said that “the governor said have church but just be careful and praise God, that’s what we’re doing.”
But he also said these are troubling times, in which threats have been made because they continue to worship together, and he gave some examples.
“I hate you, I hope your family dies, we’re going to lock you in that church and I hope you all die together. All the things they’re saying and all that,” Bishop said. “When we get to heaven we’ll all be rejoicing, we’re gonna say it was worth it all, it was worth the world laughing at us, it was worth them saying you guys are sick in the head.”
As of Sunday afternoon Butler County had 61 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths. Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer confirmed a 77-year-old man who lived in the Oxford area died late last week.
“This is sad news for the family and friends of the man who passed, as well as for many others, including those working hard to prevent the COVID-19 disease from spreading,” Bailer said. “We are in this together. Our hearts go out to the family in their time of grief, and we send our deepest condolences.”
She and other health officials have said social distancing and frequent hand-washing is the best way to “flatten the curve” of the escalating pandemic.
Solid Rock Administrator Darrell Smith told the gathering he believes the pandemic is going to subside very soon.
“Easter Sunday, Amen, this thing will all be done and over with, Amen, I know that God is going to put it out,” Smith said. “Man they’re going say they won’t be able to explain it but we know, Amen, that God is in control.”