FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In efforts to keep some of the most vulnerable community members safe from the coronavirus (COVID-19), area churches are closing their doors.
The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock has suspended Sunday Mass for all Catholics effective immediately.
In a statement, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock said the Diocese is trying to be pro-active rather than reactive and that certain measures must be put into place to "flatten the curve" of coronavirus cases.
Public Masses will be suspended starting the weekend of March 21-22, except for small groups at the discretion of the priest. Whenever possible, churches will be kept open during daylight hours for private prayer and Eucharistic Adoration as an alternative to Sunday Mass.
Father John Antony of Immaculate Conception in Fort Smith says this greatly impacts his congregation of around 2,000.
“To not be able to celebrate that in the midst of our community is a real disappointment,” Father John said. “We want to reduce the opportunities for that community spread to take place.”
Father John says the Catholic Church had decided to take some precautionary measures leading up to this.
“The bishop before these recent latest changes asked us not to shake hands during what’s called the sign of peace,” Father John said.
Catholics are not the only ones canceling services.
Southside Church of Christ in Rogers has ceased its weekly programs such as evening Bible study.
Church leaders say their Sunday service will more than likely be canceled next.
“This is all about protecting the most vulnerable among us,” said Southside Church of Christ Lead Minister David Ayers.
Ayers says there is still going to be Sunday morning service for now. He says the church is even willing to use their space as a resource for the community.
“I know there’s going to be needs associated with our schools if those closed, we’re gonna need to find a place for kids to eat lunch so that something that’s been on the table for us,” Ayers said.
Ayers says this may come as an inconvenience to some, but it is ultimately the right thing to do.
“If it means saving a life or just making the illness not as bad it’s something we’re willing to do,” Ayers said.
Cross Church has also canceled Sunday services at all locations for March 15. Those services will still be streamed online for those who would like to watch.
For further information on services and activities visit crosschurch.com/health.