PCUSA leaders urge Seattle churches to cancel worship over coronavirus; megachurches close

A sign reminding people to wash their hands is pictured outside a dormitory at the Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy which has been designated as a 2019 novel coronavirus quarantine site for travelers from Hubei Province, China who have been exposed, are not yet symptomatic and cannot self-quarantine, February 6, 2020 in North Bend, Washington. |

A Washington State-based regional body of Presbyterian Church (USA) is encouraging congregations in the Seattle area to cancel in-person worship services due to the coronavirus.

The Presbytery of Seattle posted a letter to its website last Friday that was signed by the Reverends Eliana Maxim and Scott Lumsden, the co-executive presbyters of the regional body. The leadership of the presbytery stated that it was “time to cancel regular worship” due to the recently reported cases of coronavirus in the state.

“Eliana and I, as pastoral leaders in this presbytery lament this conclusion, but believe in our hearts that it's in the best interest of our community, our neighbors, our parishioners, our family, and our friends,” they stated.

“Jeremiah told us to ‘seek the welfare of the city ... and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’ (29:7) So let us turn our corporate worship into prayers for our community.”

They went on to explain that their decision was in keeping with a recent King County Health Department recommendation to “cancel large gatherings."

“We appreciate all the good work your churches have done to mitigate the spread of this virus, and know that many of you are taking precautions for worship this Sunday,” they continued.

“But if you're asking for our advice, we believe the more prudent path is to cancel worship until further notice.”

In the United States, Washington state has experienced the worst of the global coronavirus outbreak, with 70 of the 200 confirmed cases in the nation.

Of the 11 reported deaths in the United States, 10 have been in King County, according to USA Today.

PC(USA) churches are not the only Seattle area houses of worship looking to cancel in-person worship due to the coronavirus.

Doxa Church, the former main campus of the multi-site megachurch Mars Hill, canceled their in-person service and held an exclusively online worship service on Sunday instead.

“Today our church gathers across the Puget Sound,” noted the digital liturgy uploaded by Doxa Church on their website.

“We pray for the continued healing and care for all those affected by the outbreak, for peace to come to those filled with anxiety and fear, and for God to use His church to be a burning light of hope and sacrificial love to the world around us.”   

Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, EastLake Community Church in Bothell and other megachurches also closed their campuses, with many streaming their services online.

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