Local churches implement changes in response to Coronavirus

Published: Mar. 5, 2020 at 10:10 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Despite no confirmed Coronavirus cases in Oklahoma, different churches across Oklahoma are slightly changing their routines, including a few in Lawton.

During a normal worship service at Blessed Sacrament, Father Brian Buettner said sometimes without even thinking about it, there is lots of physical contact.

“One of the main thing’s we do in the church is the Sign of Peace, greeting people. As a priest I’m shaking hands all the time. One of the things we are hoping is that we can pull back a little, so people feel comfortable coming without worrying about passing a disease from one person to another,” said Very Rev. Brian Buettner.

Father Buettner said this also has created new option for how they present the Eucharist.

“The archdiocese has been encouraging people when they receive communion to perhaps instead of receiving it on the tongue, which is normal, to receive it on the hand. It’s just an encouragement, some people prefer to receive it on the tongue, and they are welcome to do that,” said Very Rev. Buettner.

And at First Baptist Church Lawton, their associate pastor said what they are doing now is actually a continuation of their current practices during normal flu season.

“Normally we would have a formal welcome time, where we shake hands. Now we don’t do that, or if we do anything like that we do an elbow bump and that just helps to say we are happy you are here, we are glad to have you,” said Associate Pastor Tony Christie.

Both churches said a large portion of their congregation are older adults, who are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases.

“It can very dangerous for senior adults, so we encourage them to take care of themselves, be careful in crowds, make sure your hands are washed, don’t touch your face,” said Christie.

And Father Buettner said another thing about local congregations is their commitment to attending each week, and he said it’s important for people to know that it’s okay to miss.

“A very common thought is that even if you are sick you have to go to mass anyway, that’s your obligation. Really the Catholic Church has always taught this, that if you are sick ‚especially if you have the flu, a fever, you are supposed to stay home. It’s not a sin to stay home," said Very Rev. Buettner.

Both churches said these changes are temporary, and people can expect things to go back to normal as research continues on the Coronavirus.

But in the meantime, these church leaders said to wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you feel under the weather.

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