14 Mar UB Churches and the Coronavirus: Closings and Precautions
A number of United Brethren churches have cancelled services and other church activities for the next 1-3 weeks. The ones we know of are all located in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. The governors of those states issued executive orders banning most public gatherings of 250+ (Michigan and Indiana) or 100+ people, and all public and private K-12 schools have been closed for at least two weeks.
We have 163 UB churches in the United States. Nearly 80% are located in four states: Ohio (40), Pennsylvania (33), Michigan (31), and Indiana (22). We also have 1-5 churches in 17 other states.
Many UB churches that have decided to continue meeting have informed the congregation of precautions they are taking. Most of the largest churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana are cancelling and going to an online-only format (like Facetime). Around ten senior pastors posted video messages to their congregations.
Church governance boards are tackling the issue thoughtfully and thoroughly. Here is a run-down of what churches are doing thus far, along with links to what they are communicating to the congregation. No doubt other churches have communicated instructions to parishioners in ways beyond their websites and Facebook pages.
- Mainstreet (Walbridge) suspended services through the end of March. The website has a very good message, along with excellent video remarks from Pastor Marty Pennington.
- Alvordton and Kunkle UB churches in northwest Ohio have cancelled services for March 15 and 22, along with other events. Alvordton is also cancelling their April 4 Easter egg hunt.
- New Hope (Bryan) is “suspending all large gatherings and events in our campuses until further notice.” They are also partnering with area churches and the community to provide free lunches to families in the Bryan area, and have launched efforts to solicit donations and volunteers. Read all about it on their Facebook page.
- Bethel (Elmore) will meet, but Pastor Tim Sherman made this video with practical instructions for parishioners.
- New Horizons (Rockford) will meet, but issued a thorough statement about the precautions they are taking. Among other things, they added seats in the sanctuary to allow more space (social distancing) between people.
- Renew Communities (Berea) is cancelling this weekend, and will most likely cancel in later weeks. Here is an excellent video message from Pastor Andy Sikora.
- Fowlerville UB is cancelling its Saturday evening and Sunday morning services, youth meetings, and other events for the next two weeks. There will be a 10:45 online service via Facebook or through their new app. See video message here.
- Homefront in Grandville is doing online-only services for the next three weeks (March 15, 22, and 29). Here is their statement.
- Gaines (Caledonia) is cancelling all activities through Saturday, March 21.
- Elem3nt (Blissfield) is cancelling services March 15, and will address it week by week. Pastor Gayle Ruble’s statement cited the governor’s call for limiting gatherings to less than 250 people. “This decision is solely based upon elem3nt desiring to obey the laws of the land as our civic duty. Please understand we do not view this is as an infringement upon our religious rites or religious convictions. Our desire is to be above reproach by living out our calling to be model citizens by the way we conduct ourselves.”
- Brown Corners has cancelled services for March 15, 22, and 29, along with all other activities at the church. Pastor Jeremiah Ketchum made this video, and the church website has a statement.
- Eden (Mason) initially planned to hold only an 11 am service on March 15, with no Sunday school, children’s church, or nursery. But on March 14, at the request of the city of Mason, they decided to cancel services and church activities through the end of March. They will provide weekly audio messages until regular church activities can resume. Here is their statement.
- Calvary Community Church (Saginaw) has cancelled services and activities through the end of March. Pastor Ted Doolittle gave a video statement on their Facebook page.
- The three churches in Fort Wayne have suspended services and other activities for the next two weeks: Emmanuel, Living Grace, and Anchor. The Living Grace statement from Pastor Jason Holliday says, “We want to err on the side of caution, especially with the elderly in our congregation in mind. We also want to be a part of the solution….This is a CRAZY time, but it is also an opportunity for us to BE the church even when we can’t GO to church.”
- College Park (Huntington) cancelled its March 15 services.
- Hopewell UB (Auburn) is cancelling for March 15.
The Pennsylvania governor has not placed a ban on public gatherings, and we’re not aware of any UB churches in Pennsylvania that have cancelled services because of the coronavirus. But some have issued statements about the coronavirus.
- King Street (Chambersburg) “will stay open, with cautions.” They published this statement on their website.
- Otterbein (Greencastle) will hold its service this weekend, but Pastor David Rawley said, “I anticipate that we will soon suspend our regular schedule and gatherings.”
- First UB (New Castle) and Cochranton, and no doubt others, issued messages saying they intend to meet, but with precautions.
Statements from Governors
Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people. That includes any event or gathering of people who are in one room or a single space at the same time, including cafeterias, churches, stadiums, conference rooms, auditoriums, etc.
An executive order prohibits any gathering of over 250 people in the same space. There are exemptions for mass transit, industrial and manufacturing work, and the purchase of groceries and other consumer goods. There is no exemption for churches. The governor also closed all public and private schools until April 6.
Governor Mike DeWine banned gatherings of 100 or more people in confined indoor or outdoor spaces. There are a number of exemptions, including churches. “The order exempts public transit, medical facilities, retail spaces, libraries and other transient settings as well as offices, restaurants, factories, athletic events without spectators, and religious gatherings including weddings and funerals.” The governor also closed all public and private K-12 schools for three weeks.
The governor ordered the closing of all public and private K-12 schools for two weeks. The governor imposed strong restrictions on hard-hit Montgomery County (Philadelphia), including on “mass gatherings.” But beyond Philadelphia, there are (so far) no restrictions on public gatherings.