© 2022 Maine Public
header.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Maine Council of Churches urges virtual-only worship services to slow COVID-19 surge

Some churches at the center of COVID-19 outbreaks have shunned attention or responded with defiance, while others have limited crowd sizes and encouraged congregants to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Alex Edelman
/
AFP via Getty Images
Some churches at the center of COVID-19 outbreaks have shunned attention or responded with defiance, while others have limited crowd sizes and encouraged congregants to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The Maine Council of Churches is urging congregations in Maine to stop in-person religious services until the holiday surge of COVID-19 cases, fueled by the Omicron variant is over. The group's executive director, Reverend Jane Field, says she's gotten calls from infectious disease doctors, a pastor whose husband was taken to the ER and left in a hallway, and healthcare workers, all pleading for help.

"Hearing their pain and holding that with them as I heard about the overwhelmed situation our frontline workers are facing....it was troubling and moving....to hear the impact this surge is having on our healthcare system," Field says.

Reverend Field says the Maine Council of Churches is urging every congregation to have COVID-19 policies in place, whether they are mask or vaccine mandates or hybrid plans that include live stream services with limited in-person gatherings.

Maine CDC director Nirav Shah says each church will have to determine its own COVID-19 policy, but given the spread of the Omicron variant, limiting in-person worship is prudent.

"Given that churches have been focal points for outbreaks previously, and given some church populations might be older, it's conservative, it's prudent, it's a precautionary principle in action," Shah says.

Carol Bousquet
cbousquet@mainepublic.org