Churches try to keep congregations safe

As the communities around Lake Okeechobee deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, some churches have switched to online services, and some services have been canceled. Many churches remain open but are taking additional steps to sanitize the sanctuaries and reduce contact between those who attend services.

On March 15, First Baptist Church in Okeechobee told churchgoers to stay home and livestreamed their Sunday service on their Facebook page.

Oakview Baptist Church in Okeechobee canceled their Sunday night and Wednesday night services this week.

At Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Okeechobee, Sunday services went on but were shortened. Instead of shaking hands at the “sign of peace,” members of the congregation just smiled and waved.

Parishioners of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Buckhead Ridge found the song books and missalettes (prayer books) had been removed from the pews. As they arrived for the Sunday services, they were each given their own new missalette and told to keep it and bring it back to future services. They were also handed song sheets, which went into the recycling bin after use. The holy water font was empty. Hand sanitizer was available in the church vestibule. After the Mass, a letter from Bishop of Venice was read, with the news that Catholics are released from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass during the pandemic crisis, but churches will remain open.

Many area churches that had services last weekend had indicated they will announce their plans for this weekend by Thursday.

The Lake Okeechobee News invites all area churches to share updates about their services with the newspaper. Email information to the newspaper at okeenews@newszap.com. The updates will be posted on the newspaper website at lakeokeechobeenews.com.

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