Local churches take precaution amid the COVID-19 outbreak

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VIGO Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– St. Mary’s of the Woods in Vigo Co. made the decision to no longer allow outside visitors into the sanctuary for worship services.

The announcement came after Governor Eric Holcomb banned gatherings of 250 people or more.

Sister Barbara Battista, justice promoter for the Sisters of Providence, said although the restrictions aren’t normal, they’re making the necessary adjustments.

“It’s been a challenge because we’re used to visiting with one another and going from room to room and building to building. But right now we have very limited physical movement within the building,” she said.

The church is also home to a college campus that has also transitioned to online classes to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Battista said the preventative measures are unusual for the Sisters of Providence, but everyone is making the effort more aware.

“We’re asking them not to go in town, unless they absolutely have to,” she said. “So that’s a big change. And yet they’re rolling with it. They’re going with it. They’re understanding that this is what we do to take care of ourselves and one another,” Battista said.

Other area churches, such as Union Christian Church, are still allowing in face-to-face worship.

Pastor Todd Payton, lead pastor at Union Christian Church, said even though they have decided to continue worshiping in person, they are remaining vigilant.

“We’ve changed the way that we take communion. Instead of passing the trays, we’re getting up and going to the communion stations. We’re taking individual cups,” he said. “We’ve changed the way we’re doing offering. There aren’t any trays there. We actually have baskets set up that people can place their offering in as they leave the building. And we’re limiting handshakes and hugs to fist bumps or elbow bumps just for the safety of everyone here.”

The church will continue to follow state regulations and CDC guidelines and will make changes, if needed.

“I’m hoping as a congregation that we don’t live in fear of this, but that maybe as a church that we shine and are able to use this opportunity to serve our community,” Payton said.

Sister Battista said it’s necessary to show care and compassion during times of crisis.

“As all of these new practices have come online, we really are challenged,” she said. “And really it’s an opportunity to be kind to one another to recognize that we’re all under a little bit of extra stress and pray for God’s guidance.”

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