I’m sure you aware that Governor Wolf ordered that all non-essential business in Pennsylvania need to close, effective March 17, for two weeks. This is part of the ongoing mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
My colleague, Bishop Michael Rhyne of Allegheny Synod, shares that their synod’s attorney informed them that under the law, churches are considered non-essential businesses.
The implication of this is clear: Congregations should not host in-person worship or in-person meetings while Governor Wolf’s order is in place.
Yesterday I issued a strong recommendation for congregations to suspend in-person gatherings. I know that some of you may have planned to hold in-person worship in spite of that recommendation.
The Governor’s order changes things.
All SEPA churches should be closed for in-person worship through March 31. To do otherwise violates the Governor’s order.
This would not prevent a small team from being in the church to stream worship, and pastors and staff are able to be in the church building to do their work (although remote work where possible is advisable.)
The President has also recommended that there be no public gatherings of 10 or more people for the next two weeks. Our partners in the Allegheny Synod also recommend that weddings and funerals be postponed if at all possible. I concur with this advice.
While the Governor’s current order lasts through the end of March, keep it mind that it is possible, perhaps likely, that this order could be extended or strengthened, based on the severity of the outbreak at that time. This ban also covers most council meetings, Bible studies, and social gatherings.
We encourage you to check out audio and videoconferencing options to continue worship, meetings, and other groups. Our Synod office has had good luck with the Pro (paid) version of the Zoom platform for multi-person meetings. There are many options, including Google Hangouts, Go-to-Meeting, and more. (You may be able to explore a free trial of such platforms to see how well they meet your needs.) Depending on your capabilities, you may be able to use Facebook Live, YouTube, or other options to stream worship
I continue to hold you in prayer as we navigate this uncharted situation. I thank you for the faithfulness and creativity with which you are keeping the body of Christ connected and fed through this unprecedented crisis.