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Churches Suspend Worship Services In DC, Maryland, And Virginia Over Coronavirus

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Mary Margaret Olohan on March 12, 2020

Episcopal churches throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia area have suspended worship services due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishops who oversee Episcopal congregations throughout the DMV say church buildings will be closed until March 25, the Washington Post reports. This includes both Sunday worship services and weekday activities, Bishops Mariann Budde and Susan Goff told the Post.

Services at the Washington National Cathedral will also be suspended, and a National Cathedral spokesman told the Post that “the expectation is that buildings will be closed and empty of people.” The Cathedral, which is the second largest cathedral in the United States of America, did not yet respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The last time churches canceled all services over health concerns was for the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, bishops told the publication.

Sixty-year-old Budde is in charge of 88 congregations in Maryland and the District, according to the Post. Goff, who oversees the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, said 179 Virginia churches will close.

Budde said that she made the decision to suspend services after consultations with other national church leaders, reading guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and receiving anxious texts from priests about worship guidelines.

“They were feeling increasingly anxious,” Budde told the Post. “The confusion was getting higher by the minute.”

The Episcopal Church contains many elderly people and Episcopal leaders do not want to put these elderly at risk, Budde adds.

“The consequences are enormous financially,” she told the Post. “We can’t put money first. If the church put money first, shame on us. We have to do what’s right. We’re part of the social fabric. We need to be part of the communal response to stem the tide of this virus.”

The National Cathedral will stream services on Sundays with no live audience. Budde will preside on one Sunday while national denomination bishop Michael Curry will preside on another.

News of the DMV church closures comes after a D.C. rector confirmed Sunday that he had been diagnosed with coronavirus.  Christ Church spokesman Rob Volmer confirmed to the DCNF Monday that about 550 parishioners from the greater D.C. area who attended a March 1 service at the Georgetown church are in voluntary self-quarantine through March 16.

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