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Alabama churches altering worship plans amid virus outbreak

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Some Alabama churches are calling off traditional services and moving worship online this weekend after confirmation of the state’s first case of the new coronavirus.

The Episcopal bishop for Alabama, Rt. Rev. Kee Sloan, has told all the denomination’s churches to cancel their usual services, meetings and even postpone funerals for the rest of March. The church has about 32,000 members and nearly 90 parishes in the state.

“I hate to do this. The gathering of God’s people in worship is such a huge part of who we are and what we do. But I think that this is the best way to serve our congregations and the communities in which we live,” said a statement from Sloan released Friday.

Several large Baptist and Methodist churches also canceled in-person services and planned to livestream worship so people could watch on their computers or phones.

Some churches that intended to continue operating as usual made plans to quit greeting members and visitors with handshakes and to collect donations in ways other than the usual method of passing an offering plate.

The state health department advised organizations to cancel any gatherings of 500 people or more Friday after announcing a person in Montgomery County tested positive for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

A large church with nearly two dozen campuses all over the state, Church of the Highlands, said its services would be online-only on Sunday, reported.

“The overwhelming consensus is to not have gatherings in our buildings tomorrow,” the lead pastor, Chris Hodges, said in a video released by the church on Saturday.

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