LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Governor Andy Beshear is asking places of worship to move to virtual-only services for the next several weeks as COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide.
During a virtual call with the Kentucky Council of Churches Thursday, Beshear recommended churches not hold in-person gatherings starting Friday through Dec. 13. Beshear said there have been COVID-19 spread at churches during services and other activities like potlucks.
The recommendation comes the same day Kentucky reported its highest number of coronavirus cases to date with 3,649 cases.
“It is a request, but I tell you what, a vast majority of houses of worship are already doing this,” Beshear said. “[They are] seeing what’s going on in their community, but they want to protect their congregation. And our faith leaders have been so incredible in their leadership during this.”
Amanda Groves, the president of the executive board for the Kentucky Council of Churches, said the council have been meeting with Beshear virtually twice a month since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
“Because everything was being turned upside down, including the church services,” Groves said. “I mean it was like they say, we pretty much had to learn how to redo church in a matter of a week or a few days.”
She said the council has continued their meetings with Beshear to stay informed and to make sure their voices, as churches, are heard.
“It’s not just a church whether we meet or not. It is also people who are being affected by this, whether they’ve lost their jobs or losing their homes or just the stress and emotional strain of it. You know, we want to be there and be apart of the solution,” Groves said.
Groves said she can’t speak for every leader of every church within the council, but she believes they will do what is best for their congregations.
“We want to protect our members of our congregations and we want to protect the people in our community, and this is the way to do it,” Groves said.
Beshear’s request on Thursday is just a recommendation, not a mandate like in March.
Back in March, the governor was heavily criticized for his requirement to restrict in-person services around Easter, where state troopers wrote down license plate numbers and left quarantine notices on windshields of those attending in-person services.
On Thursday, Beshear said if churches are going to meet, he recommends they do so outside. He said drive-up services can be safe if people don’t get out of the car.
Archbishop of Louisville Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz released the following statement concerning Beshear’s recommendation:
“I join with the other three Catholic bishops of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in acknowledging the difficult circumstances Gov. Beshear is seeking to navigate, and I appreciate his concern for the common good. The increase in cases of COVID-19 is indeed alarming and presents significant challenges.
As for public worship, I join with Kentucky’s Catholic bishops in reiterating the importance of following all of the guidelines that have been in place for the past several months. Our commitment to providing the opportunity to participate in the Church’s liturgies remotely will continue, as will the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass.
At this time, we will not be suspending public liturgies but encourage all to act in a responsible way that respects the seriousness of this pandemic and the health and safety of all.
Today, I wrote to the priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville to thank the pastors and school leaders for adopting our recommendation, announced on November 13, to move schools to non-traditional instruction, beginning on November 23 and extending through January 8, 2021. I also encouraged the continued careful observance of our ‘Healthy at Worship’ directives, which include mask-wearing, social distancing and careful hygiene, as they celebrate public liturgies. I believe these guidelines have served us well.”