Pa. church apologizes for holding large worship service despite pandemic concerns

Tom Walters, senior pastor of Word of Life Church of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, preaching in a photo posted to Facebook on March 15, 2020.
Tom Walters, senior pastor of Word of Life Church of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, preaching in a photo posted to Facebook on March 15, 2020. | Facebook/Word of Life Church

A church in Pennsylvania has issued an apology for holding worship on Sunday amid federal government recommendations that people not hold gatherings of more than 10 people.

Word of Life Church of Greensburg held what Jim Madalinsky of Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 described as “a large church service” inside their church building on Sunday.

The gathering stood in contrast to efforts across the country to reduce large gatherings, including religious ones, in order to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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Word of Life Pastor Tom Walters posted a statement to the church’s Facebook page on Monday apologizing for the decision to hold the service.

Walters explained that the gathering began with him and the church staff coming together to pray, with others joining them because “they felt led to.”

“Please believe me when I say that it was not out of arrogance or defiance, but solely for the purpose of praying for our churches, communities, and nation,” explained Walters.

“We certainly want to be a blessing to our community and have certainly tried to be in years gone by. My heart was so heavy to experience the amount of hateful comments we received, but I guess I can understand.”

Walters went on to explain that, for the foreseeable future, they will only hold worship through online livestreaming and that they will be canceling their Passion Play performance.

“I will try harder to be more of an asset to our community,” he concluded. “Again, I ask your forgiveness, for we as a ministry want to do all we can to serve you.”

For his part, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf commented on churches staying open despite the coronavirus pandemic, acknowledging that there was a financial impact to consider.

“While I recognize the financial responsibility of these organizations, we also have to recognize the responsibility we have to each other,” said Wolf, as reported by Action News.

Over the past few weeks, large numbers of churches in the United States and abroad have opted to close their doors due to concerns over spreading the coronavirus.

Many congregations have turned toward alternative means of holding worship, often through livestreaming services or pre-recorded sermons posted online to social media.

On Sunday, Genoa Church of Westerville, Ohio, held two “Drive in Church” services, where hundreds came and parked in their lot, listening to a sermon and music via an FM transmitter.

“We decided to do this as an alternative way to allow people to worship collectively in a safe environment of their own car and to honor the guidelines of our governor,” explained Genoa Church Pastor Frank Carl in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.

“We had a complete worship set, sermon, and offering buckets were in the exit as people left if they wanted to contribute — and they did so very generously.”

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