LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's largest church plans to hold in-person services this weekend, despite a recommendation from Gov. Andy Beshear to hold only online services.
Southeast Christian Church sent a message to members of its 12 campuses in the Louisville area saying it would hold services both in-person and virtually on Sunday. It says "We will continue to take all necessary precautions possible to provide a safe environment for all who choose to join us in person. If you have any hesitations or are uncomfortable, or if you or someone in your life is medically vulnerable, we encourage you to join us at SE Online."
Gov. Beshear recommended churches and places of worship move services online starting Friday through Dec. 13 because of the spike in COVID-19 cases. The governor said this is not a requirement, but he did announce a number of new measures last week, including closing bars and restaurants to indoor service from Nov. 20 through Dec. 13, closing schools to in-person classes statewide and limiting gatherings like weddings and funerals to 25 people per room.
Southeast senior pastor Kyle Idleman said in a message to members that the church has decided to remain open out of many mental health concerns it has seen around its campuses and online community.
Idleman wrote that not everyone will agree with the decision to hold in-person services, but he says it's important. "For some of you this is not your struggle, not your situation, but you need to know that we have a lot of brothers and sisters who are really overwhelmed in this season." He continues, "We have seen a dramatic increase in depression, anxiety, and loneliness and other mental health challenges that come when there's extended isolation and month after month of uncertainty."
"As some of you know, we've had a number of suicides connected to our church family," Idleman said. "There's been a dramatic increase in those struggling with addictions. For those reasons, we want to keep our doors open during this season."
Southeast suspended in-person services for nearly four months, from mid-March until early July, during the first wave of COVID-19. It has adhered to CDC guidelines for services and child-care facilities since resuming. Idleman estimates 70% of the church is participating online.
“It’s going to be hard, it’s going to continue to harm our lives ... we will not simply let people around us die without putting up a fight against this virus,” Gov. Beshear said at a virtual news briefing. He encouraged Kentuckians to forgo Thanksgiving travel, practice social distancing and wear masks.
- Louisville faith leaders react to Beshear recommending to halt in-person services to curb COVID-19
- Kentucky reports 'staggering' new high in COVID-19 infections
- Federal judge rules Kentucky churches can hold in-person services beginning Sunday
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.