Indiana News

Gov. Holcomb urges churches to refrain from gatherings during Holy Week amid virus

Gov Holcomb says religious services not essential during COVID-19 pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Governor Eric Holcomb issued a warning to churches ahead of Passover and Easter: Do not hold in-person services.

This comes after police cited church leaders in Hammond, Indiana, for violating the “stay at home” order Sunday with a gathering.

Gov. Holcomb was adamant during his daily virtual news conference Monday that even though this is considered Holy Week for many Christians, everyone still needs to abide by the order to avoid gatherings and hunker down.

“As tough as this week — and there are other weeks, very religiously speaking, important weeks for other faiths throughout the year — this disease does not care. This disease will prey on the vulnerable. This disease will prey on large gatherings. We have it in us to prevent that,” said Holcomb.

Gov. Holcomb wasn’t not mincing words when he answered News 8’s Jenny Dreasler’s question during his daily new conference about churches violating his stay-at-home order.

Dreasler asked, “Over the weekend, a church in Hammond was cited for violating your stay-at-home order. More than 30 people were inside. But church leaders argued they were essential. This is Holy Week in the Christian churches. States like Florida and Texas have declared religious services essential. Are you considering a change to the state’s orders to allow services this weekend? What is your message to pastors statewide?”

Gov. Holcomb said he’s not considering changing his executive order, and that religious services will not be labeled essential.

His message to pastors across the state was one of gratitude in transitioning to virtual services.

“This past Palm Sunday, those palm branches symbolized peace and victory as Jesus was entering Jerusalem and thrown at his feet. We will see victory. We will see peace when we, too, complete our journey though this,” said Holcomb.

This all comes after a Church of Christ in Hammond held services Sunday.

According to police reports and Hammond’s mayor, more than 30 people were in attendance. Church elders argued they were considered essential, but police issued a citation for violating the governor’s order.

“Many of us are dependent on the church as a body, not as a building. So please, I just, please, we are putting out this guidance for all of our goods,” said Holcomb.

As far as what families can do for an Easter meal this weekend, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box urged families not to have big gatherings and to continue social distance.

“My family is asking the same thing. We will not be seeing my father, who is 88 years old, and we will not be seeing some of my other family members that have asthma and other underlying health conditions. We may get together as a very small nuclear family and have dinner together, but we do a good job social distancing even then,” said Box.

Health officials reiterated during the news conference that the quicker Hoosiers hunker down, the quicker we can start the process of getting back to normal.