Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton from Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett is asking parishioners to stay home if they don’t feel well. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton from Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett is asking parishioners to stay home if they don’t feel well. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Churches rethink services in light of coronavirus

Some Snohomish County houses of worship plan a normal holy day. Others have opted to stream online.

EVERETT — Coronavirus concerns have led the Catholic Church to suggest some changes for Sunday morning Mass.

Communion wafers are to be placed in hands, not directly into mouths. And blessings are to be given by motioning the sign of the cross in the air instead of by touching.

Those who attend shouldn’t touch hands during the “Our Father” or the sign of peace. And those who take Communion shouldn’t share from the same cup, according to recommendations from the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Other faiths and churches have come up with creative solutions, too. Some have decided to close, including a Marysville Methodist church that plans to stream the service online. Most are set to continue with normally scheduled services, but have taken precautions.

Local health officials have recommended that gatherings of more than 50 people be avoided, but have not ordered that these kinds of events be canceled. They also have told people not to be in close contact with others.

As of Friday evening, Snohomish County had 19 total confirmed or probable cases of the coronavirus, including one fatality. Those numbers have been changing rapidly over the past week.

On Monday, Archbishop Paul Etienne from the Archdiocese of Seattle sent a letter to Catholic leaders in Western Washington.

He said parishioners should stay home if they feel sick or have a compromised immune system, and avoid personal contact as much as possible. Those who help at church should disinfect surfaces such as door handles, pews and water fountains after each Mass.

Etienne also asked Catholics to pray for those who are infected with the virus.

Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton from Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett has put in place similar rules. She also asks people to stay home if they don’t feel well.

She’s offered to make home visits to those who still want Communion. Before her time in Everett, Taber-Hamilton worked as a hospital chaplain for two decades.

Because of that, she knows what steps to take when working with illness.

In Marysville, the United Methodist Church will not have a service on Sunday but instead will stream live on its Facebook page or its website.

It hasn’t been much of a hassle, because that’s an option every week, Pastor Jenny Smith said. They’ve been letting parishioners know through email and social media.

The decision to cancel service came after the recommendation to limit large gatherings, Smith said.

“We want to care for the most vulnerable among us,” she said. “We love to be together, but we’re willing to get creative with our community for several weeks if it can stop the spread of the virus.”

Church groups fewer than 50 people may still meet. About 500 people are part of Marysville United Methodist church, Smith said.

One of Snohomish County’s largest churches is New Life Church in Everett, with 3,500 members.

“We are following the Everett School District’s lead, believing they have access to the very best public health information,” Pastor Jim Romack said.

That means if Everett schools are closed, so is the church. Another way to stay updated is through the New Life Church mobile app.

Chabad of Snohomish County has cancelled “Purim @ The Comedy Club,” but plans to go on with other Purim celebrations on Monday and Tuesday.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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