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Greater Lafayette Religious Groups React To New Limits On Gatherings

Temple Israel


Places of worship across Greater Lafayette are suspending their traditional services after Governor Eric Holcomb banned gatherings of more than 250 people Thursday, including at churches.

The Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette cancelled Friday prayers, which general coordinator Zaim Khalid said attracts a larger weekly crowd. But to be safe, the center will also put a hold on daily prayers at the center. 

“Technically, yes, it is challenging,” Khalid said. “But it doesn’t stop us, or anyone, from praying — right? So right now we are advising our members to pray at home.” 

Temple Israel’s Rabbi Mike Harvey said Friday night’s Purim festivities are cancelled, as well as next month’s Passover Seder gathering. He said people of faith might struggle with the balance between a requirement for physical distance and the desire for what he called “spiritual nourishment.” 

Harvey, who heads the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette, also expressed concern about how religious organizations would be able to continue helping community members in need. For example, a toiletry drive for YWCA of Greater Lafayette, scheduled to start today and run through April 8, was called off.

“We’re supposed to be these institutions of hospitality, and welcoming, and welcoming the stranger, and protecting the orphan and the widow, and leaving the corners of our fields,” Harvey said.

Harvey also said one of the most urgent discussions he’s had with other faith leaders since Thursday’s announcement is how he and others will be able to celebrate weddings or funerals if the spread of the virus accelerates.

“Should we do a funeral service?” Harvey said. “How do we do a funeral service?”

“Our business does not shut down,” he added. 

St. John’s Episcopal Church rector Bradley Pace said after this weekend, Sunday services will be put on hold at the downtown church. He’s planning different ways to touch base with his congregation, such as holding Facebook Live events or making a simple phone call to check in. 

“My big worry about the congregation is just that lack of community,” Pace said.

In a statement released by the Diocese of Lafayette Friday, Bishop Timothy Doherty announced a dispensation for Mass attendance for area Catholics for the next three Sundays, though he said “regularly scheduled” public masses would continue.