Ever since Governor John Bel Edwards banned all gatherings of 50 or more in Louisiana, area churches have had to come up with creative ways to shepherd their flocks without gathering on Sundays due to coronavirus in New Orleans.
“It has been quite a challenge,” said Fr. Emilio Lizardo of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “But through prayer and the Holy Spirit, we will get through this.”
The Archdiocese has responded to the ban with the ‘Lyft Him Up’ program, which delivers the Sacraments to a parishioner’s home via a Lyft courier. Fr. Lizardo also said the courier can take the parishioner’s weekly plate offering at the same time. And yes, rolls of toilet paper will be accepted in lieu of cash.
The local Orthodox churches said they will be doing something similar but will use two bearded guys on donkeys instead of Lyft.
“If it was good enough for Saint Polycarp, it’s good enough for us,” said Fr. Seraphim Kalistos.
The Lutheran Church (ELCA) announced, along with church closings, a new awareness campaign about the pandemic. Called ‘Sola Coronavirus,’ or ‘Coronavirus Alone,’ the program aims to remind the faithful that self-isolation is the best way to fight the spread of the disease.
The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana indicated the 50 or more rule will not affect the majority of area parishes.
“Most don’t have 50 people showing up on Sunday anymore,” said Fr. Brian Dodwell. “Well, I don’t know really. It’s been a while since I’ve gone in to check.”
But for the few that do, the Diocese said their Sacraments will be catered by Commander’s Palace and personally delivered to parishioner homes by a Deacon in a limousine, especially those dealing with coronavirus in New Orleans — one of the nation’s hardest-hit cities.
“We take our spiritual food very seriously,” said Dodwell, “and Commander’s has an amazing wine cellar and a private bakery. They will be able to pair the perfect Blood with the perfect Body for each parishioner. If you believe in that sort of thing. If you don’t, that’s OK with us, too.”
The Presbyterian Church USA has not issued a national response, but local Pastors are urging parishioners to keep further away from each other than they usually do, stock up on grape juice, and double-check their Election status “just in case.”
Most area Baptist churches have set up streaming services for their flock to watch the Pastor’s Sunday sermon and PayPal accounts for weekly offerings. Altar Calls can now be phoned in.
The United Methodist Church has closed all local churches and put its ongoing denominational split on hold “for the duration,” according to a spokesman. This hold includes suspension of all litigation over ownership of local church casserole recipes.
The responses from non-denominational churches have been mixed. Some are doing nothing. Some are claiming this is a sign of the end-times, while others are urging parishioners who get ‘slain in the spirit’ at home to do so in a room with carpet floors and without any glass or sharp edges.
“We don’t want anyone actually, you know, slain,” noted Pastor Glenn Stockyard of the New Sound and Fury Full Gospel Church.
Finally, Joel Osteen has indicated the coronavirus in New Orleans and shutdown should not have any effect on his local ministry.
“People can send in their donations and prosper just like they do now. No changes,” said Osteen from Tahiti, where he and his wife are “on retreat” for six-weeks.