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Religious leaders cancel services amid COVID-19 concerns, some to keep houses of worship open

"What really struck me is am I prepared to live with someone in this church becoming infected with the coronavirus?" pastor at Antioch Church, Eric French Sr. said.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville faith leaders called for a special meeting Friday to debate whether they should close churches this weekend to protect their members from the coronavirus. 

"The church is the lifeblood of the African American community and in the midst of a crisis, this is where we want to be," pastor at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Eric French Sr. said. 

In this kind of crisis, some faith members and leaders are forced to worship from home. The Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition represents more than 150 churches. Some of them are choosing to cancel upcoming services.

RELATED: Southeast Christian Church moves to online worship, suspends all large gatherings

"There's financial considerations, there's ministry considerations, there's just community considerations, but what really struck me is am I prepared to live with someone in this church becoming infected with the coronavirus," French said.

Most of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church's 100+ members are elderly.

"The base and bedrock of this church are the members who've been here for 20 or 30 years and I feel like I have a responsibility to them to make sure I protect them at all times in every way," French said. 

Pastor of Christ's Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition, Dr. Frank Smith Jr. said this weekend is the church's 20th anniversary which is why he is keeping the doors open.

"We want to use this as an opportunity to rally one another within our church family and to educate the church concerning this particular issue," Smith said. However, Smith is canceling next Thursday's service until further notice. 

In a time like this, Mayor Greg Fischer is strongly advising faith leaders to put their health first.

"While we have many different faiths we have one heart," Fischer said during Friday's media conference. "This is bigger than any one of our organization the way we can spread love to each other and show love to the God we worship."

Chair of compassion of Louisville, Dr. Muhammad Babar said many mosques have decided to cancel Friday mass. 

"Preserving and protecting human life is an essential tenant of faith tradition," Babar said. "COVID-19 does not differentiate its victims on the basis of race, religion or sexuality.”

The Ministerial Coalition plans to have future meetings as more coronavirus updates develop. 

"Could we have service on Sunday? Possibly. Could everything be fine? Possibly. But why take that risk if we don't have to?" French said. 

RELATED: LIST | Kentucky, Indiana school districts that have canceled due to COVID-19

RELATED: Mayor Fischer, Salvation Army announce plans to make sure communities have food

RELATED: Louisville Catholic Schools close through April 3

RELATED: Everything we know about COVID-19 in Louisville

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