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North Texas Faith Communities Take Precautions Amid Coronavirus

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Philip Lange
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Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas.

As Dallas and other cities are banning large gatherings, faith groups across North Texas are making preparations for how to hold services while also keeping congregations safe.

Shabbat services — a key holy practice in the Jewish faith — begins Friday night at sundown and lasts for 24 hours. 

Elana Zelony, a rabbi at Richardson’s Congregation Beth Torah synagogue, said synagogues are taking precautions to limit contact among congregants. 

"Some synagogues are just closing completely and they are just streaming services so people can just tune in on the internet,” she said. “Some synagogues are closing all together, some are still having regular services but afterward there will be no food served or fellowship hour.” 

Meanwhile, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas has canceled all masses until March 30. Previously, the Dallas and Fort Worth dioceses had announced a special dispensation for those 60 and older, people who are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and caretakers.

They are not required to attend mass or holy days of obligation. The church is also asking all congregants to consider receiving communion in their hands rather than on the tongue.

For Southlake-based Gateway Church, the strategy is to close all of its campuses. Communications director Clint Lewis said Sunday services will be broadcast to its roughly 28,000 congregants.

"We will broadcast the service live on all of our platforms — Gateway People, our app, AppleTV or anywhere else that you can consume the media,” he said. 

Imam Shpendim Nadzaku with the Islamic Association of North Texas said the organization decided all mosques must close their doors.

“The decision that we've collectively made is one of cancelling our weekly congregational service, as well as the five daily prayers, until further notice,” he said. 

In Fort Worth, Trinity Episcopal Church also closed after a minister tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus. 

Janet Waggoner, a reverend canon at the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, said Reverend Robert Pace is on the mend but the diocese is taking necessary precautions. That includes taking services online, but she offers a hopeful message to her congregants. 

"The church is the people of God, and that continues even when the church building is closed,” Waggoner said. 

North Texas faith leaders echoed that people should remain cautious and follow guidance from local public health officials to stay safe and healthy. 

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