Elgin church vows to remain open to faithful
As religious congregations across the suburbs suspend gatherings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, one Elgin church has decided to continue holding regularly scheduled services, Sunday school classes and nursery.
Northwest Bible Baptist Church has chosen to keep its doors open to the faithful "for those who can come," writes Pastor Keith Gomez in a Facebook post earlier this week.
"Anyone who attends will notice visible changes and protective measures being put into action. We take the health of our church family very seriously and have committed extra time and resources to the cleaning and sanitizing procedures that we already have in place," he wrote.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's order Friday calling for people to stay at home bans all public and private gatherings of 10 or more people. It does not specify religious gatherings, though it does list other types of banned assemblies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its interim guidance to faith-based organizations urges them to plan for "modifying, scaling back, postponing, or canceling large group activities and events," such as religious services and community outreach programs.
The Illinois Baptist State Association offers an eight-point checklist for responding to the coronavirus outbreak on its website. Association Executive Director Nate Adams urges following best practices such as hand-washing, social distancing and guidance from local authorities. Association leaders leave the decision to close or cancel services up to churches.
Gomez did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
"Closing the doors of a church is a momentous decision of great consequence and one that is not to be made lightly," he wrote in his Facebook post.
He acknowledged the situation is fluid and that decisions will be made "with wisdom and prayer" and "not because of government mandates."
The church, which describes itself at its website as an "old-fashioned, independent, fundamental Baptist church," is urging members to stay home if they feel ill, are elderly or vulnerable to sickness.
"More than ever, our community needs the essential services that only a Bible-preaching church can provide. We have trusted God in every situation in the past and we will continue to do so," Gomez wrote.