LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear is asking the 1,100 congregations represented by the Kentucky Council of Churches and others throughout the state to not do in-person services for two weekends because of increasing COVID-19.
The state had its second-highest total of coronavirus cases with 797 reported on Friday.
President Kent Gilbert, a pastor of the historic Union Church in downtown Berea, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that it was not an executive order but a request from the governor. Beshear made the request on Wednesday in a group check-in call, Gilbert told the newspaper.
Beshear had not mentioned any requests to close churches during his daily press briefings until Friday. The request to forgo in-person services would be for this coming Sunday and Aug. 2. However, the governor said it was only a suggestion.
"It's not a mandate and we're not closing churches," he said.
The governor asked the faith leaders of the Kentucky Council of Churches to host virtual or drive-in services or at least double down on safety precautions for in-person services, spokesman Crystal Staley said.
Leaders of the Kentucky Baptist Convention have not been notified of a request to shut down in-person services. Most churches in the KBC have restarted in-person services with social distancing and best safety practices in play.
“Kentucky Baptist churches and their leaders are being appropriately cautious in the way they are carrying out their in-person worship services,” said Dr. Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “The services I have attended in recent weeks serve as excellent examples of Christian leaders striving to care for the spiritual, as well as the physical, well-being of their congregations.”
Gray said the churches who are having in-person services have been diligent about “best safety practices” during services.