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Tom Walters, senior pastor of Word of Life Church of Greensburg, made the apology Monday on the church's Facebook page, one week after President Trump and the CDC recommended no public gatherings larger than 10 people.
"I don’t want anyone telling us we can’t worship our God collectively as a body," Walters said during his sermon Sunday, WTAE reports. "This could possibly be, disguised in everything else, a direct attack against the church itself."
Despite the call for social distancing and shutting down public gatherings, the pastor and his staff held what Pittsburgh's Action News 4 described as "a large church service" this week. His tune quickly changed later.
"First of all, let me apologize for any and all frustration and concern that I may have caused you by opening our doors this past Sunday," the pastor wrote in an open letter to the community.
"Please believe me when I say that it was not out of arrogance or defiance, but solely for the purpose of praying for our churches, communities, and nation," he said, citing Bible verses like Psalm 91:9-10.
"What I failed to recognize is that not all hold to our personal beliefs....my heart was so heavy to experience the amount of hateful comment we received, but I guess I can understand."
The senior pastor explained the church wants to be a blessing to the community and will move to online services, as well as canceling the Easter "Passion Play," usually attended by many guests.
He concluded by asking for forgiveness, adding, "please do not blame our people for this past Sunday, they were simply trying to honor me, and more so our Lord!"
The church sent out another note Wednesday night assuring the community "new plans" are in place to do everything online and communicate via email.
Walters' church isn't the only one that has come under fire in the past few weeks as federal and state officials scramble to slow the spread of the coronavirus and as churches seek to continue to meet community needs.