Churches cancel Sunday service, move online amid coronavirus outbreak

Some of America's largest churches won't have believers enter their doors this Sunday amid public closures to due to the coronavirus outbreak.

From Joel Osteen's 52,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston to Hillsong Church in New York City, many megachurches across the nation are going strictly virtual after governors are restricting meetings and events to anywhere from 1,000 to 100 people, like in Ohio.

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The drastic measures come as many are observing Lent in the lead-up to Easter, Christianity's most sacred holiday, celebrating Jesus' resurrection from the dead, which falls on Sunday, April 15.

In this Oct. 5, 2019, file photo, conference goers listen during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' twice-annual church conference in Salt Lake City. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday, March 11, 2020, that it will hold its major conference in April that features speeches by top leaders without any attendees because of the spread of the coronavirus. The twice-yearly conference usually brings about 100,000 to Salt Lake City over two days, but instead the speeches will only be broadcast via television and the internet. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

In this Oct. 5, 2019, file photo, conference goers listen during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' twice-annual church conference in Salt Lake City. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday, March 11, 2020, that it will hold its major conference in April that features speeches by top leaders without any attendees because of the spread of the coronavirus. The twice-yearly conference usually brings about 100,000 to Salt Lake City over two days, but instead the speeches will only be broadcast via television and the internet. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose the practitioners are commonly referred to as Mormons, suspended all gatherings "worldwide," according to a statement.

Pastor Robert Jeffress, whose congregation is in Dallas, told the "Todd Starnes Show" Friday his church is still holding service, following county guidelines to not have more than 500 people meeting in each location.

Dr. Robert Jeffress is holding Sunday services with multiple locations, following county guidelines that prohibit meetings over 500 people.

Dr. Robert Jeffress is holding Sunday services with multiple locations, following county guidelines that prohibit meetings over 500 people.

Jeffress said he didn't want to close and cause more fear.

"It's a time for us to pray for our country and a time for us to pray for our president," he said.

Before choosing to close their doors, many churches are taking other preventatives measures -- cutting back on greeting times and changing the way Communion is administered -- to keep their flocks safe from spreading the virus that originated in Wuhan, China.

Linda Abott cleans the podium of Westmeade Baptist Church in Decatur, Ala., on Friday, March 13, 2020, in preparation of Sunday service. (Dan Busey/The Decatur Daily via AP)

Linda Abott cleans the podium of Westmeade Baptist Church in Decatur, Ala., on Friday, March 13, 2020, in preparation of Sunday service. (Dan Busey/The Decatur Daily via AP)

Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications at First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom law firm that issued guidance for churches and religious institutions faced with legal questions regarding closure and work with government entities, told Fox News, “The state is going to need the comfort and selfless care churches are known for during this pandemic. And the church needs the state’s public health apparatus to stem its effects."

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He added, "Church and state have an opportunity to work together to reduce the impact of the virus on our communities while encouraging calm and preserving liberty.”