The Diocese of Austin has issued a response to the city of Austin and Travis County banning all gatherings of more than 250 people.
In a statement issued March 15, the Most Rev. Joe S. Vasquez, bishop of Austin, stated that anyone who is unable to attend mass is exempt from attending.
Vasquez said in the release that parishes need to count the number of people entering a church and should consider holding a simultaneous mass in another building. He said mass may be livestreamed or broadcast to another building as well.
Posted March 13
Amid public concerns regarding coronavirus, several Austin-area religious denominations have decided to cancel in-person services and opted to provide online or alternative options in its place. Here is a list of religious organizations in the Austin metro area who have canceled or altered their service offerings.
Austin Stone Community Church
Austin Stone Community Church announced March 13 it has postponed its March 15 and 22 services due to coronavirus concerns. In its email, Austin Stone cited government officials urging for "extreme caution" regarding the spread of COVID-19 as well as the parish's high-risk populations—particularly, seniors and those with medical conditions or health complications.
Digital services will be posted online for parishioners to access in place of traditional services. Dr. Matt Carter, pastor of the congregation, said in the email that parishioners will be notified no later than March 26 on the status of Austin Stone's March 29 service.
- Austin Stone Community Church: Downtown, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez St., Austin
- Austin Stone Community Church: North, 1150 McNeil Road, Round Rock
- Austin Stone Community Church: Northwest, 9001 N FM 620, Austin
- Austin Stone Community Church: South, 10100 S Mary Moore Searight Drive, Austin
- Austin Stone Community Church: St. John, 500 E St Johns Ave., Austin
- Austin Stone Community Church: West, 916 S. Capital of Texas Hwy., Austin
Cityview Bible Church
Lead Pastor Keith Ferguson confirmed in a March 12 email to parishioners that Cityview Bible Church will not be hosting in-person Sunday services and will instead move all of them online beginning March 15.
"This change will bring us in line with recommendations from those in leadership within the healthcare and government communities," Ferguson said in the March 12 email. "This is not a decision we take lightly, but one that we humbly feel best supports our community efforts to slow the spread of this disease."
Online services will be held at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., respectively. Alongside its alternative services, Cityview also canceled its two spring break mission trips, previously set to travel to Manila, Philippines, and San Ignacio, Belize.
- Cityview Bible Church, 2441 CR 112, Round Rock
Covenant Presbyterian Church
In a March 13 email, Senior Pastor Thomas Daniel announced services for March 15 are canceled and the campus would be closed to all activities until March 21.
"This has been a very difficult decision to make. Thankfully our congregation is blessed to have medical experts and emergency responders who are serving on a newly appointed task force to help us navigate this most unusual time," he said in the email.
- Covenant Presbyterian Church, 3003 Northland Drive, Austin
Diocese of Austin
In a March 13 statement from the Diocese of Austin, the Most Rev. Joe S. Vaxquez, bishop of Austin, issued guidelines for parishes to follow in response to the coronavirus.
"Until further notice, mass and reconciliation schedules remain unchanged in our parishes. Also, parishes will keep their normal hours so the faithful are able to pray in the church," he wrote in the statement. "During times such as these, it is of utmost value to provide the sacraments and the assuring presence of God to all people."
Vasquez also asked parishes to develop methods for making mass available via social media.
International Buddhist Progress Society Austin
IBPS Austin announced on its website that it will be canceling the following events due to coronavirus concerns:
- Morning Tea and Peace on Tuesdays
- Books and beyond on Wednesdays
- Chinese Buddhism Academy program on Wednesdays
- English Buddhism Academy program on Thursdays
- Chinese Calligraphy class on Fridays
- Drawing in Meditation on Fridays
- English TaiChi class on Saturdays
- English Meditation class on Saturdays
- English Dharma Discussion on Saturdays
- Tea Room services on Saturdays and Sundays
- Medical consultation service on Sundays
The classes and programs listed above will not be reopened until "the coronavirus concerns are released," per the post. IBPS Austin's weekly Chinese chanting service will still be open to the public on Sundays but will not host its traditional post-service lunch.
- International Buddhist Progress Society Austin, 6720 N. Capital of Texas Hwy., Austin
ISKCON of Round Rock/Austin Vedic Cultural Center
ISKCON of Round Rock/Austin Vedic Cultural Center has suspended its Sunday services, including its Sunday school, outreach coordinator Madhavi Mangu confirmed in a March 13 email. The temple will move to an online-only format, Mangu said, and will be sending out instructions on that to its congregation this weekend.
- ISKCON of Round Rock/Austin Vedic Cultural Center, 4305 Sam Bass Road, Round Rock
Pflugerville First United Methodist Church
First United Methodist Church of Pflugerville has canceled its weekend services due to the coronavirus, staff confirmed in a phone call to Community Impact Newspaper on March 13. Following guidance from local health officials and government entities, staff said the reasoning behind FUMC's suspended services is due to its parishioners who are part of high risk populations, including senior citizens and those with medical complications. A letter detailing the closure will be released to parishioners Friday afternoon.
- Pflugerville First United Methodist Church, 500 E. Pecan St., Pflugerville
St. John Neumann Catholic Church
St. John Neumann Catholic Church in West Lake Hills will still be hosting mass for parishioners but has removed holy water from church entrances and will distribute the Eucharist to hands only and not on the tongue, according to the church's website. Sacramental wine will not be served at mass, and parishioners will not hold hands during prayer or shake hands during traditional services. Hand sanitizer stations will be available at church entrances.
- St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 5455 Bee Cave Road, Austin
St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church
St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church announced in a March 12 web post it will continue to gather for its Sunday worship and scheduled events. Changes to service protocol include not allowing intinction when receiving communal wine—dipping the bread in the wine—or touching during the passing of the peace.
Church staff added that it will take precautionary steps to help protect certain vulnerable populations, such as parishioners over 60 and those with health complications, and will continue to work with diocesan guidelines and local health officials.
- St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church, 7700 Cat Hollow Drive, Ste. 204, Round Rock
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
The church received word from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas on March 13 that all worship services on March 15 and 22, including those at St. Paul's, would be canceled to protect their congregations from the spread of the virus.
- St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 511 E. Pflugerville Parkway, Pflugerville