Big protestant churches yet to suspend services in spite of coronavirus outbreak


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In spite of the coronavirus spread, some big protestant churches in Seoul have yet to suspend Sunday services, raising concerns over possible mass infections.

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Yeouido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, the biggest protestant church in South Korea, with 560,000 followers, on Thursday said that it would hold the upcoming Sunday services as scheduled.

The church said it would downscale the seven-session programme to five sessions.

It said, however, that it had stopped holding weekday public events and gatherings of its worshippers.

The church said it would donate one billion won ($823,000) to the southeastern city of Daegu, which has been struggling with COVID-19 virus infections.

Other mega-sized churches, including Kwanglim Methodist Church and Sarang Community Church in southern Seoul, which have 80,000 and 90,000 believers, respectively, have not yet announced plans to cancel Sunday services.

However, Myungsung Church, located in eastern Seoul, has closed its facilities and suspended all activities and meetings, including services, after two of its members, including a pastor, were confirmed to be infected with the virus.

The church is one of the biggest presbyterian churches in the world with 80,000 followers.

The pastor attended a church service on Feb. 16 with roughly 2,000 participants.

The church said 215 followers who had close contact with him have gone through virus testing, with 142 of them having tested negative.

Somang Presbyterian Church, located in the south of the capital city, said earlier it would suspend all public gatherings, including Sunday services.

The decision coincided with the confirmed virus infection of one of its members on Tuesday. The member visited the church on Feb. 16.

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo on Thursday asked the protestant Church to cooperate in the government-led preventive measures.

“Many public gatherings take place in religious facilities; so, the religious community has to take action more thoroughly.’’

“As preemptive measures, it is necessary to suspend, cut down or postpone public events and replace services with online ones.’’

Myungsung Church in eastern Seoul closed its hall and other facilities on Feb. 25, as two of its followers have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The number of coronavirus patients in South Korea came to 1,766, with 13 deaths.

A majority of recent infections were from religious groups, including the homegrown Shincheonji Church of Jesus and other Christian churches.

Shincheonji said it has shut down all of its facilities, while the Catholic Church in South Korea has also suspended all public masses across the country.

The South Korean Government raised the virus alert level to the highest grade, requesting the public to refrain from having outdoor activities.

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