INDIANAPOLIS — This year Holy Week for many Christians comes at a time when they are legally barred from gathering inside their places of worship, and Indiana's governor is asking religious leaders not to go against the social distancing order because churches are not considered "essential."
A few conservative Christian leaders have criticized Governor Eric Holcomb for not labeling church services as essential, like some other states across the country have done. But Holcomb said during his press conference Monday that he isn't backing down from his decision.
"This disease does not care," Holcomb said. "This disease will prey on the vulnerable, this disease will prey on large gatherings. We have it within us to prevent that."
Gov. Holcomb's strong words come after a Church of Christ in Hammond received a citation over the weekend for holding a Palm Sunday service in violation of the state's stay-at-home order.
According to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, more than 30 members were worshiping in the small church when officers responded and several others were still arriving. When officers asked the elders to disperse the congregation, they refused, saying their worship was "essential."
Officers cited the elders for violating the governor's stay-at-home order and left the service, which continued as planned.
Holcomb praised pastors and churches who he says are keeping their members safer by not holding services.
"My message to pastors is 'thank you for understanding that this Holy Week for many of us is the exact right time to connect with the word and truth and the truth of the matter is that this coronavirus COVID-19 does not discriminate. It does not care what crowd you're in. And we have to take every measure, every responsible measure to prevent those connections from occurring," Holcomb said. "I'm so thankful that the pastors that are sending me, either live streaming sermons and their messages of hope and perseverance and determination and that we'll see our way through."
He also shared a message of hope for Hoosiers that the pandemic and "stay at home" orders won't last forever.
"I will tell you, this past Palm Sunday, those palm branches symbolized peace and victory as Jesus was entering Jerusalem and thrown at his feet - and we will see victory. We will see peace, when we too complete this journey over these next few weeks - these next few months - whatever it takes. That's why I said, we have this in us, but it takes all of us," Holcomb said.