Lutheran church caps congregations at 100, enacts other COVID-19 measures

Head of the EELK Archbishop Urmas Viilma.
Head of the EELK Archbishop Urmas Viilma. Source: ERR

The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) has decided to postpone or cancel all larger planned events, including conferences, seminars, training and courses, as well as worship services, following the spread of coronavirus in Estonia.

Archbishop Urmas Viilma, head of the EELK, said Friday that congregations where more than 100 people regularly attend on Sundays or at other times would be supplemented by additional services, with the idea being that the attendees were then dispersed among these.

However, this would only work with congregations which provide timely information to their members and the public, and also requires churchwardens or other personnel or volunteers to be present to limit the number of attendants to 100.

Part of the Estonian government's emergency measures announced Thursday night included the curtailing of larger events; the figure of 100 maximum had already been recommended earlier in the week.

The EELK has also ruled that services will not be holding public holy communion between Friday and March 25, as an additional measure; private communion may be arranged with the church, according to ERR's online Estonian news, and would involve the wafer being dipped in the wine and placed directly in the mouth, rather than the hand.

Paraphernalia and hands would be cleaned with disinfectant beforehand in this case.

Those attendees at public services should also maintain even more of a distance than they might already do, which would include around a meter's space between each other when sitting in the pews, and not shaking hands when making the sign of peace.

The EELK is also suggesting congregations "attend" services online or on the radio; radio channels carrying religious programming include Pereraadio and Raadio 7.

The EELK's English-language page is here.

Roman Catholic Church takes similar measures

The Roman Catholic Church in Estonia has instigated similar precautions to the EELK. While masses are still going ahead, in all the regular languages (Estonian, English, Russian, Polish) these are also limited to 100 people and the church requests people keep at least a meter away from each other. All other church activities have been halted.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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