Coronavirus: African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas offers drive-thru sacrament

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- President Donald Trump designated Sunday as a National Day of Prayer as the United States continues its effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

The virus also posed new issues for those who normally attend Sunday services since mass gatherings are restricted.

Many people lined up to get their drive-thru sacrament at African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia.

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Father Martini Shaw, the 17th Rector of St Thomas said, "If ever before, the ministry of the church and the witness of the church is needed now, not only here in Philadelphia, but throughout the world."

On Sunday, parishioners worshiped in a different way by receiving communion through their car windows.

"I came to have what I think is the most important meal of life," said Joann Jones, from Germantown.

Parishioners received communion through their cars from Father Shaw, who wore latex gloves. Parishioners had their car windshields cleaned, and their hands sanitized before leaving with the blessing of holy water.

"It's really important for us because it helps us to keep our faith, it helps us to stay strong. It keeps us to continue to feel like a community of Christ," said Cynthia Muse, from King of Prussia, who added, "and we're driving by, and waving to each other."

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St. Thomas should remain open throughout the week for prayer but not for fellowship.

Over at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, people had the option to attend mass in person, or watch it streamed online.

"It's important to us to attend mass every week because our church back home, we knew was open, even though it's optional to go, we would have gone there, so we're going here as well," said Jim Schirtzinger, from Columbus, Ohio.

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COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019, which was when the first cases were reported.

Parishioners said they still practiced social distancing at church.

"I believe church here is more than mental and spiritual, there's a physical aspect here that can't be reproduced on the internet," said Eric Clark, from Kensington. "I'll be keeping my distance from everyone and doing what I can to make sure I'm not spreading any part of this problem or getting any part of this problem to spread to others."
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