Singapore churches on alert after pastor's death from SARS
Simon Loh, a 39-year-old pastor at Singapore's Faith Assembly of God, went to the hospital to visit one of his parishioners, who had been hospitalized with a form of pneumonia. But the woman, Esther Mok, was the city's index patient in its outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the "mystery illness" that is spreading through Asia and elsewhere. So far, all 91 cases have been traced to the woman. Loh was the second in the city to die from the disease.
"There was a deep sense of sorrow" at yesterday's services at Faith Assembly, reports Channel NewsAsia (video available). "The sight of another pastor standing in for [Loh] was a painful reminder to worshippers."
Elsewhere in the city, Sunday school was canceled, church attendance was down to a trickle, ill people were asked not to attend, and parishioners were asked not to touch each other.
"In some churches, they have stopped confessions because the penitents are very close to the priests. And so this weekend and next weekend, we'll not have (them)," Johnson Fernandez, parish priest of Church of Christ the King, told the news agency. "As we know, church congregations are always crowded and you do not know who has and who doesn't have, and it may also spread very fast."
Faith Assembly's website is filled with mentions of SARS. Condolences, prayer requests, and church service changes are all posted in response to the disease. But there is also a note of hope: "The church will like to assure all members that apart from Pastor Simon Loh who contracted the SARS virus while doing vistation work, no other members of the church has contracted the virus or show any symptoms of it. The church pastoral staff and administration ...1
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