İrem UZUN -TDO- At the holiest time of year for Christians, churches across the United States are wrestling with how to hold services amid the coronavirus outbreak. As local governments prohibit large gatherings, some U.S. churches plan to hold in-person services on Easter Sunday.

Most U.S. churches are expected to be closed on Sunday, and a broad majority of observant Americans are expected to follow authorities’ recommendations to avoid crowds to limit the spread of the potentially lethal COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Some churches are live-streaming services, while others are recording them and posting them online. Some buildings are closed, with others open for private prayer. There are also strong admonitions to recognize safe distances between parishioners.

Governors in several states have deemed church an "essential service", allowing Easter worship to proceed even as public health officials warn that large gatherings could be a major setback amid a pandemic that has killed more than 16,000 people in the U.S. The restrictions have created conflicts with state and local authorities.

The Reverend John Greiner said the Glorious Way Church in Houston, Texas initially moved services online after the county limited large gatherings, but his congregation will hold in-person services on Easter.  "We can't do what God called us to do on livestream," Greiner said. “Satan and a virus will not stop us,” said the Reverend Tony Spell, 42, pastor of the evangelical Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He expects a crowd of more than 2,000 to gather in worship at his megachurch on Sunday.

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