TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – As COVID-19 cases in the area surge, some local church leaders are re-implementing COVID-19 protocol and urging the community to get vaccinated.
“With the increased numbers with the variant this fall related to children and those who have not been able to be vaccinated, we decided we should go back to distancing,” Douglas Grove-DeJarnett, an Associate Pastor at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City said.
Grove-DeJarnett said masking, social distancing and virtual services are all being implemented again.
“We believe it’s scriptural,” Grove-DeJarnett said. “Jesus said love the Lord, your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself, and what better thing can you do to protect your neighbor and love your neighbor than to be vaccinated.”
Along with mitigation strategies, leaders at Munsey and Highlands Fellowship Church in Abingdon are also encouraging their congregations to take action outside of their services.
Pastor at Highlands Fellowship Church Allen Jessee said normally his congregation numbers about 3,000, but since the pandemic, about 60% attend in-person.
“We’ve just tried to be an advocate to get past the pandemic,” Jessee said. “So, one of the things that we know has been effective and safe is the vaccine, and we’ve encouraged our people to get vaccinated.”
The churches are also offering support to those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“I think every faith community leader I know is praying for our healthcare workers today,” Jessee said. “We value you all. I know you’re overwhelmed, I know now this surge is coming back again, you’re gearing up every day and just from the bottom of our heart we’re very grateful.”