NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) – More churches across Tennessee are returning to having services only online after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases statewide.
The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has about 3,200 churches in its network. Executive Director Randy Davis said about 80% of churches went back to in-person gatherings while still having an online presence when COVID-19 numbers were improving. However, a growing number were changing their plans.
“What we’re telling them is to be sensitive to their communities and make the best decisions they can according to what COVID is doing in their own communities and in their own churches and that’s what churches are doing,” Davis said. “Some of the hot spots in Tennessee only met physically for a couple of weeks before they went back to virtual meetings.”
The TBMB offered advice to churches who had a member test positive for the virus.
“Number one — they’ve got to respect the person’s identity because of HIPAA laws that are very sensitive. We recommend they get the person’s mission to share that they have COVID if they think that’s necessary,” Davis said. “To do some tracing as to who they were in close proximity to while they were at church, notify those people that they have been possibly exposed to COVID.”
He said any churches that are still meeting in-person need to stay in contact with their local health department leaders.
“Know what is recommended in their area and be respectful,” said Davis. “Social distancing and wearing of the mask are paramount. I was speaking at a church in Nashville during the month of June. Each Sunday I spoke there and it was a larger church. The people were socially distanced, they wore masks, and I was really impressed at how they handled it.”
He said right now, churches need a lot of encouragement.
“It’s tough enough on many of our pastors and ministry leaders when things are what we used to know as normal. You add a pandemic on top of that and the work gets tougher,” Davis said. “Nonetheless, the mission of making Christ known has not changed so they must plow ahead.”
He said online services are allowing churches to reach even wider audiences, and most churches are doing well financially since the pandemic began to unfold.