By Patricia Williams, Pat Benn contributor
KNOXVILLE, TN (April 2020) – A change in established norms is expected to come with challenges. For the first time in recent history assembling in a church or house of worship is being challenged.
In the midst of COVID-19, a world-wide health pandemic, authorities have ordered “citizens to shutter at home.” You can be cited for moving about for non-essentials such as hair and nail services, or shopping for non-essentials, and attending church.
Businesses classified as non-essential have closed under an executive order, including houses of worship. There can be no gathers of more than 2-5 people at a time, and those should stay at least 6 feet apart and wear a face mask.
The coronavirus was first noticed in Wuhan, China in November 2019, the other side of the world. The virus has been carried across continents and arrived in the United States within a few months. At this time, there have been over 100,000 deaths worldwide and mounting.
A new normal is expected to emerge on the other side of this pandemic, this could include worship services.
For the last two weeks, America’s medical professionals have predicted ‘these are peeking weeks’ when it is of the utmost importance to stay home in order to not spread the coronavirus. Most local pastors are respecting social distancing and have shuttered their doors while finding other ways to connect with members.
Pastor Shawn Angel, Absolute Word Church; “If we gather we can potentially bring on problems for others. My faith has nothing to do with the virus. The virus is a medical problem and has nothing to do with the devil. I’m covered either way. If I get the virus I’m still good. I’ll either be healed on this side or the other. Romans 13:1-2.
Pastor Chris Battle, The Underground Collective, ”We can’t sanctify stupidity by robing precaution in religion and faith in Jesus.”
This week has events that are widely celebrated by many religious sects. It includes Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Seder, Passover, and the Resurrection (to name some) that culminate on Sunday, April 12, 2020 which is Easter Sunday. This makes the challenge to not hold service especially difficult.
Where there is a will, there is a way to stay safe while following the required safety protocols of the present day. Pastors across East Tennessee are being creative and found ways to celebrate the Resurrection while protecting their flock.
Many pastors are adapting to the current climate and are live streaming services on the church’s Facebook page at the regular service time. While it’s far from routine, there some advantages:
- You can access the video and watch at your convenience
- You don’t have to be dressed, but you can for ambience
- You and the family can watch together without leaving home
- The weather is not a factor
- You can pause, rewind and replay
- You can enjoy other’s sermons of the same day
Additionally, several pastors plan to conduct Easter Sunday drive-up service in the parking lot.
Pastor William Riddle, St. John’s Missionary Baptist, in East Knoxville, was in the pulpit last Sunday morning and has plans for Easter Sunday as well. “I was the only one there,” said Pastor Riddle. Services are being live-streamed on the church’s Facebook page. Sunrise service at 7 am with guest Min Paul Garrett; worship service 11:30 am.
Pastor Riddle also shared that a couple made alternative plans for their wedding that was planned for March. They didn’t want to put their loved ones at risk.
Pastor Victor King, Edgewood Chapel AME, on MLK Avenue, (next to the Love Kitchen), is planning an outdoor drive-in service. Pastor Victor King plans to allow patrons to attend by standing outside of their vehicles and to have a few safely spaced chairs for seating. Pastor King shuttered previous services to protect members.
Apostle Dr. Sheldon Hudson, Across All Boundaries Church, 2821 E. Magnolia Ave. (across from McDonald’s) will have a drive-up and fill-up on the word service at 10 am, on Easter Sunday, according to Assoc. Pastor Elder Porsha Bush. “We will be following social distancing guidelines and using our outside speaker.”
Pastor Benjamin Lewis Jr., Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Alcoa. All services will be streamed live and recorded on its Facebook page as follows: 7 am Sunrise message; 8:15 am, Sunday School; 9:30 am Easter Sunday message. Communion will be conducted after the message (you can use water/ juice, crackers/bread to symbolize the elements). Join the Prayer Conference Call, Phone # 978-990-5000, Access code: 478125. Follow the prompts, after a pause, you will have access.
Rev. Gayle Hansen Browne, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Selma Ave. Click to view the Light and Lighting of the Paschal Candle Holy Saturday service. The Reverend Gayle Hansen Browne presides. The Great Vigil of Easter is a prelude to the celebration of Easter Day. Tune in to one of the Facebook live-streamed Easter Liturgies.
Connect to a message on Facebook. As ministries continue, by whatever means, your tithes, offerings, and financial support are still needed. You can continue to give by mail or electronically.