A 1,500-member church in Mobile that resumed in-person, social-distanced worship with weekly attendance of about 350 people has had more than 20 members test positive for COVID-19 the past two weeks, and has moved back to online services only.
“We can’t be sure of the sources of those infections, but we know that gathering in worship services is not a good idea with that many cases out there,” the Rev. Derek Allen, pastor of First Baptist Church of Tillmans Corner in Mobile, told AL.com.
All in-person public worship services for July have been canceled, meaning a return to online-only services. Kids Camp set for next week and Students Camp later this month have been canceled.
First Baptist Church of Tillmans Corner was one of many churches that resumed in-person Sunday worship on May 17 after Gov. Kay Ivey announced that it would be allowed effective Monday, May 11, with social-distancing guidelines in place. Before the coronavirus lockdown suspended services after March 10, First Baptist Church of Tillmans Corner had an average of about 850 weekly attendance at Sunday worship services.
Allen has written a blog post of advice for other pastors and churches, based on his experience.
Five Lessons I Learned from a COVID-19 spike at our church
By Pastor Derek Allen, First Baptist Church of Tillmans Corner
In March, April, and May, our church staff braced for a wave of Covid-19 cases to sweep through our church family. It never happened. In fact, for the first three months of the Covid-19 outbreak, our church family of about 1,500 only experienced a handful of coronavirus cases. As far as we know, none of those cases were spread at one of our events. Two weeks ago, that all changed.
Like most churches, we moved to an online-only format in March, but as soon as our governor and state department of health gave us the green light, we started meeting in socially distanced services. A few weeks into those services, we had a coronavirus scare, but it was short-lived and impotent.
One of our staff members was exposed to someone who later tested positive for Covid-19, and our entire staff was with the exposed staff member in a two-hour staff meeting a few days later. The exposed staff member tested positive so we had the rest of our staff tested. Everyone else tested negative. No one, including the one staff member who tested positive, showed any symptoms.
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SOURCE: Al.com, Greg Garrison