• 77°

Having to take a step back… Two local churches have to adjust services after positive tests of COVID-19

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
As local COVID-19 cases continue to rise, at least two church congregations have unfortunately experienced positive tests and were forced to alter services over the weekend.
It was just a stark reminder that the virus is still active in the area and residents are encouraged to do the right thing in protecting not only themselves but others until a vaccine can be developed to combat the illness.
For Mark Fowler, senior pastor of Pleasant Beach Baptist Church, the positive test hit close to home as Fowler himself was diagnosed as positive for the COVID-19.
The church has been constructing a new building and according to Pastor Fowler, he was introduced to the virus by someone working on the building.
After being diagnosed, the church released a statement about what happened and read as follows.

“It came to our attention on Monday evening that someone that had worked at our new church building construction from out of state last Thursday and Friday had tested positive for the Coronavirus. We took precautions and temporarily halted the construction beginning Tuesday morning.  The general contractor was informed of the situation and has been in contact with all the subcontractors that could possibly have been affected

“Our pastor had worked with these men installing the new sound system, so he went for testing on Tuesday morning.  We made the decision to cancel our Wednesday evening service in precaution as well. 

“We received the results on Wednesday afternoon that our Pastor’s test was positive. We have been working closely with the health department and following their recommendations.  We have notified all the church family of the situation.  We have given each church member the COVID hotline.  At this time there are no other confirmed cases in our church family. For this Sunday, June 28, services will be online only.

“We are asking the Lord to continue to watch over and to lead our church family during these difficult days. We know God has a plan for our lives and for our church; sometimes these plans include interruptions and detours.  We are trusting the Lord to guide us through this situation just as He has faithfully led His children through the centuries.”

It wasn’t long after the release from Pleasant Beach Baptist that one of the larger churches in the Elizabethton/Carter County area had posted information that one of their members had tested positive for COVID-19 as well.

Valley Forge Freewill Baptist Church had waited until the last of May before officially going back to in-person worship and had worked tirelessly to provide safe distancing for those who elected to attend service in-house.

Unfortunately, with the member’s test coming back positive, the church elected to revert back to online services and were forced to postpone the dedication of their new multi-purpose building “The Forge” which was slated for Sunday.

“The release from Valley Forge Freewill read as follows:

“Valley Forge Church Family,

“Over the past several weeks, we along with other churches in our area have been re-opening in phases as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the state of Tennessee by offering in-person or onsite worship services.

“Here at Valley Forge, we have tried to do our very best to follow all re-opening recommendations and guidelines in order to provide as safe an environment as possible for those of you who chose to return in person.

“Over the past several days, there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases in Carter County. Today, we were notified of one person in our congregation who tested positive for the virus this morning. These two factors have resulted in the following:

“If you have symptoms or concerns: Since transmission of this virus is very difficult to trace and the safety of our congregation is a primary concern, we recommend getting tested for COVID-19 at the Carter County Health Department. The address is 403 West G Street in Elizabethton. To setup an appointment, call (423) 543-2521. The test, which usually takes only a few minutes, is drive-through and you can stay in your car.

“For symptoms go to https://www.cdc.gov/…/2019-n…/downloads/COVID19-symptoms.pdf. We want to be here to support and pray for you during these uncertain times and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

“As of today, we are temporarily discontinuing onsite or in-person worship services and returning to online only. We encourage all of you to join us and be involved in the online services Sunday (10:45 am and 6:00 pm) and Wednesday (7:00 pm) for the time being.

“All classes, events, and activities are also temporarily postponed. This includes the Dedication of “The Forge” Multi-purpose building which was originally scheduled for this Sunday.”

President Donald Trump had classified churches as essentially earlier during the pandemic. Going forward, it is difficult to know how other churches in the area will respond to these two incidents.

However, some such as Grace Baptist Church in Elizabethton followed later with a post stating that at least three of their church’s family had interaction with some members but had not received any positive test.

The church further advised anyone considered highly susceptible to COVID-10 or anyone that had to come in contact with someone susceptible to join their services online for the next two weeks.

Grace Baptist also recommended that anyone awaiting major or minor surgery join online as well for the next couple of weeks along with those not feeling well.

Area pastors will be continuing to monitor the situation as they process what will be the best way to protect their congregations – especially if the numbers continue to climb locally as more testing has been done as a result of the recent positive results.