Coronavirus in Tennessee: Churches take precautions amid concerns

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Church leaders are looking to take extra precautions for the health of their congregations as Thursday saw a coronavirus case confirmed in Knox County.

The Knox County Health Department is advising people to take some extra precautions by limiting personal contact at big events or large gatherings.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel heard from Knoxville church leaders, learning what steps they are taking to keep congregations healthy and safe.

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“We’ve already started with the way we handshake. We don’t handshake, we do forearms, and we kind of make a cross actually. And when we give Holy Communion, which is very important here, we hand sanitize very visibly so everybody knows we’re doing it,” said Grace Lutheran Church’s pastor Rich Elseroad.

City Church in Knoxville is also taking extra precautions. Hand sanitizer sits at the welcome table and in the lobby, and they’ve made changes to some service practices.

“Usually with communion, everybody will go by and take a piece of bread and they’ll dip it in the juice and go by, and so obviously that’s not a smart thing to do when there’s contagious illnesses going around. So we just said we’re going to temporarily suspend communion until this thing gets figured out, just so we don’t unnecessarily put people at risk,” said pastor Kent Bateman.

Both pastors urged people to stay home if they’re feeling sick, and both, at the moment, are planning on continuing services.

“If we need to suspend services temporarily, we may put teachings or sermons online or do music online, or whatever we need to do to kind of get through the thick of it, but as of right now we’re planning on having services as normal,” Bateman said.

“We are not going to suspend worship services. We feel that we should not do that, but we’re going to leave it up to the members of the church and visitors who might not want to be here, we can understand that,” said Elseroad.

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