Update 7/28/20: The Smoky Mountain District of the Holston Conference has extended its suspension of in-person services through August 9 as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
"COVID-19 infection rates have worsened putting three of our five counties (one church in Roane) at the red (Tipping Point) level as determined by the Harvard Global Health Institute with the other two counties not far behind. Two weeks prior we were at the orange (Accelerated Spread) level. We have yet to see how numbers will be affected with schools reopening but the Alcoa City School system is already reporting one positive case after starting back last week. As a result, the district wide closure will be extended through the next two weeks. If things do not improve, I would go ahead and prepare for this to be the case through August, though I will let you know for sure," wrote Rev. Jason Gattis, District Superintendent, in the post.
Local Methodist churches are suspending in-person worship as the number of COVID-19 cases rises in East Tennessee.
The Smoky Mountain District of the Holston Conference made the decision to move away from in-person worship, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. It applies to different churches in South Knox, Blount, Sevier, Loudon and Roane Counties.
Concord United Methodist Church was scheduled to resume in-person worship on July 12, for example. The church decided not to after COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Knox County. Health officials reported 1,100 active cases.
"We will be back gathering for worship as soon as we can, as soon as it's safe to do so," Mike Sluder said, from the Holston Conference. "In these times, we have to love our neighbor, and part of that means we may not get to do everything we want to do"
Many said they will continue to hold church activities, but will not hold in-person gatherings. They are also continuing to worship online for the time being, according to officials.