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United Methodist Churches can now worship inside, members rejoice

The Holston Conference made the announcement ahead of the weekend after the Bishop and coronavirus task force met. Kodak UMC hadn't been inside for seven months.

KODAK, Tenn. — United Methodist Churches are now allowed to worship inside on Sundays. The Bishop of the Holston Conference and its coronavirus task force made the announcement earlier this week.

For Kodak United Methodist Church in Sevier County, this weekend was the first time members were allowed inside in the past seven months.

On Sunday, the doors were open, the lights were on and church member Nellie Johnson was the first person sitting in the sanctuary.

"It just made my day coming through those doors this morning," Johnson said. It just made my day."

For the nearly 90-year-old woman who just got out of the hospital, this was a day she wouldn't miss.

"I just about shouted when they said we were going in the church tomorrow," Nellie nodded. "That's what I've been praying for."

Worshipping inside on Sundays was a long time coming. Johnson said it's been too long.

It wasn't a straight path. They had to adapt multiple times over the last half of the year.

"We've been outside for the last five weeks," pastor Melissa Smith said. "We've been online for the last seven months."

In August, during the first parking lot service, Johnson said just seeing everyone in person was a huge win.

But, with all the online and parking lot services, people had to be patient. They waited on the United Methodist Holston Conference to give the green light to head back inside. Kodak UMC was one of the last churches in Sevier County to be able to do that.

It always about taking precautions and keeping members safe.

"We had a lot more people today that have been waiting and praying and craving that we would get back inside and it happened today," Smith smiled.

Inside, people were wearing masks and the chairs were farther away, but the feeling of togetherness was the same as always.

That's something the church wants to keep up, so they don't have to go seven months without seeing the sanctuary again.

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"Everybody was glad to see everybody," Johnson said matter-of-factly.

Johnson said she will be back every Sunday to keep praising while she's able.

The church will continue to post services online for members who aren't comfortable coming in person yet.