KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Some churches are now requiring members to wear face masks for Sunday service. This comes after Knox County announced a mandate requiring people to wear masks inside public buildings.
Even though the county-wide mandate does not include places of worship, some churches are still opting in, including Transformation Church off Cedar Bluff.
For the congregation at Transformation, wearing a mask is the new way to worship, according to Executive Pastor Drew Carson.
"We've had an overwhelming positive response," Carson explained. "People saying 'thank you' and that's what has kept some people for coming to church is we weren't wearing masks initially."
Three weeks after reopening, members must wear masks when inside while praying, singing and praising.
The goal is to encourage community and protect families while the sanctuary is at a safe distance.
"People need community," Carson said. "People need to be in community, so we're gonna keep this going as long as we can. So what's one of the steps? Wear a mask. Everybody wear a mask."
Fewer seats are full and the services are still offered online for people who are worried to worship in person.
“Our numbers have been down because people still don’t wanna come out around groups of people and that’s fine," Carson explained. "We said, ‘hey whenever you feel comfortable, watch us online as long as you want to and when you feel comfortable come on back.’”
Knox County implemented the face mask mandate on Friday, requiring people to wear face coverings while inside public buildings. Churches weren't included in that, but Transformation would rather be safe than sorry.
"It wasn't mandated for places of worship, but if we're truly wanting to be the hands and feet of Jesus and do what he would do, I think Jesus would wanna take care of family members and Jesus would have probably worn a mask too," Carson nodded.
In the meantime, safety stations will be present at Sunday service and the church will adapt to follow the proper CDC guidelines.
"But we wanna be the light and be there for people," Carson admitted. "That's what Jesus has called us to do and we wanna be that."
Carson added the church sanitizes the sanctuary after each services and amenities like the coffee bar and hospitality station are closed.
The church continues to provide community outreach during the pandemic, including giving gas cards to people in need at gas stations and offering food to the hungry.