All Smoky Mountain District Churches Suspended Until August 9
This message was shared with us on the evening of July 27 by our District Superintendent Jason Gattis:
The cabinet met today and unanimously feel that current worship guidelines (indoor and outdoor) should remain in place. We’re hearing news of positive cases among church members and pastors in the Holston Conference and positive cases in other conferences that are a result of outdoor worship services.
Within the Smoky Mountain District, 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.
In one of the sermons I listened to yesterday the preacher was speaking on discipleship. One of the points made was, as disciples, the church isn’t here to appease to our personal wants and desires but is here as a means to offer our gifts and abilities for the Kingdom of God. Those offerings happen through worship, study, and teaching but, more important for today, through the act of going. Jesus didn’t instruct his disciples to stay and listen to his teaching (as important as that may be) but to go and make disciples.
I think that is some good news to hear today when we cannot gather in worship, study, and teaching. Maybe Christ is using this time to ask us to go. Just be sure to wear a mask when you do.
As always, my prayers are with you and the congregations of the Smoky Mountain District. I appreciate all you do!
This message was shared in late July with us by our District Superintendent Jason Gattis:
What we hoped would not happen has happened. When we began preparing to reopen for in-person worship, we did so knowing we would have to reverse course if case numbers began to rise. Over the past two weeks active cases for Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Sevier have risen 357%, 155%, 117%, and 57% respectively. Some reports say testing is so high there is a backlog in reporting. Needless to say, things are not improving and as Christians we are called to do our part in stopping the spread.
Therefore, with the recent increase in cases and, in some areas, deaths, all worship, ministries, and activities in Smoky Mountain District churches are suspended through the rest of July. This includes both indoor and outdoor/drive-in services and ministries. This is a decision I do not like to make but feel must happen especially when we have a number of people in our communities refusing to wear masks. We may be doing everything right in our churches but, unfortunately, the general public is not.
I have previously shared with churches in Knox and Sevier counties that the conference is turning to a metric put out by the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and can be found at https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/. Their risk level determination is based on a case rate per 100,000 population. It’s very similar to a metric put out by the TN Department of Health in determining whether or not nursing homes should open to visitors. Areas in orange and red zones are considered “Accelerated” and “Tipping Point” risks and advised to issue stay-at-home orders.
Grace and Peace,
District Superintendent, Smoky Mountain District