Ala. church moves back to online only services after ‘spike’ in COVID-19 cases among members

Pastor Derek Allen of First Baptist Tilmans Corner discusses the state of the church for the month of July.
Pastor Derek Allen of First Baptist Tilmans Corner discusses the state of the church for the month of July. | Facebook/First Baptist Tilmans Corner via screengrab

A large Alabama congregation has returned to online only worship services following what its pastor described as a “spike” in COVID-19 cases among the membership.

First Baptist Church of Tillmans Corner, a Mobile-based congregation with approximately 1,500 members, had recently reopened with socially-distanced worship services of about 350 people.

However, in an announcement posted on Facebook Wednesday, the church's pastor explained that they were canceling in-person services as well as their Kids Camp, which was going to begin next week.

In the Facebook message, Pastor Derek Allen said the decision came because of “a spike in COVID-19 cases among our faith family.”

“Regardless of what is happening nationally or statewide, there has been a significant increase in cases among FBTC members in the past two weeks. We need to move quickly and decisively to stop the virus before it spreads any further,” he wrote.

“We don’t want to see any of our faith family members suffer through a COVID-19 infection, and we want to do our part to contain this spike as much as possible.”

Allen added that several of those who've contracted coronavirus “have experienced severe illness” and he was “committed to leading us through this in a way that makes us stronger and more focused on advancing the Kingdom of God.”

“I know this is disappointing to all of us. It felt like we were inching our way back to a full schedule, and now we are taking a step backward,” he said.

As states ease lockdown restrictions that were put into place over two months ago to ensure hospitals were not overwhelmed with patients all at once when the virus was said to be at its peak, a large number of churches have begun to return to in-person worship, while following the CDC's social distancing guidelines.

Some congregations have decided to close down their in-person worship services for a second time following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases among their members. 

Last month, St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church of Omaha, Nebraska, temporarily halted in-person services after one of their priests, Father Toby Letak, tested positive for COVID-19.

Father Ralph O’Donnell of St. Margaret Mary sent a letter out to the congregation at the time, explaining that Letak was “not symptomatic at this time and has not had a fever.”

“He arranged for testing this week only after experiencing a brief bout of nausea. Father Toby plans to quarantine at the rectory and appreciates your prayers,” wrote O’Donnell.

“I am not experiencing any symptoms, nor is anyone in our office. However, out of an abundance of caution, those who have worked closely with Fr. Toby will self-quarantine for the next two weeks and be tested as well.”

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