Update Saturday, March 14 at 8:00 a.m.
Several churches mentioned in this post have since cancelled in-person services, including Ethos Church and Brentwood Baptist. On Friday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee discouraged gatherings of more than 250 people, including religious services.
Churches around Middle Tennessee are starting to call off Sunday services to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Congregations in Williamson County have felt pressure to close. The area has the highest concentration of confirmed cases currently. Harpeth Hills Church of Christ cancelled services entirely for the next week.
“As the number of confirmed cases continues to rise and as the phrase ‘social distancing’ has come into our vocabulary, we feel that we should heed the recommendations of the WHO, CDC, and area health departments to avoid assembling in large numbers and confined spaces so that the progression of the disease may be contained,” lead pastor Chris Smith said in a statement.
First Presbyterian Church in Oak Hill has cancelled all activities through the end of the month, allowing members to return from spring break travels and determine whether they are ill. “It increases our confidence that older members of our community, and those with compromised health, will be protected,” senior pastor Ryan Moore says.
Others congregations that already offer online services are simply moving to online-only.
“Tennessee just declared a state of emergency, and as the largest gathering of people in our community, we feel a responsibility to be part of the solution and not the problem of spreading the virus,” Long Hollow Baptist in Hendersonville says in a statement to members.
Nashville’s Cross Point Church, which has multiple campuses from Dickson to Mt. Juliet, is asking members to invite a few neighbors into their homes to watch together.
“This is the only time that I know of that it’s been permissible for you to attend church in your sweatpants,” lead pastor Kevin Queen said in a Facebook video. “You can go gray-on-gray if you want.”
Queen says the suspension of in-person services will last at least two weeks.
Modified In-Person Meetings
Other large churches are opting to still hold services but limiting the chances for germs to spread. Some have cancelled communion altogether. Christ The King Catholic Church is limiting use of the share chalice.
Several churches have decided not to pass collection plates. Brentwood Baptist is encouraging members to drop offerings by the door or give online.
Greeters won’t be passing out bulletins as they usually do at some churches. And several congregations trying to meet amid the outbreak say they will stop serving complimentary coffee.
The Metro Public Health Department has not banned gatherings but has recommended against meetings of more than 100 people.
But for now, some large congregations are trying to meet as usual. Ethos Church gathers on Sundays in multiple sites, including Cannery Ballroom and Marathon Music Works.
“Ethos Church plans to continue meeting on Sundays at each of our campuses as Christians throughout history, and in spite of various difficulties, have always done,” church leaders said on a church blog.