NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Five months ago COVID-19 forced school, restaurant, and church closures across Tennessee.
Vacation Bible School, worship services, and small groups at Mount Zion Baptist Church suddenly went from intimate, in-person experiences to one hundred percent digital.
“We went completely virtual in March when we saw the numbers trending,” said Bishop Joseph Walker.
Walker oversees the three Mount Zion locations across Middle Tennessee. On an average Sunday they welcome thousands of visitors. But now you’ll only find empty pews and empty parking lots. While the building is physically closed, Walker said the church is still open.
“We’re still doing the work. We’re doing everything we would normally do. We’re just doing it in a virtual space,” he said.
All of Mount Zion’s services remain online, even as other churches re-open their doors and COVID-19 cases rise.
Walker said his decision is data-driven. “It’s not so much about the folks who go to your church and you’re socially distanced and all that. It’s about who works for those folks. Like who connects with those folks when they leave? You have to think about those things and how that could have an adverse effect on the community at large.”
Even with thousands of square feet of space, Walker said it’s logistically complicated to clean, coordinate, and socially distance thousands of churchgoers even at a limited capacity. That’s why Walker said his massive congregation likely won’t meet in person until a vaccine is approved. He’s asking other religious leaders to lean on their faith, but also lean on science and research.
“I think the church really needs to lead the way in being responsible and letting folks know, listen we do have faith, and we have faith to believe that God’s going to take care of his church. That we’re going to get through this together, and when we follow the science and we put our faith to that I think that it can really help us mitigate this situation much more.”
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.