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Kentucky church urged to self-quarantine after attendee tests positive for COVID-19

Minister says congregation took extra precautions, but he wishes in retrospect 'we hadn't met at all.'

The University Church of Christ in Murray, Ky., is urging 150 people who showed up for last Sunday’s worship to self-quarantine after an attendee tested positive for COVID-19.

Senior minister Charley Bazzell said the church learned about the coronavirus case from the Calloway County Health Department on Thursday. It’s the county’s first confirmed diagnosis.

Charley Bazzell

Charley Bazzell

The congregation, which typically draws 300 worshipers when Murray State University is in session, had assembled despite Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urging churches to cancel.

“We met, as many churches did this past Sunday, and we took several precautions,” Bazzell told The Christian Chronicle on Saturday.

Those precautions included an abbreviated service that lasted about 30 minutes as well as a person with gloves serving individual pieces of bread and juice during communion, he said. Physical contact such as hugging and shaking hands was discouraged. Extra space between those from different households was encouraged.

“We urged anybody who was uncomfortable getting out not to come and anybody with a compromised immune system to stay home,” Bazzell said. “We took a lot of precautions, we thought, to try and reduce the chances of anything.

“Looking back on it now,” he added, “I just wish we hadn’t met at all.”

The county health department urged the University Church of Christ in Murray, Ky., to self-quarantine for two weeks from last Sunday's service.

The county health department urged the University Church of Christ in Murray, Ky., to self-quarantine for two weeks from last Sunday’s service.

Growing number of churches won’t assemble

Prior to hearing from the health department Thursday, the University church already had decided not to assemble this Sunday.

Numerous Churches of Christ across the nation canceled services last Sunday.


Related: Churches of Christ offering livestream worship


Many more told the Chronicle they will do so this weekend, heeding government recommendations (and orders in some places) as well as growing awareness about the invisible killer.

Still, a number of congregations are insisting on gathering as usual, an informal Chronicle survey found.

“There is a sense of immunity and invulnerability in rural areas, but I think we are starting to see the bigger issue,” said D.J. Overman, minister for the Wildwood Church of Christ in Carthage, Texas, which made what Overman called a “difficult decision” to suspend assemblies the next two Sundays.

Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in almost 300,000 confirmed infections and nearly 13,000 deaths, according to a running count by John Hopkins University.

For most people, the disease brings only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever, cough and respiratory issues. However, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk. Government officials point to social isolation — people staying home — as a means to control the disease’s spread and keep cases from overloading hospitals in the U.S., as has happened in other countries.

Livestream from the Belton Church of Christ in Texas.

Livestream from the Belton Church of Christ in Texas.

The Karns Church of Christ in the Knoxville, Tenn., area, is among countless congregations moving to livestream worship starting this Sunday.

“We are aware that if we keep our doors open, our older, most vulnerable, high-risk members will be present,” Karns preacher Steve Higginbotham said. “If these Christians know that the doors are open, their sense of duty, responsibility and obligation will not allow them to stay away.”

“We are aware that if we keep our doors open, our older, most vulnerable, high-risk members will be present.”

For those interested in a biblical case for not meeting, Oklahoma minister Jeremie Beller wrote a guest column for the Chronicle that suggests: “It’s not because of our conviction that ‘Jesus is Lord’ that the government has asked us not to assemble. Instead, the government has requested we not meet out of concern for our neighbors. Ironically, they are calling on businesses, schools and churches to practice justice and mercy. We are being asked to love our neighbor. Government officials have even called for people of faith to pray. The church is being asked to be the church.”

Sunday worship in the home of Christian Chronicle CEO Erik Tryggestad in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday worship in the home of Christian Chronicle CEO Erik Tryggestad in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kentucky members face two-week self-quarantine

Back in Kentucky, the University church first informed members of the COVID-19 news via its Facebook page.

But the comments section of the social media post “got real ugly quick,” Bazzell said, as news spread of what had happened. The church took down the post and disabled its Facebook page.

“Obviously, with the firestorm we’ve been under the last few days, I wish we hadn’t met,” the minister told the Chronicle.

“Obviously, with the firestorm we’ve been under the last few days, I wish we hadn’t met.”

At a time when people were still eating out in restaurants and going to various public events, leaders felt like the governor’s recommendation had singled out churches, Bazzell said.

“We felt it wasn’t unreasonable to go ahead and meet,” he said. “We tried to serve members (who really wanted to assemble) and be faithful to the Lord.”

Now, those present face a two-week quarantine from the time of last Sunday’s service. So far, Bazzell said, he knows of no one else there that day who has been infected.

Filed under: Churches of Christ Coronavirus covid Covid and church COVID-19 health Kentucky medical National quarantine Top Stories

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