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'Let's care about others more than we care about ourselves' | Local churches move services online to prevent spread of COVID-19

On Friday, Gov. Bill Lee asked congregations to consider "alternatives to traditional services." Now, churches are moving Sunday service to live streams.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For Pastor Rodney Arnold, deciding to hold a virtual worship session on Sunday was a no-brainer.

"We have a responsibility to do our part to flatten the curve," Arnold said. "If we really love our neighbor as ourselves and if we really care for the community... that's the least that we could do."

Arnold said OneLife Church in Knox County usually holds Sunday services at three locations. 

But on Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee asked faith groups across the state to reconsider. 

"Congregations and groups are urged to consider alternatives to traditional services by utilizing livestreams, pre-recorded messages and other electronic means," Lee wrote. "We strongly discourage events of 250 people or more as an important step in limiting exposure to COVID-19."

OneLife Church recorded a service and encouraged people to follow along in small groups at home.

"We gathered with our home group, we had breakfast early this morning and then we had church," churchgoer Robert Buchanan said. "We had the service online, we had singing like normal and then Pastor Rodney spoke and we read the Bible verses and had a discussion."

Credit: Grace King
Some churches opted to hold Sunday service via Facebook Live on Sunday.

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Pastor Arnold said this weekend was a good reminder that church doesn't always look the same.

"Church is when people...whether it's four or four thousand... gather together to worship, to pray, to study God's word and then go out from there to live on mission," Arnold told 10News. "We gathered with just about 10 people to worship together and read the Bible together."

Across the region, other churches took similar measures to protect their congregations.

First Baptist Madisonville, Fellowship Church of Knoxville, Christus Victor Lutheran Church and NewLife Gathering were just a handful of the ones offering Sunday worship via Facebook Live.

Arnold said OneLife Church will continue doing virtual services until government leaders and medical experts say it's safe to gather in large groups again. He wants to make sure they are doing their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

"We challenged everyone to give your neighbor a roll of toilet paper, invite somebody over for dinner and make sure that people around you where you live, work and play are okay," Arnold said. "Let's care about others more than we care about ourselves."

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