Social distancing hit home on Sunday morning for local pastors who are used to having full sanctuaries this time of year with Easter just a few weeks away. The spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent rules to help slow and prevent further transmission meant that services were all closed down at houses of worship across the county.
Parking lots that are usually full on a Sunday morning - ranging from the large congregations like Victory Baptist Church or Cedartown First United Methodist - were completely empty alongside the Bethlehem and Antioch Baptist's of the world.
Church leaders are still trying to reach out to their congregations as people stay home and follow guidance from federal, state and local authorities to slow down the transmission rate of COVID-19. Some pastors are taking their message online, like Antioch Baptist's Jonathan Blackmon.
His family setup a drive-thru service in the parking lot of the sanctuary on Antioch Road, and were ready to livestream the whole thing on Sunday morning. Blackmon said 25 of his congregation were setup in their cars and evenly spaced chairs in front of the sanctuary.
"Churches are known for their time of gathering together with friends and families and like many churches in our county, state and nation it is extremely difficult during this time to ensure social distancing," Blackmon said. "Antioch Baptist has also felt this complication and we are trying our best to continue to share the Gospel with means other than your typical Sunday gathering inside the church buildings."
He said the Sunday morning Drive-In Church Service the congregation's first ever and a member Emily Beavers gave him the idea.
"She is a dedicated RN at Floyd Medical Hospital and knows how serious it is to keep the distance," he said.
For now, Antioch Baptist is joining others around the area by relying on the web to offer comfort in a time of great uncertainty. Check out the Church Facebook page and in the near future all services will be live-streamed on antiochcedartown.com.
Another in the community on Sunday who took to video to provide their service online was Restoration Church in Cedartown. Unable to gather as a congregation, The Rev. Brad Easterwood took to livestream along with many other pastors to offer prayers of reassurance, and messages of hope.
"But I stand here today and there is not quivering in my voice. My knees are not knocking. I am not shaking because I have set my face toward heaven, I have sought He who has conquered death, hell and the grave," he said. "I have dove into His Word and I stand here today with full assurance, with full confidence that I can share this with you - Jesus is still on the throne! And He is not nervous, He is not scared, He is not intimidated. He is not looking around for another answer because He is the answer."
Restoration's lead pastor Danny Rhodes added that "I can’t imagine what it must have been like in earlier times for churches/pastors who were in similar circumstances as we are now. We have Facebook live along with other social media platforms in order to stay connected. Our pastors are using this great technology to reach our church families and the world. It’s huge and I am so grateful."
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