It was written on their faces. They were thrilled to be in church on Sunday and the Rev. Joey Reed at Mayfield First United Methodist Church preached to a clearly cheerful and engaged crowd.
So following a conversation a church group had regarding the difficulty of preaching to an empty room after canceling services on Sunday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an unknown congregation member with access to the church’s sanctuary snuck in and placed paper plates adorned with happy faces to the pews to create a makeshift congregation.
Drawn faces were happy, weeping, wore medical masks, and even fanning itself.
“It was a very much needed laugh when I walked in,” Reed said. “That’s indicative that we all need a little laugh in these difficult times.”
Reed said he fully intended to have normal, regular service since Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hadn’t initially called for the closing of places of congregating. As last week progressed, however, more cancelations were recommended and Reed said they had to re-craft their initial statement and position; making the difficult decision to cancel their Sunday classes and service in favor of broadcasting online in response to growing coronavirus concerns.
“Not out of panic, but because it was the responsible thing to do,” he said.
Reed referenced a Tennessee priest who tested positive for the coronavirus. According to knoxnews.com, the priest officiated a wedding, served communion, and led a staff meeting before he knew he was infected.
“It’s a matter of keeping our heads, making wise decisions, and listening to experts who have solid facts rather than the hoax-filled social media,” Reed said.
First Methodist was not the only one to make that hard choice as churches across Graves County have postponed their regular in-person services for the time being.
First Christian Church postponed its Sunday services and utilized Facebook Live to preach to their normal congregates. Senior minister Dr. Milton West said they were planning on having normal services until later Saturday when more and more churches canceled.
“We felt like we just had to,” West said. “We didn’t want anyone getting sick because of church.”
All other activities have been canceled at least until school starts again, he added.
“We need to trust the science on this virus,” West said. “This is a deadly virus and we don’t have a cure for it, a vaccine for it. People think it’s political when it’s not; it’s science.”
GraceLife Pastor Chad Lamb said they have their own platform they used to broadcast online at mygracelife.online.church. It also gives viewers access to all sermon notes, the ability to chat, and submit prayer requests.
Lamb said they broadcasted at 7 p.m. Saturday, and then 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Normally, the church would do all it could to help during disasters but not this time.
“This is unprecedented,” Lamb said. “It’s not like we can hop into a vehicle and go help out.”
He said people should know that it’s not just a small group that’s affected, it’s everyone everywhere around the world. Canceling in-person services is a measure to help slow the spread of the virus.
“The key for us is to be the light against the darkness,” he said.
According to responses on The Mayfield Messenger Facebook page, several churches in Graves County had normal services on Sunday, including Mayfield First Baptist, Trace Creek Baptist Church, Pentecostal Tabernacle, St. James AME, and Mt. Olivet, Union Hill Church of Christ, Baltimore Baptist, Pentecostal Tabernacle in Water Valley, St. Joseph Catholic, Enon Baptist, Pryorsburg Baptist, House of Worship in Lynnville, Wingo Old Cumberland Presbyterian, Seven Oaks Church of Christ, Apostolics of Mayfield, Farmington Baptist, Pryorsburg Independent Bible Methodist, Farmington Church of Christ, Sharon Baptist, First Assembly of God, Emmanuel Baptist, Old Pathway, Universal Holiness, St. Jerome Catholic, Sedalia Baptist, Pottsville church of Christ, Lebanon church of Christ, Bethel Church of Christ, Northside church of Christ, Hickory Baptist, and Yahweh Baptist.