Mount Carmel church continues services through COVID-19 crisis

Jeff Bobo • Apr 11, 2020 at 12:00 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — When parishioners meet at Emmaus Baptist Church Sunday morning for Easter service, Pastor Dr. Phil Kidd expects the sanctuary to be as clean, if not cleaner than, as a hospital emergency room.

Members of the church — also known as Emmaus of Kingsport — have been volunteering for the past two weeks making medical masks in a sterile environment and have donated more than 2,000 locally to local police, EMTs and hospital personnel, including the Holston Valley Medical Center emergency room.

Kidd and his wife, Dr. Leslie Kidd, both practiced psychology for 25 years, and he said they’re very in tune with the medical field.

“I know this could be a slippery slope”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, and even after Gov. Lee implemented “Safer at Home” guidelines, Kidd continued to hold services at the church located at 5842 Carters Valley Road in Mount Carmel, albeit with a big emphasis on social distancing and sanitizing. 

“I know this could be a slippery slope in a bad way,” Kidd told the Times News Friday. “I am concerned about governmental control coming in and telling me when and where I can (have church). That’s not going to happen in Tennessee. Gov. Lee is a good man and I don’t think he would ever put up with that.”

Kidd added, “Our service lasts about 45 minutes. We sing a couple of songs. My whole platform is sanitized. All of our seniors have to be sanitized. All the microphones have to be sanitized. All the instruments have to be sanitized. We do two songs, I preach for 28 minutes, and we go home.”

Plenty of room for everyone to spread out

Before parishioners are allowed into the sanctuary on Sundays, they pass a sanitary station where they are screened and wash their hands.

They aren’t required to wear medical masks during services, despite the fact the Kidds patented a reusable medical mask which is offered for free at the church entrance.

Parishioners are expected to adhere to social distancing requirements including the six-foot separation.

The sanctuary seats about 500 and under normal circumstances is full every week, but only about 100 have been attending in person since the COVID-19 crisis began. As a result, there’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out, Kidd said.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

“Nobody can come in the church until church time,” Kidd told the Times News. “(Beginning) Saturday afternoon, the air filtering systems run all night into our auditorium. Right before the church doors open on Sunday, every air filter in our units are changed inside the auditorium. Nobody opens the door. We have a masked, gloved man who opens the door for everybody, and they have to be at least six feet apart.”

Kidd added, “As soon as they enter the auditorium, they pass by our sanitary table, where they are sprayed down and they have to wash their hands. We question them whether they have any respiratory problems. Have they had a cold? Are they taking sinus medicine? Have they come into contact with anybody from outside the country in the past 45 days? Have they been sick or had a fever? They have to answer all those questions, and only then can they go into the auditorium. They cannot leave the auditorium and enter any other room inside the church.”

Parishioners not required to wear medical masks

Kidd said he can’t require parishioners to wear medical masks, any more than Walmart or a drug store can force customers to wear masks.

“When they come in, we try to sit them 10 feet apart, and we category them across our auditorium, and in the balcony as well,” Kidd said. “We do not pass an offering pan because that’s contact to contact. There’s no handshakes, no hugging, nothing like that. There’s no invitations for people to come forward, and there’s no fellowship after the service. As soon as I’m done preaching, everybody has to stay six feet apart and we escort them back to their automobiles.”

Kidd added, “We’re going to stay above board and go beyond what the governor is asking for as far as sanitary. We’re going far beyond what Tennessee is asking.”

If you have children, are elderly, or have health issues, the church wants you to stay home. As an alternative, it offers livestream, Facebook, YouTube, and the church is on TV and on Roku around the world.

“I don’t want anybody at my church getting a cold, much less a virus,” Kidd said.

“If you want to show up, show up”

Some parishioners aren’t coming due to COVID-19 concerns and Kidd said he supports their decision.

“If I had respiratory issues or little kids, I’d be doing exactly what they’re doing,” Kidd said. “I tell people, ‘Stay home. Don’t come.’ I’m opening the doors. I’m preaching on Sunday. If you want to show up, show up. But these are some sanitary things you’re going to have to go through before I let you in the building.”

Usually Emmaus starts at noon but on Sunday services will begin at 10:30 a.m. so that Kidd’s parishioners have more time to go home and enjoy Easter with their families.

Kidd said nonmembers are welcome to attend in person for Easter services as long as they’re willing to adhere to the requirements of the sanitary station and social distancing.

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