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Prospect Baptist suspends in-person services after congregants test positive for COVID-19

After several weeks of in-person worship, Prospect Baptist Church in Albemarle is switching to online services for the next few weeks after congregants recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

Senior Pastor Stoney Benfield made the announcement on the church’s Facebook page Oct. 7. He estimated that around 40 to 50 people in his congregation have tested positive, though the cases don’t appear be serious.

“There’s nobody that I know of that are having serious symptoms,” he said, adding that the people he’s contacted and those who’ve contacted him “have very mild symptoms and are doing very well.”

Prospect Baptist has about 1,600 total members. Benfield, who’s been senior pastor for 15 years, previously contracted the virus, though he’s since recovered.

After having been closed since March, the church reopened for in-person services at the beginning of September, Benfield said. Services have been held each Wednesday at 7 p.m. and three times on Sunday — a mask-required service at 8:15 a.m. and two others (10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.) where congregants were socially distant and encouraged to wear masks. Each of the services also included sections of the church reserved exclusively for people wearing masks.

The church purchased a fogging cleaning machine and after each service, the staff thoroughly deep cleaned the room, including each individual chair and door handle. Benfield said the church is following all of the proper CDC guidelines and has been in communication with the county health department.

While it was a difficult decision to temporarily end in-person services, Benfield said it had to be done to ensure the safety of his congregants and the broader community.

“Our number one goal is the safety of our people,” Benfield said. “We never want to put anybody’s health in jeopardy.”

He added: “We care about the community and want to help be a part of the solution of this pandemic.”

Prospect Baptist will livestream its services — 7 p.m. each Wednesday and 10:30 a.m. each Sunday — on its website and on Facebook Live. Small groups can still meet in-person at 9 a.m. each Sunday, he said.

The tentative plan is to restart in-person services at the beginning of November, though the church will continue to monitor the situation and plans could change.

 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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