Updates: Tornadoes and COVID-19 Coronavirus

Greetings to you all! I want to provide you with a few updates.


As you are aware, tornadoes touched down in middle Tennessee about 1-2 am Tuesday morning, creating destruction from Nashville and east. We have 3 churches in Nashville (Brookmeade, Holy Trinity Community Church, and Howard Congregational Church). The churches were not damaged. We are grateful that Brookmeade was able to assist another agency that lost power by providing housing for 10 men.

The tornadoes moving east did much damage in an area of Cookeville. This is where most of the deaths occurred. We have one church, United Church of Cookeville, in the area. The church had no damage. Pastor James Bowman Harris has been in touch with the Red Cross and other groups to ascertain how they might respond. The national UCC staff working with disaster response teams around the denomination has been in touch and is ready to assist as needed. For now, the community has the volunteers and resources needed.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Conference Ministers had a Zoom meeting yesterday with some updates from our national staff. A few reminders: Do not panic, but be alert and proactive:

  1. Local county health officials post information for your area – in some areas where the virus has spread there is more encouragement not to have large meetings. But it varies by area.
  2. Consider how to put into place preventative measures in your local church:
    • If people are not feeling well, encourage them to stay home.
    • Declare a “non-touch” greeting – use elbow bumps or bowing to each other.
    • Consider how communion is served so that no hands other than the participants are touching elements (if intinction is used, tilt the cup so that no hands are touching the juice or use individual glasses for the immediate future). Have anyone touching the elements or communion glasses use hand sanitizer or gloves. Actually, this is common in some churches regularly!
    • Keep restrooms clean.
  3. The UCC has a lot of information on the website (www.ucc.org), including a bulletin insert that can be downloaded. The website includes up-to-date information from the World Health Organization.
  4. The most vulnerable segment of the population seems to be those who are over 60 years old and those with weakened immune systems.

Meanwhile, this is not a time for panic or fear, but a time for love. It is in the name of love for all people that we consider how we respond to those around us.

Blessings on you all,

Rev. Char Burch
Transitional Conference Minister
Southeast Conference, UCC