Local church leaders react to COVID-19 outbreak tied to Charlotte church

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — An outbreak of the coronavirus and at least five deaths all traced back to a convocation at the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte.

Hundreds of people attended the church events from October 4-11.

Now, health experts are trying to track, trace and contain the spread.

FOX8 spoke with several local church officials, all of whom resumed in-person worship within the past month or so.

They said they were caught off guard by the outbreak at the Charlotte church. While they understand that people need to come together in prayer, especially during these unprecedented times, people’s health should come first.

“It’s painful not to be able to be with people that you’ve been accustomed to being with every week,” said Father Mark Menees, of St. John’s Anglican Church in Greensboro.

They’ve welcomed back congregants slowly and cautiously.

“We’ve spread people out. We’ve marked off pews so that there was physical distancing,” Menees said.

But some churches in North Carolina are not taking the same measures.

The Mecklenburg County Department of Health issued an abatement order to the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte.

Officials shut down any in-person gatherings for the church after a week-long event was blamed for more than 140 positive cases of COVID-19.

“It’s impacting people of color more than it seems to be impacting people of other ethnicities,” said Bishop Adrian Starks, of the World Victory International Christian Center in Greensboro.

Starks said that’s why everyone should take this seriously.

“We have to invoke one of the scriptures. It says, ‘in the multitude of counsel, there is safety,'” he said. “We have to realize that our decision making is not just about ourselves individually, but about the collective.”

His sanctuary can fit 1,300 people, but they’ve limited Sunday morning services to 100 people.

It allows ample room for social distancing and is still less than the 30 percent capacity recommended by state health leaders.

Like many other Triad churches, they’re also streaming their services for those not comfortable to come to church in person.

Starks said while it is important for people to have social interaction right now, it shouldn’t be at the expense of breaking regulations or risking people’s health.

“Depression is a serious issue. Many individuals, not just at our church, but throughout the community, are fending off the effects of isolation,” he said.

He urged everyone to think about their choices.

“Be prudent to be patient,” Starks said. “Be practical in how you look at this pandemic season and keep the general public, and its well-being at heart, at the same time.”

FOX8 was told by someone in the community that there was a convocation of the United House of Prayer in Greensboro the week before the events in Charlotte.

FOX8 reached out to every location of the church in the Triad to confirm and get information.

FOX8 also tried to contact the Guilford County Health Department to check if officials are working with the Mecklenburg Health Department to keep an eye on in-person events and contact trace congregants in the Triad area.

As of airtime, there has not yet been a response.

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