TILLMAN'S CORNER, ALA. (WALA)- First Baptist Tillman's Corner shut its doors for the second time, after around 30 of their worshipers fell ill.
Before COVID-19, the church could hold around 1,000 people.
Pastor Derek Allen said, "When we saw that things were getting pretty serious, we made the difficult call to shut down."
They shut their doors on March 15th and reopened on May 17th with Governor Kay Ivey's blessing. Pastor Allen said his church did it by the book.
"That included everything that you hear churches doing: wearing masks, cleaning things, social distancing," Pastor Allen said.
The church also went from three services a Sunday, to five, cut attendance from 850 to about 130 while also spacing everyone out. Still, COVID-19 crept in.
Pastor Allen said, "That's a call that no pastor wants to receive."
Symptoms a staff member thought were just allergies, turned out to be the virus.
Pastor Allen thought they isolated all who had been in contact with the staff member and did not let any of them come to church the next day.
Pastor Allen said, "The problem was, this thing spreads so fast, and everything that you hear about being asymptomatic is true at least in our experience, where there were people who didn't have any symptoms when several days after that Sunday, and then suddenly they're showing symptoms."
Pastor Allen said up to 30 people in his church likely have the virus. Most are recovering at home but some could end up going to the hospital.
He said, "As a pastor, to see how much that person is suffering....that was an eye opener for me."
Church will go back to online only. Pastor Allen said, it's a sad but absolutely necessary move.
"Church is a family that walks along side of some people who don't have any other family. It seems easy to say 'just do church online' but church online and walking with people through difficult circumstances are two very different things so I believe church is essential. It's tearing me apart to make decisions between the safety of our congregation, but also realizing that what we do is essential."
Pastor Allen's message to other churches thinking of opening up is to treat this very seriously.