CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — COVID-19 has changed the way people worship.
"You’re not going to have that feeling this year," churchgoer Will Musto said. "It’s just going to feel like a regular Sunday that we’re watching church on our laptops."
And even for Easter Sunday, there’s no exception here in Chattanooga.
"This is going to be quite different -- quite challenging -- and we’re heartbroken," Dr. Michael Chitwood said.
This was Chitwood’s reaction after hearing that Mayor Andy Berke had extended his executive order within city limits on Friday -- not only keeping church doors closed to the public and service being online only this weekend, but now, prohibiting “drive-in” church services as well.
On Wednesday, before Mayor Berke extended his order, Celebration Church Chattanooga posted a video on Facebook -- inviting people to "come and enjoy praise and worship and a message of hope through live broadcast in your car."
A drive-in service was the new Easter plan for Celebration Church and others in Chattanooga -- to have people worship from their cars, tuned into their radios with their windows up.
But now, livestream from home will have to do.
"My first Easter service was when I was just a baby -- six, seven, eight weeks old," Chitwood said. "I’ve never missed an Easter service in my life for any reason."
Chitwood leads Celebration Church Chattanooga and says it’s disappointing for more than 1000 people they had planned to drive up.
But he says every church must comply with the mayor’s orders.
Regular churchgoer Will Musto doesn’t feel the same...
“I think it’s pretty outrageous," Musto said. "And telling people they can’t assemble within closed bubbles that don’t have contact with other people is very aggressive."
Fair or not, people will have to make the most of the holiday from their homes or face the consequences of breaking the rules.
Chattanooga Police say they won’t be checking churches on Sunday, but say if they do get reports or complaints about those violating the order, they will respond to the situation accordingly.