A range of responses in Lynchburg as confirmed COVID-19 cases increase in VA


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — As Virginia sees more confirmed cases of COVID-19, Methodist churches throughout Virginia have been advised not to hold services for the next two weeks.

That request came from Bishop Sharma Lewis, the leader of the Virginia United Methodist Conference.

This comes just a couple of days after we reported on how one Methodist church is limiting contact between worshippers by changing how they distribute holy communion.

Now, Pastor John Vest and his staff at Peakland United Methodist Church are moving quickly. They got the recommendation Friday afternoon, and they quickly formed a plan to help their members worship on Sunday without coming in to church.

“We want to be mindful of health concerns, and we want to do our part as members of the community,” said Vest. “As we speak, we have staff members of the church that are preparing a live stream worship service that we will use this Sunday and then next week.”

As for Easter, he says the spirit of the holiday is more important than a day on a calendar.

“We might just have our Easter celebration after the actual Easter Day.”

On the other side of Lynchburg, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. appeared on Fox and Friends this morning, claiming people are overreacting to COVID-19 in an attempt to make President Trump look bad.

“[He] didn’t really give a lot of hope to the student body,” said cinematography student Noah Rask, who watched the segment.

Rask disagrees with Falwell’s assessment, that reaction to COVID-19 is political in nature.

“It’s kind of ballooning into it seems like it’s a big deal. And yeah, I’m a bit worried.”

Liberty University is canceling large gatherings like convocation, but they are not moving classes online like other colleges. Rask said Falwell’s statements Friday morning were not what students needed to hear.

“We were looking to him for more action in terms of what is the school going to do. We have shut down sporting events, but what about classes, what about extending spring break?”

Rask is partly relieved. He and his classmates in the cinematography program are working on a feature film in Georgia for a month, as a big part of their semester coursework.

For now, that trip has not been canceled. Rask said canceling it would derail his entire semester of academic work.

Liberty University officials declined to comment on this story and refused to allow us on campus.

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