A coalition of local pastors announced on Wednesday a partnership with the Hamilton County Health Department and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to launch COVID-19 testing sites at community churches beginning on Saturday.
In an effort to offer broader and more accessible testing to the African American community, the Hamilton County Health Department is partnering with local pastors and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to launch a community testing model that utilizes churches as COVID-19 testing sites.
"We know African American communities are more likely to be essential workers, more likely to be exposed at work, and are ultimately more at risk during this pandemic,” said Dr.
Ternae Jordan, senior pastor at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, the first church hosting a testing site on June 6 and 7. “Churches have long-been places of healing and hope—this is another way we can offer ourselves in service and pour God’s grace into our community.”
Churches were selected in partnership and with input from several African American pastors, including: Pastor Bobby Hampton, Pastor Gary Hathaway, Pastor Ternae Jordan, and Pastor Carlos Williams. The partnership also included input from the Hamilton County Baptist Association and the Servant Leadership Christian Fellowship.
The initiative is being coordinated by the Hamilton County Health Department Director of Community Health Services Bill Ulmer. Testing will begin on June 6 and 7, and is currently slated to continue every weekend through August. The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga provided funding for the pilot initiative.
The current testing schedule includes four churches through the month of June, including:
- June 6-7 – Mt. Canaan Baptist Church
- June 13-14 – Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist Church
- June 20-21 – Hawkinsville Baptist Church
- June 27-28 – Tucker Baptist Church
Testing will run Saturdays from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. and Sundays from 12-3 p.m. Additional testing sites for July is anticipated to be announced in the coming weeks and is being developed in partnership with a broader coalition of community leaders and local pastors.
“Ministry just doesn’t come from behind the pulpit. We are called to go beyond the walls,” said Reverend Carlos Williams, senior pastor of Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist Church. “This is an opportunity for the church and the community to come together. We are just trying to do our part to keep the community safe, healthy, and informed.”