Churches plan day of prayer as Chattanooga reels from coronavirus, tornado

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ The sun shines through the windows of First Bapitist Church on East 8th Street illuminating the pews before the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Branch of the NAACP presented a Jubilee Day Celebration on January 1, 2020. Jubilee Day recalls Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, the document that freed the slaves.

Days before an EF-3 tornado tore through North Georgia and the Chattanooga area, local pastors were planning a day of prayer and fasting for the COVID-19 pandemic. That effort now has even more weight.

The Chattanooga House of Prayer announced last week that Friday, April 17, would be a day of prayer and fasting for the Chattanooga area. More than 40 churches are officially participating, though anyone can join without having to sign up.

The faith leaders chose this week for the day because COVID-19 cases were expected to peak in Tennessee, said Adam Whitescarver, Chattanooga House of Prayer executive director. Then the tornado hit.

"Sure enough, we have all the more reason. This is a time where we need to seek God and pray," Whitescarver said. "This is a time that we're saying we need help beyond human hands."

(READ MORE: Chattanooga pastors prepare Easter message of hope as coronavirus spreads)

The Christian day of prayer is coming in an uncommon order, Whitescarver said. Typically, pastors would pray together before acting, but the impacts of COVID-19 were so sudden and the needs so tangible that churches acted to address those needs first. The same could be said for the response to the tornado that struck the area after Easter, killing 10 people and destroying hundreds of homes.

While churches transition their services online or find new ways to deliver communion to the faithful, many are seeing a surge in the number of people seeking faith, Whitescarver said.

"A virus like this, plus a tornado, helps people to see what's really important and help their neighbor and seek God," he said.

The day of prayer and fasting is one way for people to enter into a more spiritual place. As part of the day, participants are asked to pray for the city, the end of COVID-19 nationwide and for churches to support the community. The prayer guide will also be available in Spanish, Whitescarver said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga tornado tore through the night after a day of Easter hope, leaving residents bewildered)

Contact Wyatt Massey at or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.