Covid challenges downtown congregation

Sandra ClarkOur Town Neighbors

Back in early July 2021, Bill Dockery posted this photo and caption: The Beta Class at Central UMC share a prayerful moment in the service today. The service marked their return to the congregation after about a year and a half in preventive quarantine. For almost half a century CUMC has hosted a SS class for people with intellectual disabilities. It was great to see everyone.”

We caught up with Bill today for an update.

Sadly, the Beta House residents are “back in lockdown,” as Bill puts it, in response to the Covid surge this summer.

The residents are adults with intellectual disabilities. While the church is open for in-person worship, but wearing masks, the Beta House administrators are being super cautious.

“That’s as it should be,” said Dockery. His family was attracted to Central Methodist because of its Beta Class program. Its members are included in the full fellowship of the church. During normal times, the class meets Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. on the ground floor of the church, then attends worship with the rest of the congregation in the sanctuary. “Caregivers of all descriptions are welcome – every member of Beta Class is a caregiver,” according to the church’s website.

Class members participate in the service, act as greeters, host the welcoming table and help with the children’s time on occasion. The class has raised funds for Heifer International and is planning an active role in the church’s For All Generations building campaign.

“Some can’t talk, but all can feel,” Dockery said. He is looking forward to the time when Beta Class can return to Central Methodist.

  • First Baptist Church of Knoxville, 510 W. Main St., will host its annual Trunk or Treat from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, in the church’s back parking lot off of Locust Street. Free parking is available in the Main Street garage. Open to everyone, the event provides a safe environment for children and families to enjoy inflatables, hot dogs, games and lots of trunks filled with candy. The event is totally free. The community is invited to join in the fall family fun.
  • Fountain City UMC is sponsoring a Covid-19 vaccination clinic in conjunction with the Community Vaccine Team at the Knox County Health Department. It will be Saturday, Nov. 13, at the church on Hotel Avenue across from Fountain City Park. Team members are registered nurses, medical assistants and clerks specifically trained for administering vaccinations. They will have registration/consent forms as well as information about the vaccine that will be given to all recipients. The service is free, and all unvaccinated people are welcome.
  • First Baptist of Knoxville and Central Baptist of Bearden have teamed to build a Habitat for Humanity home. Build dates are Oct. 2, 9, 16; and Nov. 13, 20. Info: Tim Boone at
  • Powell Church, 323 W. Emory Road, Trunk or Treat, 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. Hot dogs, cake walk, bounce house, cider, candy-filled trunks. Everyone invited to this community event.
  • Your Info: There’s no charge for notices in this Friday feature. Just email them to

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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