ATLANTA — On Sunday morning, Buckhead Church was urging worshippers to remain at home.

The unusual request came in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Some churches are modifying how they operate, while others are holding church without congregations present.

On the other hand, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest is taking precautions to protect church members from the possible spread of the illness.

One of the first things parishioners at New Birth notice when they enter the church's sanctuary are the hand sanitizer stations.

Church leaders are encouraging everyone to use them because New Birth has such a large congregation.

"People (are) dealing with anxiety, worry, and stress. This is a place of faith," said New Birth Senior Pastor Jamal Bryant. " We understand that people die because of a lack of knowledge."

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The church is also asking people if they feel even somewhat sick to just stay at home.

"If you're going to be around 5,000 people in a contained space, we've got to make sure we take care of optimum concerns," Bryant said.

Bryant said that they usually do a "greet your neighbor" portion of their service, where people embrace each other and shake hands.

"In the middle of service, we do something called 'Pass the Peace' where you're charged to hug four or five people, Bryant said. "We've now eliminated that from the program."

Now, they are simply having people wave at each other.

And because there is only one service -- and because they have such a large number of people who view their services online -- they do not have plans to have services without members present.

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