By Erick Johnson
Chicago’s most popular Black churches have suspended their in-person Sunday worship services as the number of coronavirus cases in Illinois jump to 585. Five people in Illinois have died from the virus.
Trinity United Church of Christ, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Salem Baptist Church, the All World Nations Assembly Church, Faith Apostolic Church are among many Black houses of worship that have suspended their in-person Sunday worship services indefintely. Most will offer special, live stream worship services on their websites, Facebook pages and YouTube.
Many Black churches held out and had planned on having Sunday worship services on March 23. Most reversed course and posted notices on their websites on Friday, March 20, after Governor J.B. Pritzker implemented a mandatory “Stay At Home” order, which allows just “essential business” to remain open. They include supermarkets, grocery stores, banks, hospitals, medical clinics, laundromats and media outlets.
For decades, large Black houses of worship have been a refuge for hundreds, even thousands of people who need spiritual guidance, faith and strength during tough times. In the past several weeks, many church goers attended Sunday services as restaurants, bars, hotels closed, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged limited public gatherings to 10 people.
Last Sunday, Father Michael Pfleger led Saint Sabina worship service in the parking lot across the street after the Archdiocese of Chicago suspended mass.
In Gary, Indiana, First Baptist Church, led by Reverend Timothy Brown, cancelled its Sunday worship services on March 15, but questions remain whether the church will cancel similar future services. At First AME Church, members sat six feet apart in keeping with social distancing urged by the CDC.
In Chicago, Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, III, senior pastor at Trinity, posted a nearly six-minute message on his church’s website. His church was among several Black houses of worship that suspension their Sunday service before the governor’s Stay at Home mandate.
“I want you to know that this is an unprecedented moment in history where we are facing a global pandemic,” Moss says in his message.
“During uncertain times, we are called to lean on God, draw from the deep well of faith and wisdom that come from the Word of God and come from our Savior Jesus Christ. I want to share with you that for the first time in the history of this church because of this global pandemic, we will cancel our physical worship at Trinity United Church of Christ.”
At Christ Universal Temple, where Reverend Derrick B. Wells serves as senior minister, in addition to suspended in-person Sunday worship services, classes that were scheduled to end April 4 at the Johnnie Colemon Institute were also suspended. A celebration for Wells’ 50th birthday was postponed until October, according to the church’s website.
On March 17, the leadership staff at Salem Baptist Church at the 10,000-seat House of Hope were meeting to discuss whether to suspend their Sunday worship service. Earlier, church leaders had decided to suspend their Wednesday 6 p.m. worship service. The next day, the church posted a notice on its website, announcing that its canceling Sunday worship services.
There is concern that seniors, who make up a large portion of the membership and attendance at Black churches, are not as skilled in using computers or their phones to view worship services while at home. Many seniors also depend on fellowship for companionship and spiritual strength. There is also concern that senior members will be unable to physically give their weekly tithes, and instead, will have to give online using the church websites.
In South Shore, the massive All Nations Worship Assembly Church held its last in-person worship service on Sunday, March 15. The main sanctuary was crowded, but there were patches of empty seats. Led by the Reverend Dr. Matthew Stevenson and his wife, Dr. Kamilah Stevenson, many of All Nations Worship Assembly’s members are young and middle-aged.
In Bronzeville, the Apostolic Faith Church, canceled its ministry events, meetings, support groups and choir rehearsals, but held its weekly Sunday worship services in its 3,000-seat sanctuary. As a precaution, members kept a healthy distance from each other as they sat in pews, some of which were left empty between filled ones. while the in-person It’s uncertain whether the church’s in-person Sunday worship will be held, the church does live stream its services online.
Sunday services were also held March 15 held at the Apostolic Church of God in East Woodlawn before they were suspended this week.
The Illinois Funeral Directors Association FDA Board of Directors recommends that funerals be limited to 10 family members. Graveside services should be private and conducted with ten (10) or less people. Chicago’s leak and Sons are limiting funerals to just relatives only.