When deciding to close the doors of black churches, congregational leaders across the US wrestle with unique considerations. Paul J. James, pastor of CareView Community Church in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, noted in an interview with The Undefeated how closing is “counterintuitive to most churches, especially the black church… where we’re just glad to get together because of how hard life has been historically for us here in America. Church has been a safe place for us. It’s been a safe harbor. Now here we are faced with the inability to come together.”

Last week, the federal government strongly urged Americans not to gather in groups of more than 10, and restrictions keep coming. We suspect that many churches will close in the near future, but the decision will not been easy.

In St. Louis, the mayor hosted a teleconference with 300 clergy, including many of black churches, to urge them not to hold services. While some chose to stop meetings and modify their ministries, others struggled to make the change.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned gatherings of more than 50 but then exempted churches from penalties. This will give some churches more options, though many are choosing to modify in some way. Triumph Church, which has seven locations in the Detroit area, will continue to gather in person, for now, though it expanded the number of services to reduce congregation size and is asking members to register ahead of time so it can maintain at least six feet between worshippers. It is also providing an online service and a drive-in service.

A lot of things inform these responses to the coronavirus outbreak: culture, histories of discrimination, and marginalization, as well as faith-based values. ...

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