HUNTSVILLE, Ala – More than 50 churches across the Tennessee Valley jumped on a conference call with the Alabama Department of Public Health last week to get hyper-local information about how COVID-19 is impacting the community.
Church leaders were able to get demographic insight on how COVID-19 is effecting minority groups as well as age groups. As a result, most large churches came away feeling they will need more time before considering in-person services.
“Wisdom rests within the group rather than individuals who go off on their own,” said Larry Davidson Jr, a pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church.
“We need to wait. May I say, wait on the Lord,” said Reverand Enida J. Scruggs of Madkins Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America.
ADPH didn’t advise churches on if they should remain close or consider reopening. Instead, churches used the time to share ideas and plans.
“We needed to get together to find out what others are doing and what we may do together,” said Dr. Jerry Crutcher, the pastor at Little Indian Creek Primitive Baptist Church.
Many churches are struggling to procure PPE and basic cleaning materials. Without that, opening the doors becomes more improbable. On top of that, many church leaders want to see more testing done in communities before they consider opening their doors.
“Keep pressing. We have to keep pressing. We have to keep asking for the test,” said Dr. O. Wendell Davis of Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
“We won’t know whether or not the virus has touched anybody close to us until there’s more testing,” said Bishop Daniel J. Richardson of Eagles’ Nest Ministries Church.
The CDC says their data indicates that minorities and the African American community have been more vulnerable to COVID-19. As a whole, African American’s are dying at a higher rate from COVID-19 compared to white people.
“We have to be very cautious because many of our people have heart disease, lung disease and liver disease,” said Dr. Mitchell Walker Sr. of Church Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
“Many of our people are in that category. We have to be careful. We are not pushing to go back,” said Dr. Scruggs.
“Because of the actions of our pastors, our people tend to be more informed,” said Dr. Oscar L. Montgomery of Union Hill Primitive Baptist Church.
Looking several months down the line, some churches have shown interest in welcoming members back in groups. For example, group A comes to church while group B tunes in digitally. The groups would alternate weeks to keep social distancing in place.
Several church leaders told WHNT News 19 they will be keeping a close eye on the data over the next few weeks to help determine what their nexts steps will be.