Black Ministers in SF Call for Churches to Stay Closed, COVID-19 Testing, Education in African American Community
Noon Rally Today, Memorial Day, S.F. City Hall
Bay Area Black Preachers Call for Churches and Government Commitment to Protect the Health of Congregations
Pastors Should Rely on Science to Guide Church Re-openings;
Government Must Provide Testing, Medical Services to the Black Community
San Francisco – Black religious leaders in San Francisco came together today to deliver a “Social Distanced Sermon” to call public attention to the need to affirm life in the midst of the pandemic by maintaining virtual worship services and calling for more medical and educational services in the community.
A dozen black pastors and clergy will gather at Noon today, Monday, Memorial Day, at City Hall – appropriately masked and maintaining six-foot distancing – to urge that churches in the black community and across the region keep their doors closed until they can ensure the safety of their congregations from the COVID-19 virus. The pastors noted the significant number of victims of the virus among black clergy, and members of their congregations, who closed their churches too late or have reopened them too soon.
“You only have to go back a few decades in history to remember the Montgomery bus boycott, when for 381 days not one black person got on a bus, even though that meant walking to work, to shop, to worship,” said the Rev. Amos Brown, President, SF NAACP, and Pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. “Yet here we have people who are giving up after not even 90 days in the face of a deadly pandemic, knowing that the animated and celebratory worship in black churches is incompatible with the social distancing we must observe to prevent the spread of the virus.”
As community leaders, the pastors also called on governments to direct additional resources to black communities. They have been hard-hit by the virus, yet have not received the same care or attention as other communities. The group called for three important actions by government leaders:
· More Testing: The black community in the Bay Area – as well as around the country – has been severely disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 virus. So far in San Francisco, black neighborhoods and residents have been the least able to be tested. They must have accessible, widespread testing available to determine who this virus has infected unawares so the appropriate medical care and preventive measures can be taken.
· More Medical Services: Black communities are marginalized when it comes to access to adequate health care and the economic assistance needed to afford it. These communities must have more and better care delivered to them so that their health is protected and their dignity as human beings respected.
· More Educational Support for K-12: Black students in the area’s public school system are already behind their peers because of long-standing issues of inequality, poverty, and systemic racism. With in-person classes cancelled for months, Bay Area communities must provide black students with tutoring programs and virtual educational programs – and the technology and internet connections they require – so they do not fall farther behind.
“Worship is not relegated to a place; Jesus said the Kingdom of God is in you,” Rev. Brown said. “Pastors of all faiths and in all communities should take advantage of technology to keep in touch with their members, and not make snap judgements about the pandemic but follow the science on re-opening.”
In addition to Rev. Brown, other prominent ministers at the Memorial Day event included: Dr. Jonathan Butler, Minister of Health and Social Outreach, Third Baptist Church; Bishop Ishmael Burch, St. Andrews Baptist Church;Rev. Henry Davis, Church Without Walls; Rev. Yul Dorn, Emmanuel Church of God in Christ; Rev. Governor Johnson, Bayview Ministers Fellowship; Minister Gloria Shepard, Double Rock Baptist Church; Rev. Arnold Townsend, Church Without Walls; Rev. Floyd W. Trammell, Jr., First Friendship Institutional Baptist Church; and, the Rev. Arelious Walker, True Hope Church of God in Christ.
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