When elected leaders forced the closure of public venues in March 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, church doors were closed, as well.
In fact, churches were cited as “hot spots” for the spread of the virus because, reportedly, parishioners who didn’t take the virus seriously often sat close together and many did not wear masks.
It was an awkward and challenging time for those faithful church-goers who adhered to the warnings. They found themselves indefinitely without a place to worship and fellowship. And clergy leaders who were already experiencing declining church enrollment grew despondent over closing their doors to in-person services and the possibility of losses of tithes and offerings needed to sustain their sanctuaries.
It didn’t take long, however, for pastors to discover the viability of online worship services. Parishioners were no longer locked out or looked down upon for attending services at home via Zoom. Some even watched from their bedsides. They used the “chat” to respond to the choir and the preacher’s sermon while paying their tithes via Paypal, CashApp, or Zelle.
The Rev. Tony Lee, pastor of Community of Hope AME Church in Prince George’s County, took his services outdoors.
In an interview last year, he told the Informer he didn’t believe churches would ever return to their traditional services, post-COVID-19. He and other faith leaders discovered that closing the doors to the church meant opening up services to a broader audience of faith-seekers. Online services reached more people than the church doors could let in and online giving was more profitable than passing the plate across the pews.
As the spread of COVID-19 diminishes, faith leaders are especially needed to address the pandemic’s consequences. Wide-spread mental illness, increasing incidents of suicide, financial hardships leading to hunger, evictions and foreclosures, and the increase of gun-related violence and deaths require not only a government response but a faith-based response, as well.
As church doors reopen, the work of faith leaders remains outside where healing is needed to mend the souls, hearts and minds of those impacted by the effects of COVID-19.