In recent weeks, The Washington Informer has shared reports on how our world has and continues to change due to the coronavirus pandemic. With stay-at-home orders still in effect, all of our treasured institutions, including the Black Church, have been forced to reshape themselves and how they function.
For the Black community, COVID-19 has impacted the ways in which we worship, the composition and frequency of long-treasured evenings that once drew two, three or more together — from Bible Study to weekly choir rehearsals — and our homegoing celebrations for family and friends. The coronavirus has even led to a startling increase in cremations among Blacks — something that heretofore was a distinct rarity for African Americans.
During last Friday’s weekly Facebook Live video recording, Washington Informer News (WIN-TV), hosted by our publisher, Denise Rolark Barnes, two local ministers discussed ways in which they have attempted to maintain spiritual connections in this new age, also reflecting on their plans for how they will “do church” in the future.
The Rev. Thomas L. Bowen, minister of fellowship and outreach at Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest, and the Rev. Tony Lee, founder and senior pastor at Community of Hope AME Church in Hillcrest Heights, Md., served as part of the lineup of guests on the WIN-TV show.
Their comments were eye-opening and frank. Both have initiated regular prayer meetings, particularly for the benefit of their older members who may find it especially hard to adjust to the restrictions imposed on all of us given the current pandemic. Both men remain committed to maintaining that human desire and need for a spiritual touch and word from the man (or woman) of God.
In addition, they reflected on how the church will need to change in order to protect the health of all of its leaders and members. Rev. Lee noted that while in the past, we went to the Church, moving forward, the Church will find it necessary to come to us.
We know that many home ports of the Black Church are facing economic difficulties as donations from attendees, now unable to bring their tithes and offerings to the altar, have vanished. Some churches have online worship services and the ability to secure offerings electronically; others have reserves on which they rely. But many more do not.
And yet, somehow, we believe that we’re going to make it. The Black Church has survived storms far worse than the coronavirus. We may have victims or martyrs whose names we will have to lift up when the roll is called.
But as for the Black Church … we will survive. We always have!