FaithHamil R. HarrisReligion

Md. Churches Remain Closed Despite Governor Easing Restrictions

Although Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said houses of worship could reopen while maintaining social-distancing measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, pastors of some of the largest congregations Sunday still opted to conduct virtual services from empty sanctuaries via Facebook Live, YouTube or Zoom.

“In this quarantine season you are getting closer to God,” Bishop Joel Peebles told members of the City of Praise Family Ministries via Facebook Live. “We really miss our City of Praise family. We really miss you all so much. … You might be in seclusion, but God always puts people in seclusion and consecration before he moves.”

While Peebles quoted Romans 8:28 — “And we know that all things work together for the good to those who love God” — he also circulated an open letter to the congregation in response to Hogan’s decision to reopen parts of the state Friday afternoon.

“We are making preparations to worship together in person, [yet] we fully understand the gravity of this season and the critical need to protect our church family and community at large,” Peebles’ letter stated. “We will continue to worship with you virtually, providing Word-based teachings, powerful worship, engaging classes and special moments on the Gratitude Journey.”

From the First Baptist Church of Glenarden to the Temple of Praise in southeast D.C., other pastors of large congregations shared how they missed their congregations as they preached online with prerecorded music or allowed a handful of congregants to minister from their praise teams.

“We are separated from each other, but we are not separated from God,” said John K. Jenkins Sr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, who preached from his study via Facebook. Jenkins told those watching the service that he was starting a four-part series titled “Family Feud” because “too many people don’t know how to get along with each other.”

“You can’t get along at church because you can’t get along at home,” said Jenkins, who quoted Nehemiah 4:7-14.

“What issues are keeping your family from moving forward?” he asked, alluding to unresolved conflict such as money management, sexual derisions and divorce.

Jenkins’ lesson comes days after Prince George’s County Council members Sydney Harrison and Calvin Hawkins held a town hall meeting where medical professionals and mental health counselors talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and how stress levels and domestic violence in the county have spiked.

In southeast Washington, Bishop Glen A. Staples, Temple of Praise pastor, preached from a transparent podium in the middle of a sea of empty pews.

Staples, who began his message by singing the chorus of “Jesus Loves Me,” reminded viewers that “now is not the time to quit.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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