Usually, it’s come as you are, but this past Sunday the message to parishioners of African-American churches across the Golden State was to tune in online.
Worship houses from Southern California to beyond the Bay Area have been instructed not to hold in-house services for some time due to the novel coronavirus outbreak making its way around the globe.
“We may not be able to touch in the natural but we are connected in the spirit,” the Rev. Jacqueline Thompson, pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, told her parishioners via video stream last Sunday. The 100-year-old congregation is one of the oldest Black churches in the Bay Area.
Churchgoers across the state are tuning into worship services online via video streaming on their websites or social media pages in response to government officials across the state requesting that church services not convene anytime in the foreseeable future to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes.
Sermons, choir performances, praise and worship, and other church service mainstays go on as usual. But they happen in front of a handful of worshippers, camera crews and technicians responsible for posting the services online — instead of the dozens to hundreds of people who usually pack California Black church benches on Sunday mornings.
Last Sunday was men’s Sunday at Allen Temple Baptist in Oakland. The members of the men’s chorus performed on stage in a formation that allowed six feet of social distance among them. Each man had his own mic.
“We’re scared right now, lord. We don’t understand what you are doing and we don’t like it,” Thompson, the pastor at Allen Temple, prayed during her Oakland church’s live stream that was broadcast on Facebook and on the church’s website.
“But remind us that you are gracious. Even in the midst of this, thank you for slowing us down and connecting us with family and what is important in this world,” she added.
The spread of the coronavirus, officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, has sickened more than 329,000 people on six continents according to official tallies by governments and health organizations. It has caused the deaths of at least 14,522 people, as of Monday morning.
In the United States, there have been 428 deaths and 33,018 health cases attributed to the illness.
In California, so far, there have been 33 deaths related to COVID-19 and an estimated 1,849 people have tested positive.
The high infection rate of the untreatable virus has changed life across the globe, shuttering businesses, schools, offices, restaurants, sports and entertainment venues and any other places groups of people might gather. Governments have urged people to stay indoors.
California’s Black churches say they are taking the pandemic seriously by vigorously cleaning their worship houses and closing their doors to the public for regular church activities.
At Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, a 168-year old African-American congregation, pastor Amos Brown prayed a solemn prayer for those affected by the Coronavirus crisis.
“We pray for those on hospital beds waiting for healing, waiting for medical supplies desperately needed in this time of a pandemic worldwide,” he said.