COMMENTARY: The Black Church Faces an Atypical Crisis

Lisa Olivia Fitch, Editor in Chief, Our Weekly News | 6/4/2020, 6:55 p.m.
Blacks in the U.S. have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic.
Cross/church Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Additionally, persons who already had difficulties surviving day-to-day before the crisis, may have those difficulties exacerbated, Holmes explained.

“Because their equilibrium is thrown off, they can’t usually find a way of coping and dealing with these new feelings,” she said. “It’s important for us in the faith community to pay attention to things we might see.”

Holmes explained that even though church leaders are not face-to-face with members, they should still be on the watch — via phone calls or internet services — for any signs of abuse that may be triggered by the current stay-at-home order.

“Does the child have on a turtleneck shirt when it’s 80 degrees outside?” Holmes asked. “Are the parents yelling at the kids in the background? These individuals don’t feel that the safer at home order accurately describes their situation.”

Holmes attends debriefing meetings with the County Department of Public Health each Thursday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has guidelines for faith-based communities at http://ph.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/GuidanceFaithBasedOrgsEnglish.pdf.

Limited attendance at funerals and weddings is allowed following the guidelines. All other in-person gatherings are prohibited. Worship service must be live-streamed, recorded, or taped. Baptisms, infant dedications, bar and bat mitzvahs, and confirmations must be postponed. When feasible, ceremonial gatherings can be conducted virtually.

Cemeteries and crematoriums are able to provide direct burials and cremation services but without a gathering of people. Immediate family members who live together and a faith leader may gather in person at a cemetery but are encouraged to reach out directly to the funeral home to understand specific protocols and whether they provide livestream services. Memorial services should be postponed and can be scheduled for a later date.

“Faith leaders clearly have a key role to play in offering comfort and care to Los Angeles County at a time when illness, isolation and economic hardship come together to burden so many residents and communities,” the department writes in its “Guidance for Faith-Based Organizations” piece. “We ask for your support and leadership in helping us mitigate those burdens by reducing the spread of COVID-19, assuring optimal care for those who become ill, and speeding community recovery.”

Holmes encouraged her fellow church leaders to speak life into the current situation.

“The parishioners need to hear how the church is planning for the future,” Holmes said. “What is our next step? How are we going to address the ‘new normal.’”