Faith In The Midst Of Fear: How The Coronavirus Is Affecting The Black Church

The doors of the church in Metro Detroit are now closed as worship leaders band together to end the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The leaders are now finding creative ways to continue worship services during the closure; but financially, it has not been an easy task for most.

Some churches have moved their Sunday church service to an online streaming platform that is broadcasting from their own home, while others are hosting service safely from their church parking lot in order to follow Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order of “Stay-At-Home and Stay Safe.”

Gov. Whitmer’s Stay-At-Home ban only allows people to leave their homes to go to the grocery store or to handle medical situations. This ban has been extended to April 30, 2020.

“A lot of churches will not be able to weather this corona storm. Many were caught off guard and not ready for services online.  Thank God we were already streaming,” said Rev. Dr. Samuel Stephens, pastor of The Historic Pure Word Missionary Baptist Church on Grand River and Evergreen. “I would imagine there is not a local church who is not suffering from almost empty collection plates. But the expenses continue; [need to pay] utilities, leases, salaries, etc. Sad to say, but some churches will not survive.”

Stephens says that his church outreach program still works to make sure that the congregation can participate and things that would normally happen in the church like, communion and the food assistance programs, continue.

“We delivered communion to seniors that requested it, dropped it off in mailboxes; other seniors used juice and crackers from home,” he said. “We have about 100 participants for our online communion service. Also, we still offer our weekly food assistance program. That happens every Wednesday at our church.”

“This is definitely different for me. In my 20 years of pastoring I have never provided as much phone ministry as I have over the past month or so,” recalled Stephens.

“I am now providing phone calls as opposed to physical visits whenever possible. Counseling sessions will be held over the telephone as opposed to face to face,” he added. “Funerals are no longer allowed in the church during this time. Only funeral homes will have funerals and the pastors will wear protective masks during the service and only immediate family will be allowed to attend the funeral.”

Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony of Fellowship Chapel on Outer Drive in Detroit says COVID-19 has created more distancing than ever at his church.

“Due to the coronavirus, we are unable to run most of our outreach ministry programs that we would normally have at our facility like our youth and senior groups, narcotics and alcoholics anonymous, tutoring programs and our bible classes,” he said.

Not being able to have church in the actual facility has affected the churches’ tithes and offerings, but it’s not stopping them from giving back to the community.

“Today, we will be engaged with a special blessing to the community alongside TCF Bank financial center. We will be distributing $25,000 worth of gifts, $50 for each household, so that families can purchase sanitation supplies, food or whatever they need to get them through this crucial time,” said Anthony.

Triumph Church’s north campus in Southfield is allowing people to watch Pastor Solomon Kinloch’s sermons on a big screen in the church’s parking lot. Members can park and listen in through the radio during services on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.

“It gives them the ability to respect the executive order and also engage in social distancing and making sure they’re doing their part refraining from interacting physically with one another,” said Kinloch.

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced Gov. Whitmer to end the school year early for all students in Michigan on April 2, Triumph Church wants to ensure students in Detroit continue to learn.

The church will be giving away laptops and tablets on a first come, first served basis while supplies last and recipients have to pre-register at The giveaway will occur every Friday until May 29 at Triumph’s east campus at 2760 East Grand Boulevard in Detroit.



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