Black clergy grapple with reopening churches as pandemic continues

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tenth Memorial Baptist Church in North Philadelphia is preparing for the big transition from virtual services to welcoming its members back inside the sanctuary.

Pastor William Moore says hopefully it will be before the end of the year.

"We've already ordered temperature checks, we've ordered masks, we've ordered wipes," said Moore. "We cannot serve communion as we normally do."

Dr. Moore is a member of the Black Clergy which was created back in 1981 and Wednesday consists of 75 pastors and their congregations.

A big challenge Moore says is, according to the city guidelines, there can only be a max of 25 people.

"A few members of the choir, 2-3 members in the congregation, maybe one person in the pulpit which would be the pastor, maybe others sit on the side and a musician that's just about it," he said.

Black Clergy President Pastor Robert Collier says some of the biggest factors are many don't have the physical space for social distancing.

Also, many have members that are 60-years-old and over with vulerable health conditions.

"We're telling folks the church is not the building, we are the church, the people are the church and we can continue to worship anywhere," Collier said.

Megachurch Enon Tabernacle Baptist is also virtual. Pastor Alyn Waller hesitates using the word reopen because he says the church has never closed.

"We're doing the counseling, we're having our meetings, we have our worship service," said Waller. "We are doing the in-person stuff that cannot otherwise be done I can't hand you food through the virtual experience."

The President of Black Clergy says several churches have prospered from having virtual service because more people can participate including those who are sick or shut-in.

He anticipates more churches will reopen by this fall but of course, there will be the new norm, masks, lots of sanitizing and social distancing.
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