Members of the clergy say they're concerned many people, particularly young people and people of color, may not fully understand or are ignoring scientific experts' strong recommendation to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color. The Black clergy members are hoping and, literally, praying their strong advice to wear masks will be heeded.
Pastor Robert Collier is the pastor at Galilee Baptist Church and President of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.
"So, the black clergy is at the forefront of focusing on an initiative that would keep our community safe and healthy. We have seen folks out in the social gatherings with no facial covering and we're concerned that the spread will continue," he said.
Bishop J. Louis Felton of Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ and First Vice President of Black Clergy of Philadelphia said, "The Lord says my people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge, and so we need to educate people if we want to keep them alive. That's part of what we must be about."
"People seem to be bored at home so they want to do gatherings in public spaces," said Reverend Jerome Fordham of the Greater Love Tabernacle Church and the Black Clergy General Marshal. "They must realize being bored and staying home you can stay alive. These social gatherings can mean your death and demise."
Dr. Priscilla Mpasi is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She said, "I think people are hearing the message. Are they trusting the message? We have to understand that many times communities of color, especially African Americans, have not been of value in this society, right? So that leads to mistrust understandably. However, when we get messages from those we trust, particularly our church, particularly organizations in our own communities, we're more likely to hear that and understand that."
"If the black church stands up and speaks, most of the time, the community will listen," said Rev. Dr. Janet Sturdivant of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Third Vice President of Black Clergy.
"If you aren't caring about yourself, please, please care about your neighbor. Love thy neighbor even if you are not loving yourself and protecting your health," said Rev. Maxcine Collier, Associate Pastor of Galilee Baptist Church and General Secretary of Black Clergy of Philadelphia.