Philadelphia pastor to open church on Easter Sunday despite COVID-19

Sunday, April 12, 2020
Philadelphia pastor to open church on Easter Sunday
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A Philadelphia pastor says he will keep his church open on Easter Sunday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The pews at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church on North Broad Street sat empty on Friday.

"It is the safest environment in Philadelphia," explained Rev. Dr. Hebert Lusk II.

While many houses of worship have closed their doors during the pandemic, Lusk's sanctuary remains open.

"We cannot quarantine our faith nor our calling," he said. "We're not trying to pack them in here at all."

In the three decades he's been the pastor at the church, he said he's never closed his doors. This Easter Sunday will be no exception.

"We won't allow more than 50 people to come into the sanctuary. Only 50," he said.

This comes as the state updated its stay-at-home order to encourage religious leaders to avoid the exact practice.

Governor Wolf said in part:

"Religious leaders are encouraged to find alternatives to in-person gatherings and to avoid endangering their congregants. Individuals should not gather in religious buildings or homes for services or celebrations until the stay-at-home order is lifted"

Lusk says his decision comes down to serving the underserved of his community amplified by the significance of the day.

The former Eagles running back and team chaplain going as far to put in these terms:

"You want to talk about big day, you talk about the Super Bowl? Sunday is the Christian Super Bowl. The idea that every church in Philadelphia will be closed and we couldn't find a way to worship on that day safely, it's a boggling thing to me," he said.

Lusk says he has received threats and the comments towards him and the church have been less than favorable despite making it clear he wants those who are ill or elderly to stay home.

Mayor Jim Kenney also addressing the topic:

"I don't think we're at a point where we are going to go into churches and arrest pastors or participants or lock the doors. Hopefully, people will listen to common sense and pray at home," Kenney said.

Lusk stresses the decision to stay open has nothing to do with money.

"It's nasty. It's really, really nasty some of the things people are saying," Lusk said.

The pastor says members will be provided masks and hand sanitizer and demonstrated how seating will go for the three services he's scheduled.

"There will be two people sitting on this one pew. We skip a pew, and then one is sitting here, and one is sitting there," he explained.

The pastor says he has no intention of changing his mind but adds nothing is more important than the safety of his members.

"We don't mean any harm, we're just trying to do God's will," Lusk said.