As I read last Friday’s front page article “Shoals Churches Have Similar Plans For Sunday Reopening,” it reminded me how we as pastors are in a period of unparalleled decision making.

Many of us struggled with the decision to close our churches two months ago. Two months later, the decision concerning when and how to reopen is even more difficult. I empathize with the more than half-dozen pastors/church leaders interviewed in this article.

Though very insightful, I did notice a glaring observation. There was no perspective from an African-American pastor or church.

While many churches have made strategies to reopen before the month ends, many African-American clergy (myself included) are deciding to yet remain closed. And I believe it is imperative to share why.

Do we have the ability to enact safe sanitation, enforce social-distancing, and adjust features of our worship? Yes.

However, there is another “yes” we as African-American clergy/churches unfortunately have to consider in our reopening decision. Yes to the fact that COVID-19 is disproportionately infecting and killing black people at an alarming higher rate. According to ADPH, 44% of COVID-19 deaths in Alabama are African-Americans, although we only make up 26.5% of the state’s population.

Such a statistic places upon us an extra layer of deliberation that has led many of us to keep our finger on the pause button for now.

The good news is, delay doesn’t equate to denial. Though our times of reopen may be different, the liberating God of reopen is still the same.

Pastor Wesley Thompson

Bethel Colbert MB Church


(1) comment

Walter Bradford

Pastor Wesley Thompson, I was saddened by your post regarding Black Churches and their criteria for determining a reopening schedule. Now you cite some percentages sir but seem to lack the more telling numerical presentation, which is mighty hard to accept. Percentages can't get sick and they don't die.Human Beings do. And further COVID-19 doesn't give a darn about anybody's skin color or heritage their religious practices or the number of people in their family. It just makes ill and then may kill. In your pleading you say that African Americans make up 26.55% of the Alabamian population while suffering 44% of the confirmed infections rate of this darned virus and I would assume that would include any deaths that may be linked to the virus, yes? Using percentages almost always is used to make an impactful statement or argument and it is used most successfully in that way by your sir. But in this case it is also masking the true human suffering that White folk are engaged in with the magnanimous numerical totals they are suffering as a target of this virus as well. Whites have suffered 8,927.57 confirmed cases of this viral infection while Blacks have suffered 3,464 cases confirmed. So for the Black Community to suffer anywhere near the numeric totals of Whites, they would have to suffer yet again another 2.5768 times the 3,464 to equal the 8,927.57 of Whites. There are no winners in my numbers but the playing field is leveled somewhat. And I would proffer that if more emphasis was placed on "people" as opposed to segmented community groups in America we would ALL truly benefit in the long run. With the reckless disregard for humanity the current president has shown, coronavirus and COVID-19 is going to be here for quite a long time Pastor Thompson and there is going to be a heck of a lot more of all of us going to meet our Maker prematurely as a result. We need to band together and not let ourselves be pulled apart by various methods of reporting facts. Bless you and your Congregation Pastor Thompson! Walter A. Bradford

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