The Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews Deputy Director & Director of Clergy Organizing, Faith in Action responded to the president’s order to re-open churches despite still being in the COVID-19 pandemic. Mathews, an African American faith leader, is especially concerned about churches in hotbed communities reopening. He noted Jeremiah 23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord.
“Faith and worship is no doubt essential, but let me be clear, faith and worship does not need, and should not yet, happen inside houses of worship, where lives will be once again put at risk. A good shepherd will not lead their sheep astray. I hope that our leaders will continue to follow the guidance of their local health and public officials and do what’s truly in the best interest of their congregations’ health and wellbeing.
Church pews and prayer rooms may be where so many of us find comfort, but we have to adapt, and we have to be patient to save lives. My greatest fear is that we see a tremendous spike in cases and also fatalities in the weeks to come. I urge my fellow clergy to do right by their congregations and continue to stay home and utilize the valuable digital tools available to us that keep our communities safe.
We can serve our congregation and communities from afar – it’s the safest, most just way to serve until we have access to testing, especially in communities that have been ravaged by COVID-19. Prayer is essential, love is essential, grace is essential, going to a physical house of worship is by no means essential.”
Rev. Mathews’ colleagues across Faith in Action programs and leaders have worked to protect to get masks for vulnerable communities, including those incarcerated and undocumented across the country, urge their state lawmakers to address racial inequities, and push the federal government to make the CARES and HEROS act more inclusive, ensuring those especially in Black and Latino communities left behind for far too long get the support they need.