While many businesses, churches and other public places have followed the governor’s orders and shut their doors to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Holy Ghost Headquarters has remained open.
The church, which meets in The Met on North Broad Street, has continued to hold services throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
“We are on the front lines like everybody else,” said Mark A. Hatcher Sr., pastor of Holy Ghost Headquarters. “We have the nurses, we have our governor, we have our mayor, we have our president, everyone is on the front line to fight COVID-19 in the natural [world].
“This is a spiritual matter also and this is why we kept our doors open because we have a responsibility to stand spiritually and, not only spiritually, but to help those who are going through in their minds with fear. The church has a responsibility to meet the total needs of the people.”
Hatcher said he was not concerned about the risk of possibly spreading the virus in the church.
“I believe with every fiber of my being that COVID-19 is gone,” he said.
Hatcher compared the virus to a storm that sweeps through an area leaving a path of destruction.
“Afterwards you go out and clean up after the storm and that is what’s happening now — cleaning up the aftermath,” he said. “I know it [COVID-19] has passed because God told me it has passed.”
Still, Hatcher said, the congregation practices social distancing.
“Everyone is wearing their masks and doing what they need to do because we are all out in the public, so we don’t know who has the virus or who doesn’t,” he said.
Hatcher said the same way people go to the supermarket, to visit their doctors and ride the buses, they can use reasonable protection when coming to worship.
“We practice that here even in the church — that’s wisdom,” Hatcher said. “But on the same token, we will not give in to fear because God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and of a sound mind and he is the God of the Universe.”
Despite the virus, God “is a God of planning, he is a God of purpose and a God of design and he is a God of objectivity,” Hatcher said.
“We are going to walk in that authority and walk in that anointing and walk in the promises of God that he will keep us healthy, whole and complete.”
The church livestreams its services online for those who prefer to follow state officials’ recommendations to stay at home, but many still attend weekly services.
Nearly a dozen people, some wearing masks and most sitting more than 6 feet apart, attended a service on Sunday.
Toni McIlwaine was among them. She has attended services at Holy Ghost Headquarters for eight years, and like her pastor, she does not fear COVID-19.
“I feel good that I’m under the leadership of Pastor Hatcher and he flows with the power of the Holy Ghost and where the Holy Ghost goes there is power so I’m not afraid,” McIlwaine said. “I’m happy that the Holy Ghost spoke to his heart and he decided to keep the doors open for those who wanted to worship the Lord because it’s just a blessing to be able to come in and fellowship when every place else is closed.”
McIlwaine said she’s not concerned about spreading the virus.
“You know, I am so rooted in the faith of God, I have been through too much to not trust God,” she said. “If God can bring me through all of the trials and tribulations I’ve been through in my life, then this is a breeze.”
McIlwaine acknowledged she has received criticism from others who question the soundness of keeping the church doors open. She said their concerns come from their lack of faith.
“Some people don’t understand the power of God,” she said. “There is a scripture that says they have a form of godliness, but they don’t possess the power.
“I believe the church should be at the front and center, I don’t think the church should be closed.”
Mary Hatcher, sister of the pastor and an usher at Holy Ghost Headquarters said the church, which can seat 3,500, has enough space to accommodate social distancing guidelines. At present, there are more congregants virtually attending services on Facebook and the church’s website than there are those who attend in person.
She said Holy Ghost Headquarters will not close its doors entirely.
“Pastor Hatcher will still [keep the doors open] for one or two members who come out,” she said. “He tries to keep the doors open for whoever comes.”