Religious leaders said the COVID-19 pandemic is just as much a wake-up call to the community as it is a disruption to life as America knows it.
The minimum two-week closures of non-essential businesses and schools, partially operational courts, improvised law enforcement, and a constant stream of information, they said, are exposing what’s been wrong all along.
“I think this is a novel virus that is in a broken world,” said the Rev. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. “The Bible is very clear that as we get closer to the time of the Lord’s return, that things like this will happen. I’m not necessarily of the mindset that God sent the coronavirus to punish us, but I’m clear that God speaks through all things.”
“For each of us, we have to understand, what is God saying to us. For some of us, it’s re-investing in ourselves and in our families. For some of us, it’s a reminder to not place our total dependence on financial systems. It is interesting to me that in this season in America — when we have looked beyond all the atrocious things about our president — only because the stock market is doing well, that this virus has hit hard the very thing we think is most important.”
Waller said he is struck by the management of the crisis. He said it is further evidence of the nature of the presidential administration.
“We live in a country where we can’t trust our national leadership and the information we are getting,” Waller said. “And that’s sad. And it’s sad to see how politicized this is. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I don’t put it past our nefarious leadership to have a scheme behind all of this. Hopefully, in November, when we go to the polls, we will respond out of the truth of that.”
Imam Suetwedien Muhammad, of Masjid Muhammad, said the “coronavirus is the best thing that has ever happened” because of the relief it has brought to some.
“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “What we see happening is unlike anything else before, where we never had the reprieve that we have now. God has forced the city governments’ and agencies’ hand.
“We see live stop being stopped, we see sheriff sales being stopped, we see utility shutoffs being stopped. The president is talking aboutsending out $1000 to all the people that’s less fortunate. We should’ve been seeing this kind of reprieve. If this is what it takes for God to force their hand, then I applaud it.”
Muhammad then wondered about gun violence, suggesting it is the more extreme threat to public health in the city.
“I guarantee 300 people will not die in Philadelphia from coronavirus but over 300 people will die this year from homicides,” he said. “I’m more afraid of coming to my house being murdered than I am about the coronavirus. I’m more worried about being shot or killed than coronavirus.”
For the Rev. Chandra Williams, senior pastor of the United Missionary Baptist Church, the pandemic coinciding with the Lenten season is a signal.
“During this Lenten season, it’s important we take a look at what’s happening when we should be getting closer to Christ. Voluntarily, or involuntarily we have time to focus on Christ,” she said. “In this season of Lent, my prayer is we are being good stewards of this time, being good stewards of our children that we have the opportunity to work with while at home, and we can speak light into places where there is doubt, anxiety and depression.”
Enon has cancelled physical service and is streaming its Bible Study and Sunday service. They are continuing their food pantry, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon. Telephone support hours are also 8 a.m. to noon at (215) 276-7200. 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave.
Masjid Muhammad offers grab and go breakfast and lunch (until school reopens) and computer and internet access for youth to complete schoolwork, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 414 E. Penn St.
United Missionary Baptist Church offers different types of assistance. The church is located at 2500 W. Thompson St. and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org