Closed churches protect the faithful from COVID-19, Durham pastor says

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Members of churches like St. Joseph's AME in Durham worship virtually now using livestreams, to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19.

The Reverend Jay Augustine said while some may miss the traditional service and physical fellowship inside the church, he wants to keep people safe.

"At the appropriate time we will invite large numbers of individuals back. But as of right now, we are in such as pace that I truly believe it is more important to rely on technology and keep people safe than it is to have a rush to judgement and to have a physical occupancy of a building," said Augustine.

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Some people disagree, like the woman at a recent protest who angrily shouted: "Shepherds! You are supposed to be here with us, in person. Not over a screen. Technology is what the Evil One wants!"

More critics, including some church leaders, took legal action to block Governor Cooper's order that would limit the amount of people allowed inside houses of worship.

But Rev. Augustine said the numbers from researchers are alarming.

"The statistics that show overwhelmingly the effects of COVID-19 on the African American community. We don't want worship in any regard to become hot spots for spreading the disease," said Augustine.

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He wrote an open letter to faith leaders that criticizes the temporary injunction obtained by other ministers. He said the word church itself, translated from Greek texts, provides guidance for those who minister to congregations like his.

"It references an assembly, or a body of believers. It represents people coming together. What it does not reference in any way shape or form, is a brick or mortar structure."

That said, the pastor tells us before the faithful come back to the pews of his church, the building's interior will undergo a deep cleaning.

He also will consult a pandemic response team of medical professionals among his flock to determine the safest time for services to resume.

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