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COVID-19: A Message For Black Churches

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

As the state reopens for Memorial Day weekend, violence is back on the rise. Gang wars have erupted on Myrtle Beach popular Ocean Boulevard. At least three gang wars have taken place within eight days. The mayor is looking into banning cars on the Boulevard to give officers more visual and access to criminal elements. While watching the news, most beaches were overcrowded and not practicing social distancing. Churches play a very important part in the success and failures of our communities.

Charleston is known for its beaches and outdoor dining. I get that! And funeral homes are known for burying people. Over the weekend, DHEC reported 90 new cases and 5 additional deaths. Once the Memorial dust clears the air, how will those numbers look. America’s death toll 100,000 deaths. Since the verdict is not in on Covid-19, continue to wear your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and practice social distancing. Where is the voice of the church?

Now, let’s talk church! I attend a black church. Like most black churches, we practice social distancing. Technology has made it possible to worship and work from home. Students are keeping up with school assignments at homes. Zoom has become a popular tool for conferences, tutoring and family meetings. Facetime and other social medias have made the lockdown tolerable.

Why is Trump, #45, rushing folks out of lockdown? To spend, spend, spend, of course! The Stimulus money was intended to get money back into circulation–to jump start the economy. It was not intended to bank or invest. Businesses are closing down in record numbers! Churches are encouraging members to pay their monthly commitments so they can meet theirs. #45 said churches are “essential” and he “will override governors that refuse to reopen for service”. Now y’all know what we are dealing with. How ‘da heck can a President dictate when a church reopens? By whose authority? Well, he can’t! In churches, we value life over money. Churches are in the business of saving lives (through invitation to change) not saving money. #45 wants churches to reopen so they can continue depositing millions of dollars into banks on Monday mornings. Here is what has been and will continue to take place if we do business as usual with banks that do not do business with us. Banks count on church deposits to make loans and investments. They loan black folk money to their friends. And, when we apply for a loan, they got a bag full of excuses why we do not qualify. It is all by design to keep people of color in a lower economic status.

Why not invest in ourselves—in our communities? How will we ever create wealth if we have to borrow our way through life and pay back at a higher interest rate? What will we be able to pass down to the next generation? Blacks are paid the least and work the most and pay the most and receive the least. Why aren’t black churches investing in Black banks? Black credit unions? “We have not because we ask not”. Does that sound familiar? What about “if a man will not work, he shall not eat?” Well, blacks work and deserve to eat. They deserve a seat at the table.

I don’t know about y’all but it’s time for black churches, associations and conferences to unite and force banks to do the “right thing”. Pastors, y’all may be living the good life; but, what about the people in your congregation? Their houses are falling apart while they struggle to pay tithes and offering.  The roof leaks. Some homes still have tarps from the last storm. Homes need weatherizing. Air condition/heating unit does not work. We have to do a better job of helping the least among us. If we don’t do it, who will? Banks are just waiting to foreclose on elderly and vulnerable homeowners. Homeowners that have worked over 40 years to leave something for their children. And, after 40 years, they are taxed out of their homes or saddled with major home repairs they cannot afford.

We can do this! We can take care of our own!

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