Note: By request of the individual, the names are left anonymous, as the family has requested privacy at this crucial time. The Traveler Weekly is respecting the family and the church by NOT sensationalizing this incident.
At first, word came that the long-term church clerk had suddenly died. Days later, another mother of the church had transitioned. Then a call came regarding the deacon passing. When the pastor, who was merely in his late 40’s, died, the church community went into complete shock. The last death was broadcast on every local news station, in the newspapers and radio stations.
News stories with visual images from a phone were leaked to the press, complete with video footage from the pastor’s last sermon on March 1st. He was dead by mid-week, after aiding his wife, who suffered from cancer. In addition, he looked after his mother, who had overcome pneumonia. The head of his personal family and church community, it is believed that the pastor had caught the virus in his own church, nestled neatly in the Black neighborhood, right down from a long time, historic Black hospital, and 100% Black neighborhood high school.
Of course, he had no idea that the virus had caught up with him. He had not been quarantined, as he was very busy, tending to his family’s needs.
“We had a wipeout,” said the young person, who was startled from how quickly the COVID-19 virus had impacted the small, close-knit religious facility in the Black neighborhood.
“We had four deaths within two weeks,” she said. Shaken and subdued, the members await word of burial services. The church must be sanitized, cleaned, and reorganized. Will the people return? Are they afraid to re-enter the building?
“We will recover. We will rebuild. We will have church again, but today, we are picking up the pieces.” she said sadly.
There had been a gathering at the church on March 1st, with a guest preacher, who had the virus but was not aware of his health condition. As of today, there are more than 337,000 cases of the Coronavirus in the United States; however, many people have not been tested for their status.
Black people make up 23% of the Chicago community, but currently are almost 72 percent of the virus deaths. (As of April 6.) The first person to die in the state was a Black nurse, and then her sister died two weeks later. The first inmate to die was a Black man. Black folks are battling the virus across the country, especially in the state of Mississippi.
It is believed that some people may have had some elements of the Coronavirus in late 2019, but shelter in measures had not begun for the state. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker had not asked Illinois residents to stay home yet. The deaths were low, and many inaccurate facts were out in the community. A church service, which is a social gathering, was not thought to be harmful. There was no social distancing forced. Black teens were gathering at cookouts, basketball courts, and shopping malls.
An emphasis on washing ones’ hands daily had not been promoted, nor was using hand sanitizer regularly public practice. On March 1st, the day of the pastor’s last public appearance, the health pandemic had not surged in the country yet.
According to the New York Times, some officials knew that the virus was headed towards the United States in December, but distractions kept them from preparing the masses from catching it.
The church, which had under 300 members on any given Sunday, fed the neighborhood children, elders, visitors, and anyone who stopped by on any given holy day. Today, the building sits as an empty vessel. This once, vibrant church community, draped in bunting, sits as a sore reminder of how we lost four positive people in the twinkling of an eye.
We pray for this community and our people, who may fall victim to the virus. The chaos in this country is devastating.
Sources: ABC-TV, WGN News, WBEZ-91.5 Chicago radio, and Newsone.com.
A church in Indiana was ticketed on Palm Sunday for having service. There were more than 100 people gathered when the police arrived and social distancing was not being enforced, all over the church. After the police left the building, church services continued. Easter is next Sunday. It takes two weeks before the virus spreads. One may want to think about what happened at the church in Chicago, IL before stepping out for that traditional, religious service. Safety should be a priority. Many services are being broadcast on television, the internet and on the phone, since many community events (Easter Egg Hunts, Carnivals, Parades) have been canceled. One must be careful and look at your options during this different season.
Sources include WBBM radio and WGN news.