Detroit pastors keep the faith after getting the coronavirus

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Religious News

DETROIT -- The first week of April, the Rev. Kenneth Flowers had a slight dry cough, body aches and a bad headache. His 90-year-old mother he helped take care of had tested positive for the coronavirus a few days earlier, and so he asked his doctor whether he should get a test.

But, like many at the time, the pastor of Greater New Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit was told he didn't have enough severe symptoms such as breathing problems or a very high fever to get a test. After Flowers' wife tested positive, though, he asked his doctor again and was given a test on April 16. The following week, he got the results: positive.

Flowers hasn't been hospitalized and is still able to serve as leader of the Detroit church, delivering online sermons and Bible studies every week.

"I will not let this virus keep me down," said Flowers, who's also active in interfaith and civil rights advocacy in Michigan. "I still preached every Sunday, I praise God that I have not missed a beat. ... I have not yet missed a service, not one Bible service, even when I was shivering with aches and pains. Only by God's grace have I been making it."

Flowers is the latest prominent Detroit pastor to have been diagnosed in a pandemic that has killed more than 1,000 across the city. The Rev. Marvin Winans, pastor of Detroit's Perfecting Church, and the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, pastor of of New Destiny Christian Fellowship in Detroit, are two other noted Detroit pastors who also have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but are both recovering. Other faith leaders, including some with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination, have died from the virus.

The Muslim community has also been affected: Abdelfattah Abdrabbo, a Muslim community leader in Michigan known as Abu Rami, died Monday of the coronavirus, according to the American Muslim Community Foundation.


The virus has ripped through churches and congregations over the past couple of months, affecting many and causing uncertainty for the future of faith institutions. At Flowers' church, more than 20 have tested positive for the coronavirus and several have died, Flowers said. Some have also died at Sheffield's church.

"Every day, I've lost a friend, I've lost a family member, I've lost someone in my church from this deadly virus," Sheffield, a civil rights advocate, said in a video he posted earlier this month after recovering. "This is for real."

Sheffield urged Detroiters to stay indoors.

If you go out and violate social distancing, "you're playing with death. It's like a form of Russian roulette in germ and virus form. ... Stay home, don't go out ... until this thing has passed because the life you save may be your own and it may be someone you know or someone you love."


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