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Black Chicago churchgoers join one-quarter of Americans who say their faith's grown stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic

Javonte Anderson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Religious News

On a recent weekday, with the pews emptied, Robinson and his wife, the Rev. Dr. Shakira Sanchez-Collins, stood in the pulpit and recorded their sermon for the upcoming Sunday. Standing under studio lights and staring into an iPhone camera, they pieced together a service that would post online a few days later.

Their last service was viewed more than 1,700 times on Facebook, far exceeding the 500-seat capacity of the church.

Sanchez-Collins, the associate pastor at St. James, said she believes people are turning to their faith to cope with the devastating effects of the virus.

"It's a time where you can really feel hopeless, and I think the church is actually how people are getting through this," she said.

The surge in faith comes as the virus infects and kills black Americans at a disproportionately higher rate.

Even as the gap has shrunk in the past few weeks, in Chicago, African Americans account for nearly more than a third of those who have tested positive and more than half of coronavirus-related fatalities, despite being less than a third of the city's residents. Latinos make up a little less than half for 40% of infections and about a quarter of COVID-19-related deaths.

 

Darryl Person, the pastor of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, 4501 S. Vincennes Ave. in the Bronzeville neighborhood, said his church is feeling the devastation of the virus firsthand.

Several members of his congregation have contracted COVID-19. Two weeks ago, Person buried a church member who died of coronavirus-related causes.

During crisis moments, Person, 57, said he relies on his experience as a Navy combat chaplain to manage his faith.

"Having experienced the challenges of war ... I recognize my role is to shepherd my flock and to care for my people, and I'm motivated by that."

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