Memphis area faith leaders say they’ll wait for face-to-face worship, for now

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of 18 faith leaders from the Memphis area made a joint statement Friday, saying that they will delay face-to-face worship a little while longer.

In a video, the leaders of several Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations said they will continue social distancing and other health protocols to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will wait a little bit longer to gather in face-to-face worship, because my choice and my freedom cannot come at the expense of your safety and health,” they said in the video.

Some social distancing protocols have been relaxed somewhat for congregations in the Mid-South recently, and worship has resumed for small groups. Still, the religious leaders in the video say it’s still too dangerous to hold in person service.

“People have been away from the church now six to eight weeks,” Pastor Christopher Davis at St. Paul Baptist Church said. “They’re missing friends and so forth they’ve (not) seen for a while. So, regardless to what we say it’s only natural to want to embrace people and hug people and move closer than six feet.”

The statement was released by the Church Health Center, which convened the Memphis Clergy COVID-19 Response network,and now consists of more than 400 faith leaders across the Mid-South.

Those in the video are:

Imam Anwar Arafat, Islamic Center of Tennessee
Pastor John Bryson, Fellowship Memphis
Dr. Christopher Davis, St. Paul Baptist Church
Greg Diaz, Iglesia Nueva Dirección Memphis Las Américas
Bishop Linwood Dillard, Citadel of Deliverance COGIC
Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein, Temple Israel
Rev. Will Jones, Germantown Presbyterian
Scott Morris, MD, MDiv, Church Health
Dr. Bartholomew Orr, Brown Missionary Baptist Church
Bishop Phoebe Roaf, Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee
Dr. Frank E. Ray, New Salem Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Rufus Smith, Hope Church Memphis
Rev. George Robertson, Second Presbyterian Church
Dr. Charles Stanback, Past President of the Baptist Ministers Alliance
Bishop Ed Stephens, Golden Gate Cathedral
Rev. Dr. Stacy L. Spencer, New Direction Christian Church
Rev. Dr. Gina M. Stewart, Christ Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Scott Walters, Calvary Episcopal Church

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