One church in the historic Black neighborhood of Harlem church has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
In less than a month, Mount Neboh Baptist Church has mourned the passing of nine congregants due to COVID-19 complications, according to CNN. Additionally, two others passed away from natural causes.
Mount Neboh Pastor Johnnie Green told the outlet he has never seen death affect his church as it has in recent weeks. The church counts more than 1,200 among its membership and averages as many as 600 visitors each week, he said.
“It was as if every other day I was getting a call that another parishioner had passed,” Rev. Green stated. “We see gang activity from time to time. I’ve had to preside over the funerals of kids who were literally killed outside the doors of the church. But we’ve never seen anything like this.”
For one of the departed church members, choir leader and minister in training Cathy Williams, 65, Green was the only person allowed to be present at her burial in New Jersey, as coronavirus has caused restrictions of large gatherings, such as funerals.
“It’s unfathomable. These are people who five weeks ago were sitting in the congregation,” Green said. “These were active members. People who sang in the choir and served in the ministry.”
It has not eluded Green that Black Americans have been particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, due to disproportionately high rates of health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and lack of access to medical support for impoverished communities.
“You know that saying: ‘When white America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia,’” Green said.
Since the pandemic hit, the reverend has held church services for his congregation via Zoom and Facebook Live.
New York state is at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and New York City is a hot spot. More than 242,000 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the fast-spreading virus, with a majority of the cases recorded in the megacity.
The state has seen a decrease in the number of new daily cases, a positive sign in the fight to slow the contagion’s spread. More than 735,000 people have contracted the disease in the United States as of Sunday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.