A pastor who lost 13 members in 30 days, including 11 to the deadly novel coronavirus, said he believes the faith of his congregation is now being tested as many of his congregants remain untested for the virus despite their church’s staggering death toll.
The Green of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, a 1,200 member congregation also have dozens sick at this point.
“The Scripture says whether we live, we live unto the Lord, whether we die we die unto the Lord … all of us are born with an expiration date on us and all of us are going to meet death at some point. It is simply unfathomable and unfortunate that so many people in our congregation [have died],” the Rev. Johnnie Green of Mount Neboh Baptist Church told The Christian Post while noting he hasn’t been getting much sleep.
“I get calls all times of the night. Every time my phone rings I wonder if it’s an announcement of another person either testing positive or another person dying so you know, I’m averaging about four hours of sleep per night. That’s it. It’s on my mind,” Green said.
“We had three burials that were supposed to take place this week. Two burials and one cremation that has now been put on hold until May.”
“It hit so severely and so suddenly, it was sort of like being blindsided. It’s something that you don’t expect. You read in the Bible, you read the stories of people like Job and how he lost 10 of his children at one time and the impact that it had on Job’s life. Well I didn’t lose 10 children but I’ve lost 13 parishioners and the impact has been devastating.
When asked how he thinks so many members of his church got infected with the coronavirus, he said many of his members are essential workers from a variety of professions.
“Well, we have a large congregation. A lot of our members are essential workers. A lot of our people work in schools systems, they work in transit, they work in the hospitals, they work in law enforcement, and so many of them from different walks of life were exposed,” he said.
“So before we had knowledge of the virus, when I say knowledge we knew that it was out there, but before we could prepare and before the shutdowns were being ordered we were coming to church. And if you bring 600 or 700 people in the church at one time and five people are infected with the virus, it’s going to spread like wildfire and that’s what happened,” he said.
Green said his last in-person service was on March 15, five days before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state to shut down on March 20 as the virus spread rapidly.
Green said the infections at his church first became apparent after three members of his church’s choir contracted the virus.
“Three people in the choir contracted it and two died. One of our deaconess contracted it. She sat on the third row from the pulpit so there I was standing in the middle — three people infected in the choir, two or three people were infected in the congregation right in front of me,” he said.
The pastor, who says he suffers from chronic bronchitis, explained that he would also eventually get sick but was not given a coronavirus test when he visited his doctor despite having all the symptoms of coronavirus. He was diagnosed with a severe sinus infection and upper respiratory issues.
“All the symptoms bore the similarities to COVID-19. The high fever, the chills, the coughing, the shortness of breath, all the symptoms were there. I believe at that time they were just being a little lax and I believe that’s why a test was not administered to me,” Green said.
“You can call it what you want. I think it was just a sloppy job that I took the antibiotics and I self-quarantined and as a result I’m doing better,” he said, still coughing profusely.