One of Southern California's most prominent Black churches is returning to in-person services this Sunday.
Black churches have been slower to return because of safety concerns and the disproportional impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.
On Sunday, Vicki Smith’s mom, 87-year-old Ola Mae Moffett, is determined to go to the church she hasn’t attended in more than a year, with some twenty members of her family, even though she has been ill.
“My mom is a woman of faith. We’ve all been vaccinated. We’re going to wear masks even in the house. This is her desire to go back at least one time, and we’re going to go back for her,” Smith said.
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Keeping members like Moffett safe has weighed heavily on Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, leader of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, which is returning to in-person services on Sunday, July 4th, months after churches were allowed to resume indoor services.
Many Black churches are more cautious given the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black communities.
“African Americans are pretty much the lowest percentage of those who have been vaccinated, now we’re also one of the highest percentage groups being infected, which was a peculiarity for us,” Bishop Ulmer said.
Ulmer says parishioners will be required to wear masks. The church is navigating the shifting advice regarding masks and the threat of the new Delta variant, but he’s confident that families like the Moffett’s, who’ve been attending for four generations, will be safe as the church reconvenes on Independence Day.
“Our worship style is very expressive. We feel like we’re being released to freedom of worship,” he added.
“We still have a hurdle, but we’re just happy to get back into the house of god and worship.”