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Religious services should be considered essential

Moses was one of the most important Jewish prophets who has been credited with writing the Torah, the law of God as revealed by God and recorded in the first five books of the Bible. I love Moses because he was a solitary leader, one with his people but also set very apart. When you think of the characteristics of Bishop Stanley Searcy, he exemplifies the likes of Moses.

I’ve watched right here in this small town of Natchez the sick being healed, the blind receiving sight, generational curses being broken off families, all while taking place on the land that was once the headquarters to the largest Ku Klux Klan chapter in the history of the United States of America, the current site of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. If God isn’t directing paths and changing lives on Morgantown Road, then surely do tell me who is?

By now, unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve seen or heard news stories of Bishop Stanley Searcy and about 200 parishioners choosing to have service at New Hope B.C. despite Gov. Tate Reeves asking churches not too due to a concern of contributing to possibly spreading the novel coronavirus. Based on comments made by Bishop Searcy, his congregation took great care in ensuring that precautionary measures were implemented to ensure that everyone who entered the sanctuary was safe to do so.

It saddens me to see someone who has devoted his life to service within our local community and even globally received calls and threats of incarceration for standing up for kingdom principles and his Constitutional rights, while being falsely accused of breaking the law. It is interesting that Gov. Reeves issued the executive order but did not include any guidance to law enforcement on how to address violations. It is also interesting to note that even Gov. Reeves stated that to impose legal ramifications on churches would be an infringement on religious freedoms protected by the constitution.

However, this spiritual journey has taught me one valuable lesson, just because you’re of “the church” doesn’t mean you’re of the kingdom. Bishop Searcy’s decision has been questioned by some, and his calling has been questioned by others. But I stand firm and say I support his courage to petition the Kingdom on each of our behalf and here is why.

When you think of 200 people packing a church in Natchez, an 1,800-seat building doesn’t come to mind. I’m no math wizard, but in order to fill a third of that building, it would take 600 people. With a building that size, strict measures could be taken to adhere to the CDC guidelines on resources for community- and faith-based leaders, as well as other policy implementation.

It’s time for the kingdom’s citizens to activate. The sheriff has a duty to watch the land, while bishops have the authority to oversee the kingdom. The novel coronavirus is a silent enemy that is attacking every facet of our lives and well-being, including our health and finances.

Currently, there are more Mississippians unemployed than ever before. No one had time to prepare, leaving many struggling to determine where they will get their next meal. Battered women and vulnerable children are locked in their homes with the abusers. Children are out of school and are restricted in some places from going to the parks or beaches.

Without work, the extra stress can become overwhelming. Yes, we serve an omnipotent God. Churches are essential places of consecration — remember the governor’s executive order deems them as essential. For many people, churches are the only centers of refuge some of us have left.

This is not a drill; our country is in the middle of a pandemic. Essential services must continue. We cannot pull health care professionals out of the hospitals, law enforcement officers off the street corners, or keep essential store workers from keeping shelves stocked with necessities. We also, cannot afford to stop our religious leaders, the foot soldiers of the kingdom, from providing spiritual guidance and encouragement in the midst of such chaotic times. Each of them are essential to rid our world of this virus.

Javarrea K. Jones is the president Aftershock Inc. “Advocacy for The New Generation.”