CLEVELAND — The historic Antioch Baptist Church at 89th and Cedar has been a pillar of worship for Clevelanders since 1893, but since April of 2020 that worship has been virtual.
“It’s difficult to imagine a Black Baptist church being closed and the fellowship that’s part of the worship experience,” said Marvin McMickle, senior pastor at Antioch. “But all the other activities that go on as well-—they simple are not happening."
McMickle’s church sits in the 44106 zip code which is reporting about 7,300 hundred cases per 100,000 people, which is why he said his doors will remain closed with the delta variant looming.
"We're not going to rush back like other churches have,” said McMickle. “Our church is of such a size that if we were to sit six feet apart, we would only be able to get a fourth of the congregation into the building."
Ohio Department of Health data shows Black Ohioans account for 34% of the state's vaccinated population, and Latino or Hispanic Ohioans account for 41%.
Tuesday morning, faith leaders in Cleveland’s Black and brown communities, including McMickle, addressed the vaccination rates in both communities.
The group of pastors representing United Pastors in Mission said the lack of accessibility and education is driving vaccination numbers.
“We want our leaders and organizations to be more creative in how they’re trying to reach out underserved communities and stop blaming them," said Dr. Larry Macon, senior pastor of Mt. Zion of Oakwood Village.
“There are lies that are being told,” said Aaron Phillips, pastor of Sure House Baptist Church. “People are literally on the internet, lying about the vaccine.”
The organization said it plans to dispatch mobile vaccine units and launch a vaccination campaign, and add it wants to create a trusted group of individuals called ‘vaccine czars’ to spread the message in their own neighborhoods.
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