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S.F. Mayor London Breed Urges Religious Congregations to Do Their Part to Deter COVID-19

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At her Wednesday press conference updating the public on COVID-19, San Francisco Mayor London Breed took a moment to wistfully recall the Easter Sundays of her childhood: the new church outfits, the egg hunts, good food and family gatherings.

But the first mayor in the U.S. to issue shelter-in-place orders for a metropolis of  nearly 900,000 people, an action that is credited for the city’s comparatively low infection rate and resulting illness and death rates, emphasized that now was not time to be complacent and this included staying home from Easter services, Passover observances and later in the month, Ramadan.

Addressing churches and their members, Breed said “I know how hard it’s going to be to stay home and not go to church.”

“There are other ways to celebrate,” she said, such as online services. “Pastors and priests can also reach out to members by telephone” and instruct lay people to connect with the isolated, needy and vulnerable.

Mayor Breed went on to reference a church in Mt. Vernon, Wash., where a choir practiced on March 10, 2020. Even though they practiced safe distancing, at least 28 of the 45  members became sick with COVID-19 and two died.

“I am asking leaders of the religious community to impress on your members to stay at home,” she said.

Compared to national hot spots like New York and New Orleans, San Francisco’s statistics are encouraging: As of Wednesday, 5,994 people had been tested and of those, 676 had the virus and 10 people have died.

After the mayor cleaned the lectern with a sanitary wipe, San Francisco Interfaith Council President Michael Pappas came to the podium and confessed that he had feared resistance at first but as far as he knew all of the city’s “800 congregations of faith” were complying with the order and praised Breed’s leadership. The S.F.I.C. has been reaching out by telephone to congregants who are the most vulnerable and providing links to services on their web site. 

San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church, under the leadership of Rev. Amos Brown, is complying with the order.

Brown thinks that Third Baptist is only doing what it has done since its founding in 1852, which is to provide help for African Americans who suffered and continue to suffer under white supremacy. H.E.L.P., Brown said is simple, practical and aspirational. ‘H’ stands for hope as opposed to fear and damnation, ‘E’ for enlightenment, including the value of science and history, especially the history of previous plagues and pandemics. ‘L’ is for love, which commands “us to love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves,” which, in practical terms, exhorts us to ‘P’ act with the power to change a situation, in this case to behave responsibly in preventing the spread of the virus based on fact.

Third Baptist had already had remote viewing for church services available before the order, and now all of them are online. Technology allows members to continue their tithes and contributions via credit card.

A contemporary of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brown was one of the 3% of churches that supported the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. at the time and promoted service to the community. Many other churches, he said, are on the fire-and-brimstone tip, encouraging salvation for the individual.

Brown would not have members needlessly sacrifice themselves to come to worship, though volunteers continue to provide food for their vulnerable seniors.

But he is worried about the people he sees flouting the shelter-in-place order sharing bottles outside nearby liquor stores and young people who don’t seem to understand that they can pass the disease on to their elders  without even being aware they are infected.

Across the bay in East Oakland, the renowned Allen Temple Baptist Church, where U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee is a member, immediately complied with Alameda County’s shutdown order on March 17, 2020, closing their East Oakland campus but continuing to provide online Sunday worship, Bible study and Sunday school.

The church is also a veritable one-stop shop with a web page providing advice for young people, sources for food and directions for financial and psychological help.

And if that weren’t enough, one of the members is selling face coverings to comply with the recent Centers for Disease Control directive to cover one’s face when out and about. 

But in the Bible Belt across the South where many states either don’t have or were slow to implement shelter-in-place orders, many Christians, especially Black Christians, may be more inclined to trust God and Jesus than other authorities like the government or scientists. 

And they have good reason: Still in the living memory of Black Southerners is the Tuskegee experiment where Black men were infected with syphilis instead of the health injection they believed they were receiving.  And, even now, government is failing the Black residents of Wisconsin, largely Democratic, who, despite a shelter-in-place order were denied a delay in the election date or absentee ballots and forced by the U.S. Supreme Court to go to polling places to vote on April 7, 2020, potentially endangering their health and spreading the virus.

Resistance to the order is not even so far from home. In Lodi, near California’s state capital, Pastor Jon Duncan of Cross Culture Christian Center continued to hold services despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive. “First amendment rights are not suspended by the virus,” he said. 

But his landlord, Bethel Open Bible Church, changed the locks and prevented Duncan from holding Palm Sunday services there.

Across the country in Hartford, Conn., Pastor Derrick C. Holloway, Jr. of First Calvary Church had no problem with the order, which was that no more than 10 people could gather in one place. The doors to the church home for his small flock of 48 were locked on Palm Sunday so they gathered on the doorstep, maintaining the appropriate distance of six feet apart.

They were observed by a reporter, Mark Pazniokas, who happened to ride by on his bicycle. The music and the pastor’s voice was arresting for passers-by on foot and in cars, whose occupants parked at a safe distance to listen. “May I have a palm frond, please” asked a woman in one car who was wearing a surgical mask. One was given to her. 

Their actions showed they accepted the science but at the same time hungered for tradition, a hunger for prayer in a group setting and its assurances. So they did what so many Black people of faith have done in times of trouble, from the slave ship to the brush arbor, to the storefront churches and regal cathedrals, they took the time to pray.

Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Times-Mirror contributed to this report.

 

 

 

Bay Area

THE DISTINGUISHED JARENA LEE AWARD PRESENTED TO OAKLAND SENIOR PASTOR

Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 476 34th Street Oakland, California is excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, senior pastor was awarded the auspicious Jarena Lee Award.

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Historic rendition of Jarena Lee, the first female preacher in the A.M.E. church

  Dr. Rosalyn Brookins. Courtesy of Parks Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 476 34th Street Oakland, California is excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, senior pastor was awarded the auspicious Jarena Lee Award.

Jarena Lee (February 11, 1783 – February 3, 1864) was the first female authorized to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. History shows she was born into a free, Black family. Lee saw the immorality of slavery.  At a time period of segregation and inequity, A.M.E. Church founder Richard Allen gave her the opportunity for her voice to be heard despite the fact that there were no provisions for a female to preach. Rev. Lee showed determination to let her voice be heard and to share the holy word, despite racial and gender issues.  Further, Lee was the first African American woman to have an autobiography published in the United States.

During the 5th Episcopal District A.M.E. Founder’s Day Service, the Award was presented to Brookins by Rev. Carieta Grizzell, president of Women in Ministry and pastor of Murph-Emmanuel Church in Sacramento, Ca.  This esteemed award is the highest commendation that a female minister can receive in the A.M.E. Church.

There are many parallels between  Lee and  Brookins.  They both blazed a path forward through adverse circumstances and applied the lessons they learned to their spirituality.  Their similar experiences as female ministers reinforce their relationship with God.  They maintained a steadfast hope in and a strong love for his divine majesty.  

Brookins is the only Episcopal supervisor of the Women’s Mission Society for the A.M.E. Church to be given a pastoral appointment as senior pastor.

Brookins earned her doctoral degree from Payne Theological Seminary in 2018, making her the first inaugurated female to be conferred with the noted degree.  She was the commencement speaker during the graduation.  Her dissertation was entitled “The Rebirth of the Woman’s Prophetic Voice: Using Liberation Theology to Impact the Local Congregation.” 

In 2018, Brookins presented a pilot program in South Africa and subsequently launched the Global School of the Prophets.  While there are many prophetic schools, this is the only type of school that ministers to both clergy and lay women. Brookins exudes great enthusiasm and passion about teaching and she graciously shares her expertise regarding prophecy.  Her courses provide an overview and structure that encourage individuals to develop, explore and expand their prophetic knowledge and understanding.   

The highly organized and comprehensive curriculum includes coverage of the Introduction and  Origin of the Prophetic; Prophetic Call;  Prophetic Ministry;  Prophetic Terminology; Nine Prophetic Traits, and Prophetic Training and the Church.   Students currently participating in the second cohort of the Global School are from the United States, India, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Belize and Trinidad. 

Just as Lee showed a drive and commitment to serve,  Brookins has the same qualities.  She is an honorable, steadfast pastor who is obedient to all that God has called her to do.  She is a strong leader, and a visionary who genuinely loves preaching the word of God.  Rev. Brookins’ unconditional love and genuine personality has touched the hearts of many.  Her prophetic ministry, powerful sermons and prayers consistently instill hope and inspiration. 

Lee traveled extensively preaching the word of God.  Rev. Brookins has preached the gospel in multiple pulpits across the country, including Canada, Zambia, India and South Africa. 

Regarding his mother’s receipt of this prestigious award, Sir Wellington Hartford Brookins said “I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of my mother.  She is an example of perseverance and daring determination.  She inspires me to move forward every single day and that’s why this award means so much to her and to me.”

Brookins said she is “humbled that the men and women of God felt I deserved such an award. I am moved that God saw it fitting for me to receive such an honorable award.”

The Jerena Lee Award is an amazing recognition of the contributions of Rev. Brookins to the theological foundations of the church as a whole.

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Rush bowls

The perfect blend of all-natural fruits and veggies topped with delightfully crunchy, organic granola, a drizzle of honey, and your choice of fresh fruits and toppers.

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Rush bowls are the perfect blend of all-natural fruits and veggies topped with delightfully crunchy, organic granola, a drizzle of honey, and your choice of fresh fruits and toppers. Packed with nutrients and fully customizable, Rush bowls offer healthy, delicious alternatives to standard fast-casual fare. Rush bowls is open Mondays-Fridays from 10am-6pm at 350 17th Street, Oakland,CA 94619. Available for indoor dining, and delivery through GRUBHUBhttps://rushbowls.com/oakland

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Volunteer’s Green Thumb Brings a Community Garden in East Oakland Back to Life

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Satterell Singh in the Community Garden in Oakland’s Fairfax neighborhood. Photo by Wanda Ravernell.

Satterell Singh is looking forward to the day the water system he is creating at the Community Garden at Ygnacio and Congress in East Oakland is ready.

    Toting 5-gallon bottles from the back of his station wagon into the small lot across from Horace Mann Elementary School in the Fairfax neighborhood is wearing Singh out. “I’m invested in getting rid of this method,” quipped the son of an African American woman and a Punjabi immigrant who met in college in the 1970s.

   The 2005 graduate of Castlemont High School is a former linebacker who carries the bottles with ease. He explains that, so far, everything that comes into the garden is either by his hands or one of the two wheelbarrows in the center of the patch. 

   Besides his 4-year-old daughter Marlie, and wife, Ebony, also a former Knight, he can’t count on regular help with the tasks at hand, but he hoped to change that when he hosted a garden event the day before Easter. 

    On hand were seedlings of Tuscany melon, cucumber, strawberry and wildflowers to entice children to plant in the planter boxes that has been repaired by Singh with found wood.

  Children weren’t coming by themselves, Singh knew, and while the kids were busy, he believed he could persuade some strong parents to help with other strenuous tasks in order to carry out his three-part plan for the garden.

     The first part involves laying down sheet mulch — layers of wood and cardboard that should kill off any crabgrass and other ‘strays’ that the birds plant. Building up the soil for both the planters and the ground is next for Phase 1, followed by pruning and the removal of dead or dying grapefruit and other trees. “Cloning is in the future,” he said of a method to revive the space with healthier plants.

   The second part of Singh’s plan involves the permanent structures, like remodeling the chicken coop with found wood and donated coop wire and building a chicken run, and a 10-foot by 10-foot pergola for shade and a work/entertainment area for visitors. Those structures are key to his water collection, placing barrels in places to collect runoff and a tote that will eventually have a 500-gallon capacity.

    The third part is getting the community involved. He wants to teach people how to develop and take care of an outdoor place that serves both ornamentally and practically. It is important to Singh that Black people be part of the movement to grow their own food and that they see other Black people gaining and teaching those skills.

  Singh’s own eclectic knowledge comes from classes at Laney College, Merritt College and San Francisco State University where he studied Urban Planning, horticulture and landscape gardening. His grandmother, who moved West from Louisiana and raised seven children in the Brookfield neighborhood in Deep East Oakland, taught him the value of growing food of your own. 

    “You know what you put in, so you know what you’ll get out,” he said, a point driven home even more during the pandemic when there was not only food insecurity across the country but a lack of high quality fresh fruit and vegetables.

   (As a boy, Singh raided his neighbors’ yards for fruit so often that they began to gather the plums – his favorite – oranges, figs and avocados and leave them on front stoops for him to pick up.)

    He loved working the garden with his grandmother so much that he started his own landscaping business right after high school, but he couldn’t hold onto it. For a few years, he was part of what he called the ‘backdoor’ cannabis industry. He insisted, however, that his failures in attempting to grow cannabis indoors were both eye-opening and exhilarating, sending him down what he called a ‘rabbit hole’ of knowledge on permaculture, to what he really wants to create, a landscaping business where what is grown is eaten. 

   In the meantime, Singh now works up to 80 hours a week working security to support his family. “I had to put down what I loved, to take of who I love,” he said. But Ebony knew her husband missed working in gardens and she encouraged him to use his spare time in the community garden they discovered just driving by one day. 

    On a chilly morning, Singh has come to the garden after pulling a graveyard shift and a couple of hours overtime, yet he energetically cut back an out-of-control blackberry bush while R&B music wafts from his car radio. Ebony and Marlie bring him a snack. 

   While a neighbor collects oversized grapefruits that have fallen from a tree, Singh, now digging with a trowel around the roots of a lemon tree that had been hidden by the blackberries, gets back to the matter at hand. He will eat later. 

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