Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis never closed its doors in its 121-year history. Until COVID-19.
Although the church reopened its doors in June, many parishioners haven't returned.
"People are not coming into the church," said Bishop David A. Hall, 71. "That's not normal."
At one point during the pandemic, Hall would preach to nearly 200 members. Now, the crowd is around 80.
"Well, the pandemic, its first discipline is separation," Hall said. "Sequester yourself, separate from others."
What was once a larger congregation — speaking intimately and embracing tightly — turned into streamlined sermons, shrunken choirs and empty pews. Microphones are accompanied by hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and new guests are relegated to two pews.
In Hall's office, you won't find evidence of stalled work — a buzzing cellphone, half-empty bottle of hand sanitizer and books stacked high are spread across his desk.
During the pandemic, he has remained a fixture for not only his church but for all the COGIC churches in the Mid-South. As the prelate of Tennessee Headquarters Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, who works with multiple churches and pastors in the state, Hall says he's seen pastors get anxious about retaining congregants.
"You do what you can," he tells them.
Hall adds another piece of advice: Keep the faith.
One and 100: Click above to read more stories about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the South.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: David A. Hall, bishop at Memphis' Temple Church of God in Christ