Philly church disregards coronavirus protocols, plans in-person Easter services

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As a black Republican and former Philadelphia Eagles player, Rev. Dr. Herb Lusk is not afraid to be on the opposing side of an issue.  

So when word got out that the Philadelphia pastor’s church will be open for services on Easter Sunday, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t fear the backlash over his disregard of social distancing protocols.

“We are not a militia trying to break the law of the land,” he said. “We are just a church, and I am just a pastor trying to do God’s will.”

While most religious leaders are opting for virtual services amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Greater Exodus Baptist Church, at Broad and Brown streets, will be open. Lusk said he’ll stream a one-hour service online. At the same time, Lusk is opening the church to anyone who wants to experience Easter Sunday in-person.

“I know I am on the wrong side of this publicly,” he admitted, “but I have a charge to keep, and I want to keep that charge and do it in a way that no one is harmed.”

Lusk noted many members of his church are underserved people in the community.

“Many of my critics have iPhones. Some of (my members) don’t. Many of my critics have internet. Many of mine don’t,” he said. “It’s important for me to serve all of our folks.”

The church will provide hand sanitizer and allow parishioners to sit three people to a pew, with a maximum of 50 people allowed inside of the 700-seat church.

“Honestly, my church is safer than a home that is 1,000 square feet,” he suggested. “I mean, you’re talking about 50,000 square feet. You’re talking about people scattered; you’re talking about gloves and face masks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Pennsylvania and Philadelphia health officials, all issued guidance urging faith leaders to avoid in-person gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some churches have defied the recommendation, arguing a breach of the First Amendment’s right to free assembly. 

Lusk, who has provided drive-thru communion on Sundays, said for him, it’s not about the law. It’s about faith.

“Everything I am doing is driven by my love for God’s word,” he added. 

As for his “critics,” Lusk turned to prayer: “If you think I am in danger or am putting people in danger — which I am not — pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.”