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Open Letter to Governor Ralph Northam
Regarding Phase 1 of “Forward Virginia”
To Governor Ralph Northam,

Greetings from the Charlottesville Clergy Collective.

We are a group of interfaith leaders working together to address racial injustice and inequity in the Charlottesville and Albemarle region of Virginia.

First and foremost, we want to express our appreciation for your leadership during this COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate the work that your office and the Office of Health Equity have done to implement and communicate the best science-based guidelines for the sake of the health of the citizens of Virginia.

It is because of our concern for the health of our commonwealth that we now express our grave reservations over the start of Phase 1 of “Forward Virginia” today.

We appreciate the guidelines on how we can reopen our houses of worship. However, we have received no support on how to implement those guidelines. Many congregations do not have the resources to compete with richer congregations and businesses in purchasing masks, disinfectants, sanitation stations, and thermometers needed to meet Phase 1 guidelines. Many faith leaders will also experience great pressure to reopen for worship, hold funeral services, and other physical gatherings despite having less than one week to meet Phase I guidelines. In the beginning months of this pandemic, religious gatherings contributed greatly to the spread of COVID-19. We’re fearful a premature reopening will only exacerbate this problem. We want to be part of the solution, even if it means sacrificing our preference for in-person gatherings a little longer for the sake of others.

Furthermore, this reopening affects much more than our congregations. We feel it is our moral duty to express our deep concern about the negative impact this reopening will have on the most vulnerable populations of our society. A premature reopening will only worsen the racial inequity that currently exists, and increase the morbidity rates within black and brown communities in Virginia. Without more testing, robust contact tracing, and PPE’s, they -- as well as low-wage essential workers, poultry and meat processors, imprisoned people, immuno-compromised individuals, and health care professionals, among others -- will bear the brunt of the risks, the deaths, and the cost of this reopening.

We seek to schedule a virtual meeting with you to talk more about how an early opening will impact houses of faith. We will continue to keep you and all the state’s leadership in our prayers. We too, are eager for the state to fully reopen and for Virginians to return to work. However, we want to work for a reopening that shares its benefits to ALL Virginians in an equitable and just manner.

  • Rev. Dr. Alvin Edwards, Mt. Zion First African Baptist; President, Charlottesville Clergy Collective
  • Rabbi Tom Gutherz, Congregation Beth Israel
  • Rev. Carol Carruthers Sims, Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Emrey, New Beginnings Christian Community 
  • Rev. Dr. Gay Einstein, Presbytery Minister at Large
  • Susan Kaufman, Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville 
  • Rev. Maren Hange, Charlottesville Mennonite Church 
  • Adam Slate, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church-Unitarian Universalist
  • Rev. Liz Hulme Adam, Tabor Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Dorothy Piatt, Westminster Presbyterian Church
  • Apostle Sarah A. Kelley, Faith, Hope and Love Int’l Healing and Deliverance Center 
  • Rabia Povich, Charlottesville Inayatiyya Sufi Community
  • Rev. Neal Halvorson-Taylor, Grace Church, Red Hill
  • Pastor Brenda Brown-Grooms, New Beginnings Christian Community 
  • Sharon Beckman-Brindley, Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville
  • Manouchehr Mohajeri, Treasurer of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Albemarle County
  • Rev. Marilu J. Thomas
  • Cynthia Power, Charlottesville Friends Meeting (Quaker)
  • Rev. Robert Lewis, Hinton Avenue UMC
  • Rev. Dr. Michael Cheuk, Charlottesville Clergy Collective


LINKS to "Forward Virginia" Phase One Guidelines for Religious Services


COVID-19 Data and the Reopening of Virginia 

Wednesday, May 27, 8 to 9 am, Zoom
Dr. Jeanita W. Richardson, Professor and Director of Community Education, Research and Practice in the Department of Public Health Science (PHS) in the University of Virginia, School of Medicine will present a session regarding what data and milestones are needed to inform the reopening of Virginia. Please sign up to receive the Zoom link to this meeting.

Free Session Financial Workshops for Clergy

May 21, 10 am to 12 noon, on Zoom.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Virginia and Ministering to Ministers Foundation are offering a free financial workshop for clergy addressing “Meaningful Retirement is About More Than Money” on May 21 The presentations are one hour long, with Q&A afterwards. Click here for more information and to join.

Churches Helping Churches Campaign

Churches Helping Churches is a national campaign set up to provide direct financial assistance through a fund to help at-risk churches serving in low-income communities that are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The grants are ~$3000 per church. Donate or apply for assistance here:

FREE Food Giveaway

New Beginnings Christian Community, 1130 E Market St, has free food boxes for people in need. Food can be: 
  • picked up on Wednesdays, 1 to 4:30 pm; or Saturdays 10 to 11 am (call: 249-5691) 
  • delivered to those who can't leave their homes (call: 996-9137)  
* * * * * * 
For other ways to provide or receive support and assistance, visit the archive of previous Collective Announcements.

Monday Racial Justice Email

Please consider signing up for Kate Fraleigh’s “Monday Racial Justice” email that contains news and information pertaining to racial justice as well as a constantly updated Who’s Doing What to Help Us Cope document. 

Charlottesville Community Cares Newsletter

Each Tuesday and Friday, Charlottesville Community Cares will be sending out news stories, tips, and relevant updates about how COVID-19 is impacting us all. Sign up here.

Email Updates from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam

Subscribe here for his email updates. 

Visit/Subscribe to these congregation’s online pages for worship, studies, and/or devotions!

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