Pandemic and racial unrest test black clergy on dual fronts

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006 file photo, the Rev. Dwight McKissic poses for a portrait in the sanctuary of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. In late May 2020, he recorded a fiery, 4-minute statement that he aired on social media, denouncing the police actions that have cost Floyd and other blacks their lives. America now has seen exactly what black America has been knowing for a couple of hundred years, he said. No one can now say that racism is a myth. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

For black clergy across the United States, the past 10 days have been a tumultuous test of their stamina and their skills.

For weeks, they had been striving to comfort their congregations amid a pandemic taking a disproportionately heavy toll on African-Americans. Then came a coast-to-coast upsurge of racial tension and unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded for air.

“We’ve got a coronavirus and a racism virus,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

Here’s a look at what McKissic and three other black clergymen have been doing and how they’ve been coping: