Philadelphia Church Hosts Interdenominational AIDS Event To Observe Black Church Week of Prayer
In observance of the annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, Philadelphia's Deliverance Evangelistic Church on Sunday held the first citywide interdenominational AIDS service event, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The "open night for prayer and healing" was expected to draw a "broad mix" of pastors, worshipers, HIV-positive individuals, advocates and city officials. Judy Henderson, director of an HIV/AIDS social service agency called the RIGHT Foundation, organized the event on behalf of Balm in Gilead, the New York-based organization that created the week of prayer event. She said that the event has been "a long time coming," adding, "Until about three years ago, churches wouldn't talk to me at all. They thought [HIV/AIDS] was a homosexual disease and didn't want to be doing anything because of the stigma." Now, a growing number of city churches are forming AIDS programs. A University of Pennsylvania study of 2,000 Philadelphia congregations has found that 11.3% of the city's non-black congregations and 11.8% of black congregations have AIDS ministries (Remsen, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/4).
Massachusetts Churches Observe Week of Prayer
Meanwhile, black churches in Boston also have stepped up anti-AIDS efforts in observance of the Black Church Week of Prayer, the Boston Globe reports. A variety of churches will devote sermons to the topic of AIDS over the next week, and churches will host programs highlighting the AIDS crisis within the black community. Larry Kessler, executive director of AIDS Action Committee, noted that black churches play a prominent role in the black community and are "a key arena for sending out a message of compassion." Rev. Edward Burks, associate minister of the Greater Love Tabernacle in Dorchester, Mass., noted that churches have avoided the topic of AIDS for years. "There was a stigma in the beginning -- we thought it was a white gay disease, and a lot of us in the black community felt it didn't affect us. And the church at one point was saying AIDS was a curse from God, so we had to work to dispel that lie," he said. According to AIDS Action Committee, African Americans and Latinos account for 51% of the state's AIDS cases and 60% of new HIV infections, while they represent only 11% of the overall population (Paulson, Boston Globe, 3/4).