New Northside Missionary Baptist Church | St. Louis Public Radio

New Northside Missionary Baptist Church

In 2015, New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in Jennings installed security cameras and contracted armed security guards. Jan. 12, 2020
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Black churches in the St. Louis region are grappling with whether to hold church services this Sunday as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow. Some have already shifted to online streaming options.

The decision could be made clearer Thursday, when St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page are set to meet with the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition to discuss coronavirus at 11 a.m.

But for Andre Alexander, pastor of the Tabernacle in north St. Louis, the decision to halt in-person services has already been made. Sunday was the last day his church had regular services, and it came with a list of restrictions. 

Multiple armed guards patrol outside New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in Jennings during Sunday service. Jan. 12, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

New Northside Missionary Baptist Church — a predominantly black Jennings church — is a welcoming space on the inside. 

But on the outside, it’s fortified.

Armed security guards monitor the perimeter from the church’s parking lot, while there are several security cameras along the building's exterior.

Volunteer counselors Dr. Marva Robinson, left, and Adrian Wrice discuss a case during drop-in hours in the basement of the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

In the basement of the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, clinical psychologist Marva Robinson meets with people who know of a conflict that may escalate to violence. She trains her ear to signs of previous trauma or emotional instability. The next day, she starts making calls.

“We start the next day, with trying to make contact with individuals to see how we can have a conversation about the conflict in ways that we can resolve it,” Robinson said.