DURHAM, N.C. – Not even the power of a court could compel Rev. Jerome Washington to reopen Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

He closed his sanctuary in March to prevent a coronavirus spread.

The threat also led Gov. Roy Cooper to ban worship services. Recently, a federal judge overturned the ban after a group of Christian leaders filed a lawsuit. The ruling allows churches to temporarily reopen.

However, Washington and members of Durham Clergy United held a news conference Thursday saying they will side with the state.

"It has to do with the safety of the people," Washington says. 

The group says it wants to see a decline in new COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations before reopening. Members would also like to see an increase in testing and a vaccine.

Washington says he has beefed up his social media presence to still accomodate the spiritual needs of his members.

Cooper says he won't appeal the state's decision.