The issue of re-opening places of worship has fast become a contentious debate around the country, even more so after President Donald Trump deemed them essential Friday.

In Massachusetts, churches and other venues were given the go-ahead to open on the first day of Governor Charlie Baker’s phased in re-opening plan. But Reverend Irene Monroe, a syndicated religion columnist and co-host of the WGBH podcast, “All Revv’d Up,” argued that just because re-opening might be allowed, doesn’t mean it’s right.

“There are alternatives. It’s asking you not to congregate,” Monroe told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston Tuesday. “But if you watch worship services online that shows you there are alternative ways to do this.”

Monroe mentioned she has also officiated funerals for those who have died due to COVID-19.

“It reminds me of two particular incidents in history and they were tragic — the AIDS epidemic when clearly the volume of people of dying, but [it wasn't] to this volume. And it also reminds me of 9/11 where you would do funerals and the bodies are not there,” Monroe said.

Monroe’s wife, Dr. Thea James, is an emergency room doctor and the vice president of Mission at Boston Medical Center. The pair were recently profiled in a Boston Globe column for their measures to safely practice social distancing due to their professions while living together at home: Monroe in the basement and James upstairs.

“It’s really safer for us to live this way… I think a lot of it has to do with my job and where I work and what I do. I’m proximal to [COVID-19] and as Irene calls it, it makes me a hotspot,” Dr. James said.

When it comes to treating vulnerable populations, James said it’s important to remember the issues the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light, regarding people of color and healthcare.

“I think most of the action is going to have to be some intentionality about what we do going forward to prevent these types of things from happening to people….When people are coming from communities that have been historically disinvested in, they actually don’t have the ability to prioritize health,” she explained.

"People have short memories. When we think about what we're going to do and want to do going forward, it cannot look like what we talked about pre-COVID," James said. "They have to be intentional around disrupting the sort of root causes that land people where they are."