What does it mean to be church in the city in a time of COVID-19? Sustained by the Spirit is a project developed by City Seminary of New York listening to what is taking place on the ground, and sharing what we are beginning to learn. It is about attending to the ways the Spirit is sustaining us in love, hope, and lament.
We are all just beginning to find our way in this time, but a series of questions about faith, ministry, and community in the city have helped shape this effort. How is a world of Christianity in our city living out faith amidst this global pandemic? What can we learn from other cities? With church buildings and physical places of gathering closed, how are congregations engaging in worship, ministry, and mutual support? How are pastors continuing and changing ways of ministerial care? Where are the signs of generosity, resilience, and compassion in the city? Where are we in our spiritual journeys? We can even begin to wonder: how might the church and city change post COVID-19? How will we be transformed?
As we share this resource of stories and practices, please use this as a way of learning in community, for faithful ministry in this uncertain and challenging time. We hope that this resource might help you think about how to respond and engage faithfully to the challenges and possibilities facing us.
We also hope these stories, which will be added to in the days, weeks and months to come, will spark imagination, learning, and community, in ways that complement thoughtful resources for churches in this time of COVID-19 such as these compiled by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and The Center for Congregations. Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning offers guidance on online teaching and learning, especially in the context of theological formation.
The Yale Youth Ministry Institute has many resources available, including a Guide to Taking Youth Ministry Online. Miroslav Volf and the Yale Center for Faith and Culture offer a podcast series available on Google, Spotify and Apple called For the Life of the World about faith in a time of pandemic.
As COVID-19 and its impact enter different phases, we will continue to update Sustained by the Spirit. Look for new additions as reopening continues and churches adapt and respond to serve the needs of their congregations and communities.
Please share with us what you are doing and learning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rally to Remember
This is a way of praying over injustice together. On Tuesday May 25, The Gathering Harlem held “Rally to Remember,” an event remembering the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and dedicated to all those who have been victims of racial injustice. The church gathered at the outdoor amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem to pray, remember, and reflect together.
Yarn Circles and Civic Engagement
This is a way of doing art and justice in partnership with the church. Oversea Chinese Mission is partnering with Harlem-based fiber artist Naomi Lawrence, community organizer Tina Lin, Think!Chinatown, and Creative Sanctum to create a mural-sized yarn installation in Chinatown’s Columbus Park. Community members are invited to crochet leaves and flowers in virtual and in-person yarn circles while having discussions about civic engagement. The installation will be displayed during Chinatown Arts Week in October and will raise awareness on issues impacting the AAPI community. Learn more about how you can contribute to the yarn mural here.
Praise in the Park
This is a way of seeking the peace of the city through praise and prayer in a local Harlem park. On April 22, Garden of Gethsemane Ministries, led by Apostle Dr. Staci Ramos, hosted “Seek the Peace of the City: Prayer and Praise in the Park!” in Colonel Charles Young Park in Harlem. The event sought to unite the local church, the wider community, and the police. Wearing masks and social distancing was required.
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An Interfaith Conversation: Supporting Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities
This is a way of supporting dialogue about justice between faith leaders. The Commission of Religious Leaders hosted an online conversation about supporting the AAPI communities in NYC with a panel of faith leaders, including Rev. Austin Woo of Oversea Chinese Mission. Rev. Woo spoke powerfully about the long history of anti-Asian discrimination in the U.S., going back 150 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act. He gave testimony to the work of the Oversea Chinese Mission church and its 60 years of ministry in the city.
The Atlanta Statement
This is a way of standing with our Asian American friends and family in response to escalating acts of violence. The Asian American Christian Collaborative has released a statement condemning the massacre in Atlanta and calling on Christian leaders to respond. Over the last year, the AACC has also created the Reclaim magazine and podcast, which focus on Asian American Christian thought and culture. Learn more about the AACC's Atlanta Statement here.
Asian American Christian Collaborative
This is a way of responding to the rise in anti-Asian racism and violence due to the pandemic. Over several days through social media, a grassroots movement called the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC), including leaders from New York, has gone from a few to thousands who are mobilizing to respond as the Church to the increase in violence against Asians, who are associated with what some have called the "Chinese virus." In the last two weeks of March alone, almost 1,000 incidents of racism have been documented in the media. Learn more about the AACC's COVID-19 Statement here.