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.
Growing a Food Pantry Through Partnership
This is a way of expanding the reach of a food pantry. True Holy Church, located in East New York, has run a busy food pantry for a number of years, serving an average of 2,700 people per month. After the first week of the pandemic, they have remained open continuously, seeking to meet the needs of their community. The pantry now serves 5,000 people per month, will soon move into a larger and more sustainable building, and is partnering regularly with three churches in Brooklyn and one in Queens to help them develop their own food pantries.
Remembering the Elderly
This is a way of caring for the elderly in the community. Living Faith Community Church is serving its local community in Flushing, Queens, through its community development corp (CDC), delivering food to those in need, particularly the elderly, and advocating for local nursing home residents (whom they have been volunteering with for almost 20 years) in a letter writing campaign to elected officials. Learn more about LFCC here.
Moving Outside of a Silo
This is a way of being opened up to new ways of ministry. Rev. Jonathan Roque is the pastor of Damascus Christian Church in Hunts Point, the South Bronx. He realizes in this time an opportunity to think afresh about ministry, to move "out of my silo." Responding to his community, he's partnering with local networks, including a food pantry, to take groceries to people in need. He's thinking about leadership and the future of church life.
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Being Present at a Hospital
This is a way of being present to families and staff at a hospital in the Bronx. Rev. Peter Acevedo, a member of the Damascus Council of Churches and a co-leader in Plus One Ministries, is a social worker at a hospital in a Bronx neighborhood facing the impact of COVID-19. Much of his time is given to caring compassionately for families who have someone in the hospital or have lost a loved one. But in this time of fear and anxiety, Peter is also able to pray with and support the staff around him. He comes home exhausted each night, resting to return to work the next day, strengthened in hope in God.
Loaves, Fishes and Masks
This is a way of experiencing "the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes." Since wearing a facial mask has become an essential guideline for keeping society safe in South Korea, Rev. Young Doo Peter Kim, senior pastor of Han-Gil Church in Paju city, decided to share his personal face masks, the ten pieces that he had, to church members. His congregation is made up of mostly Ghanaian immigrants who have limited access to masks. This story spread through Facebook and many people are donating several boxes of masks to the church. To learn more about Han-Gil Church, visit their Facebook page.