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.
Vaccine Information for Pastors
This is a way of providing information about the COVID-19 vaccine to pastors and churches. Christians and the Vaccine—led by Redeeming Babel and its founder, Curtis Chang—is an online resource that seeks to equip pastors and Christian leaders to help others apply biblical principles to their thinking on the COVID-19 vaccine and, based on these principles, encourage Christians to take the vaccine. They have developed short videos answering common spiritual questions and dialoguing with health experts and Christian leaders. Their Pastor’s Toolkit provides video and PDF resources for pastors to share with their congregations in a variety of ways.
Providing Vaccine Information to Churches
This is a way of providing information about COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Francis Collins, who has been Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009 and who is a Christian, has spoken recently on a number of webinars answering common questions Christians have about vaccines, encouraging people to get vaccinated, and promoting best practices for churches that are reopening. Watch Dr. Collins speaking here.
Supporting the Church in India During COVID-19 Crisis
This is a way of supporting the global church family through prayer and ministry. Geomon and Reji George (City Seminary Dean and Registrar / Bursar, respectively) are finding a variety of ways to support the church in India during the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic currently afflicting the country. Their church, International Gospel Church of Connecticut, is conducting a chain prayer for India until the second wave has passed. Their Tuesday night prayer as a church focuses on lifting up the COVID-19 crisis in India and the world. Geomon and Reji are working with over 100 pastors in India, joining them in Zoom prayer meetings and encouraging the pastors to be community health advocates. The George family and their church are seeking to be responsive to community needs, providing different resources like masks, finances, medical supplies, and more.
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Online Roundtables for Leaders
This is a way to equip leaders to better serve their communities. The Global Center for Transformational Leadership, directed by Dr. Ade Oyesile, seeks to spark innovative ideas among leaders, enabling leaders of faith and the marketplace to develop a deeper understanding of the people they lead. On Saturday March 27, GCFTL hosted an event on immigration and healthcare as a part of their online roundtable discussion series for leaders: Dr. Nelson Aluya spoke about “Demystifying COVID-19 and the Vaccine” and Attorney Toyin Omolola spoke as well.
COVID Conversations with a Young Adult Group
This is a way for young people to learn about vaccines. The Young People's Guild of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana is a gathering of young adults ages 18-30. At their last Zoom meeting, one of the members of the group, who is a medical professional, hosted a question and answer session on COVID and the vaccines. The young people had the opportunity to ask questions they have in a familiar environment and receive answers from a medical professional they know and trust.
Providing Vaccines for Vulnerable Communities
This is a way of providing accessible vaccines to seniors. Vision Urbana is a grassroots organization of the Primitive Christian Church on the Lower East Side that has become increasingly focused on holistically serving the seniors in their neighborhood. They were approved to open a COVID-19 vaccination pod on the Lower East Side, providing vulnerable residents–including isolated seniors, immigrants and those who are not English proficient, and those who have little or no internet access–with vaccine access through a trusted community organization.
Calling Many Neighbors
This is a way of sharing important health information in a neighborhood. In the Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore, lifetime resident Nina Anderson is calling her neighbors, making some one hundred phone calls. She is checking in to see how people are doing and reminding them to stay inside and stay healthy. "If you need something, say something," Nina tells everyone.
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.
Church Partners with Health Center
This is a way of a local church and health center working together. When Esperanza Health Center in Philadelphia, led by Susan Post, needed more masks, they asked members of Spirit and Truth Fellowship to make them. Dr. Sue Baker, a founder and leader at Spirit and Truth, responded by ordering elastic and pipe cleaners to go with the fabric being supplied. She hopes she can sew at least 100 masks. Learn more about the work of Esperanza Health Center in Philadelphia through their website.
Being Present to Healthcare Workers
This is a way to support medical professionals in a church. With many doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals attending the International Gospel Church, Pastor Geomon and Reji George have planned a special Zoom fellowship and prayer time to support them. In addition, from writing a personal note to having a telephone conversation, Pastor Geomon and Reji remind their members at International Gospel Church that they are not alone. They are journeying together.
Communicating Preventative Health Practices
This is a way to pass along the word on preventative health practices. In India, the leaders of Pentecostal church networks are calling and sending Whatsapp messages to fellow pastors. In these conversations, they are sharing basic preventative health information like how to wash hands and other safety precautions to practice every day. This is then shared with their congregations. Church leaders strongly believe that with this intersection of health and faith, they are able to more effectively contribute to slowing down the spread of COVID-19.