The coronavirus pandemic has led to a great deal of fear and suffering, both in New York and across the nation. Many people are ill, while others may have loved ones who are ill. Some New Yorkers may be worried that they will be exposed to the virus at work, while others may be facing financial hardship because the coronavirus has shut down their workplaces. Many New Yorkers may struggle with loneliness and isolation because of the limitations on gatherings and interpersonal contact.
During these difficult times, some New York churches have come up with new strategies for staying connected and sharing the Gospel. Specifically, many churches have used the internet to live-stream worship services, and others have also live-streamed Sunday school classes and held youth group meetings via social media.
According to Newsday, Rev. John Yenchko, Senior Pastor of North Shore Community Church in Oyster Bay, said, “‘All over the earth, Christians this morning are livestreaming into church, being scattered yet gathered together. [This] might be one of the most redemptive moments in the history of the internet.’” Rev. Andrew D. Branch Sr., pastor of Naomi Temple A.M.E. Zion Church in Roosevelt, encouraged his congregation to “take the isolation brought by the social distancing policies as an opportunity for self-reflection. ‘We’re limited in what we can do, where we can go. And so we can take this time to examine ourselves, our relationship with God and others,’ he said.”
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle noted that Northridge Church has increased its social media presence and has called attendees to see what their needs may be. “‘We’re convinced that church has never been a building,’ said Aaron Hixson, Pastor of the Henrietta campus of Northridge Church. ‘We’ve always felt that church is about the people. Anytime people are connecting, we’re doing it as God intended.’”
Kelly Shackelford, Esq. of First Liberty Institute has shared a list of outreach efforts that churches around the nation have engaged in during the epidemic. That list includes:
- Setting up a drive-thru on church campuses to distribute free food and hand-sanitizer (made by the church) to families in need.
- [Creating] a prayer and counseling hotline that can bless, encourage and support those who are fearful or depressed.
- Ordering pizza or picking up groceries for elderly neighbors or family who are stuck at home, or simply making a phone call to see how they’re doing.
- Develop[ing] a program for first responders and health care workers that delivers cookies, cards and other items to show our appreciation and gratitude.
- Gather[ing] groups to go and donate blood, or even setting up a community or work drive for blood donations.
At New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, we are thankful for the pastors and other believers who are continuing to share the love of Christ with others during the coronavirus epidemic.