By Denise Rooks, Advocacy Chair, and Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Conference Staff
With news of COVID-19 invading many aspects of our lives, the stock market spiraling down, and the constant bombardment of negativity that occurs in our world, it would be easy to go into our homes and stay for months. In times of great stress and concerns, it can be difficult to discern how we fit into the many complex pieces. Many of us can and do feel defeated and helpless due to the uncontrollable circumstances that surround us.
As Christians, where should we turn when we feel out of control and helpless? In times of great stress as with times of peace, we must always remember it is our faith in God that will sustain us and keep us. There is no denying that the present season we are living is difficult and complicated. Governor Kemp has recommended school suspension for the state of Georgia. These educational systems closing down are a hardship for parents and a concern for meals for children. Please check with your local school system for assistance with meals and other services.
Yes, these are difficult times, especially when we are all advised to be cautious. Some are not going out; some are quarantined; and businesses are doing partial and full shutdowns, like Starbucks that is offering “expanded ‘catastrophe pay’ to workers amid coronavirus outbreak.” Job losses have included those of ports, bakeries, and travel agencies. Indeed, last week, President Trump spoke to the nation and declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency.
In the midst of this chaos we must remember to whom we belong and what was spoken in Isaiah 41: 10, (NKJV); “Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand,” is still true for us today.
Have you ever wondered how this season might be affecting others whose livelihood might be directly affected from the many shutdowns that are occurring? What might this mean for those that are wage workers, like waitresses, custodians, entertainments, etc.? It can seem too big an issue and too daunting a task when we look at the scale of all the people that this season of hardship has impacted and will affect negatively.
In this difficult time, the House of Representatives passed an economic relief aimed to help many people that might be affected negatively. The bill, if passed by the Senate as well, will provide money for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing, and other measures to help Americans impacted by the crisis. The bill will be sent to the Senate for them to vote and pass.
Should we ignore the cries of the world and keep to ourselves, or should we take up our cross and go help our fellow citizens? As Christians, we are called to love as well as help in difficult situations. We, who are followers of Jesus, must always be ready to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and go. Christians cannot afford the luxury of picking and choosing who we help; we, the body of The United Methodist Church, are called to be “alive together in witness” to each other in all seasons even when the season brings hardship.
Yes, Congress is taking steps to help our fellow citizens, but should we leave it all to them? It may take days or weeks for the money to get to those who need it. Now is the time to come to the aid of our neighbors. The question can no longer be how can we help, but will we help? What is our response when God calls us to help? It should be, “Here I am, Lord! Send me.”
This crisis is an opportunity to represent Jesus in our neighborhoods and be alive together in our witness with our response. For those who hear the call to action and want to help, but aren’t sure what to do, the Conference Advocacy team has put together some resources that will guide you. For those who may be in need because the present circumstances have impacted you and you need assistance, there are resources below for you. Whether your response is individually or collectively as a church family, there is a need for you.
What can churches do to help?
- Be aware of those that may be unemployed now or have less wages because of partial and full shutdowns. Consider helping to make sure they have what they need.
- Use Benevolence funding or other funding to help individuals with bills, medicine, etc., because they are not working. This includes those that are employees of the church that may not be working because worship services are suspended.
- List resources available at your church and in the community in the bulletin, online, social media, and other publications and outlets.
- Allow staff in the church to work from home where applicable and, if hours are limited, still consider full pay for those staff members.
- Because schools are closed, if your church already participates in the Backpack Buddy program, consider expanding this ministry. If your church has never participated, please consider doing so to help those students who would benefit from having snacks at home. More info: https://backpackbuddiesga.org.
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- If you have a food pantry, consider expanding distribution hours and regularity. Be creative in ways to distribute that are safe for the workers/providers.
Some local and national utility providers are suspending cut-off of services for non-payment for the next several weeks. Check with your local provider. Churches can encourage local providers to consider doing the same.
For information on resources or to offer services, contact Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Connectional Ministries, Advocacy/Multiculturalism Ministries, firstname.lastname@example.org