Connection & Hope: What the Church was Built on

Connection. Hope. Two things everyone longs for. That doesn’t change in this time of COVID-19 social distancing. In fact, it spotlights the need all the more.

But good news—connection and hope is what the church was built on.

But good news—connection and hope is what the church was built on.

So how do we maintain connections and offer hope as the family of God during this season when most of us are farther apart? For our urban church, we keep praying for eyes to see and ears to hear the needs of those around us. Here are two things we’ve found:

JOIN THE EFFORT

Though our church resources are limited, we realized that solutions in this health crisis don’t have to be made on our own. Echo Church has joined in the efforts already going on around us.

Our urban neighborhood has many caring, skilled, and connected residents. The best choice for our church was to show up to support their ideas and contribute to the way their hearts and minds were already moving.

Hungry

In Cincinnati, the first concern everyone had was for the hungry. When the school district closed, there was an immediate red flag—many children rely upon the school system’s free lunch program. The district set up food distribution outside schools where families can bring their children by to pick up a packed lunch. Several restaurants and non-profits are doing the same.

They need reminders that they are specifically being thought of, being lifted up to God in prayer.

Rather than trying to create our own program from scratch, our church is joining in these community efforts already in place. Healthy church members are volunteering with school staff to collect donations and hand out food and supplies.

Our church regularly supports a local ministry that offers after-school programs for kids from traumatic backgrounds. Now we are asking our members to donate a little extra if they can so that a nonprofit we partner with can buy food and create care packages to distribute.

Homebound

My heart warmed when, the first day that things began to close down, a local librarian got on Facebook and said, “I’m home and have time. How can I organize a task force in our neighborhood?” Immediately people chimed in and a Slack channel was created. Now we’re spreading the word through Nextdoor (an app for neighborhoods to connect).

Our current focus is on several senior apartment complexes housing residents who cannot or should not go out for supplies. Healthy younger members are joining the task force to take turns shopping and distributing supplies. Other members who cannot go in person are donating funds and researching resources to connect people with.

While it’s fabulous to have our own initiatives, noticing what is already going on around us brings a beautiful connection with our community and shows that we are contributing to the spirit of our neighborhood, not merely running in our own lane.

SUPPORT THE SUPPORTERS

Being located nearby the center of healthcare in Cincinnati, a good portion of our church works in that industry. While the rest of us find our jobs moving us to work from home, these members are on the frontline, unable to practice social distancing as they care for the sick and vulnerable up close.

Our church leaders continue to check in on these friends. They describe the obvious tense atmosphere in the hospitals—for our city, elective surgeries are cancelled but not a lot of COVID-19 cases have emerged. So as everyone prepares, it is a bit of a calm before the storm. Everyone is waiting and watching.

They want to know they’re not alone. They need to maintain hope. So our team prays.

In the meantime, these church members have an underlying fear each night, worrying what they have been exposed to and if they will bring germs home.

I keep asking them: we can’t be there with you, so how can we best support you? They responded, simply checking in by text, video, or phone calls and praying for them is the most encouraging thing we can do. “It means more than you know,” they told us.

They want to know they’re not alone. They need reminders that they are specifically being thought of, being lifted up to God in prayer. They need to maintain hope.

So our team prays. We also try to text those prayers to our church members, so they can see specifically the words we’re praying. We send them Scriptures to cling to. We tell them good job and to keep going. We tell them to hold out hope.

Unknown to me at first, an elder’s wife had already been on the move. She was gathering addresses and mailing cards.

DON’T OVERLOOK THE SIMPLE

Sometimes we strategize in ministry and think it takes the new, the big, the innovative. But let’s not overlook the simple, the ongoing, the tried and true.

Connection and hope. There are so many ways to offer that as the body of Christ. Whatever you choose to do, God will use it to make a difference to those placed in your care.