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Reaching a Community in Crisis
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By Kristine Abramoff

Ontario’s COVID-19 crisis has quickly become serious, and the recommended physical distancing is forcing people to find new ways of connecting with each other. Now, more than ever, churches have the opportunity to come alongside those who are struggling, both inside and outside of the church community. Royal View is a London church led by Garry Fess that has stepped up to the challenge of maintaining and even building its community throughout the COVID-19 crisis. This article gives a glimpse into what one London church is doing to minister to its church community and beyond during the COVID crisis.

Two Sundays ago, among the rising panic over COVID, Royal View offered its first sermon by livestream. When Canada’s chief medial officer recommended that groups of more than 50 refrain from meeting, Royal View continued on its journey to integrate technology in order to meet the needs of the church. Before the COVID crisis, Royal View did not even have a livestream sermon option, but technologically inclined church members came together to quickly get sermons online. Livestream sermons were the first step in ensuring that members could stay connected with the church service, and in addition, prayer meetings were held over Zoom.

Getting technological infrastructure up and running so that Royal View could get online is only a part of what Royal View has been doing to meet the needs of the church community. A team has contacted every member of the church to ensure that they are well and that their immediate needs are being met. If they are unable to connect to the service through livestream, Royal View offers it on CD or DVD. Royal View has been especially careful to check in on seniors who might not be able to navigate the new technology.

Church leadership has been busy checking in on people, getting prayer requests, and collecting food for people in need. Pastor Garry also recognizes that there are many more challenges to come; community members will need food and financial support, and relationships will also need support as the community deals with the difficulties of physical distancing.

Pastor Garry’s team has been asking the Holy Spirit for creativity in how to manage programs, and what new programs can be created to minister to the community. Garry says that churches can often tend towards being inward-focused and dependent on people to come into the church building, but that COVID-19 has forced the church community to have less dependence on a physical space, and forced them outward to make connections outside of the church community. This challenges the leadership and deacons to reach out to people who are in need rather than passively waiting for the needy to come to them, which is a positive and fruitful change.

The church leadership has been challenged by the COVID-19 crisis, but as the crisis progresses, Garry notes that the people of the church have risen up to care for each other and to minister to others in the church and outside of the church body. While the default is often for people to depend on pastors, during this crisis people have been taking on the challenge of ministering to others themselves. The church body has been hopeful and encouraging, and has been sharing scripture and praying for each other. They have also been reaching outside of the church body to care for neighbours, which opens new relationships through which to minister to the needs of others. Garry sees that there has been a rewiring of what it means to be the “church,” and this is a positive change.

Garry notes that during this time of crisis it is of utmost importance that Christians reach out and help one another to navigate the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Churches should be reminded to focus their efforts on doing what is within their power to tangibly reach out to others and make a difference within the community. There is also only so much that can be done online, and it is often difficult to be unable to meet with people face to face. However, much can be done through the use of technology, and when new technology is overwhelming, we can still care for people by simply calling them on the phone.

Garry encourages churches to see the potential of this crisis, and to ask God what good can come out of this terrible situation. Church members should seek the Lord, and align their hearts with the Lord. As schedules change, this can encourage us to make more time for God, and help us to realign our hearts with the heart of God. This crisis has the potential to change churches and to strengthen relationships.

Is your church offer live streaming of services?
Royal view is one of many of the London churches that offer live streaming of their services.

Just visit the website of your church for details. In most cases the website will provide a link to the church’s own YouTube channel or other virtual location to watch the services.