What COVID Taught Me About the Christian Community

By Jodi Koeman

United States COVID Response

| Volunteers at Silver Spring CRC food pantry come together to serve the community, with nearly an 8x increase in need.

The Message’s paraphrase of Matthew 5 is one of my favorite ways to express the purpose of Christian communities. Verse 14 says, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.”  We’re here to reflect and bring to light the ways God is moving, working, and present in the people around us and places where we live, work, worship, and play. I wonder, “How have we brought out God’s magnificent colorful, diverse, creative, beautiful movement this year?”

Under the weight of a pandemic, this Calling hasn’t always been easy.

However, one community that I have seen shining a light on God’s movements is the Kemp Mill community, home to Silver Spring CRC, one of the recipients of a World Renew COVID-19 Community Response grant. This past April, I had the privilege of witnessing a celebration service they held. It was a service recalling, remembering, lamenting, and rejoicing over the way the ways local people reflected God during the pandemic. 

For the last 7 ½ years, the Silver Spring Food Pantry has operated once per month, but during the pandemic the food pantry quickly moved to weekly distributions, which also meant a shift from serving 95 households a month to over 750 households per week!

With the increase in families, Silver Spring’s partnerships with Capital Area Food Bank and Montgomery County were no longer enough, so they looked more broadly for support. The foundation they had built over years of committed, patient relationships with the community quickly began to bear abundant fruit.

Dina Levit, a resident of the Kemp Mill neighborhood and member of the Kemp Mill Synagogue, noticed these efforts. “I live around the corner from the church. We pull out into the traffic of the food pantry each week, and I saw the need for help, so I started accepting financial donations from friends and neighbors.”  

Throughout this whole effort “I could see God’s goodness and faithfulness,” said Jennifer. “If it was up to our little congregation, we couldn’t meet these needs on our own. It would have been over last May.” The pantry started working with the Shalom Kosher Market, which helped them order food. In addition, members of the synagogue, community residents, and members of other faith communities started working together. Pastor Doug explained that when no one was worshipping in the building, some came to see the food pantry operations as a form of worship. “We came together with other faith communities to offer our service to God, [and] our love of God and neighbors in a practical way.”  Rabbi Sharofsky commented that it wasn’t about feeding “those people” or “the other”, but recognizing the humanity in everyone. She explained, “It is a blessing when we come together in great need. This is a whole community formed into something new and beautiful… [Our service] is an act of hesed, an act of God’s love.”

Volunteers recognized this as well. One volunteer commented during the service of celebration that working together was “bringing out the best in the Kemp Mill community.”

“It is a beautiful thing to watch a group of people who are divided by any number of things–these faith communities, houses of worship and members–come together to live out our various faith expectations to love God and our neighbors,” commented Pastor Bratt.

This year, perhaps more than ever before, community has felt vital for all of us. But how many of us have had eyes to see the opportunities for connection that have grown through this pandemic?  

Partnering with others in your neighborhood and community not only increases the effectiveness of service, brings people together, and builds relationships, but it helps us see how God is moving and acting in our communities. Partnering with others demonstrates dignity, respect, and love. Our relationships and partnerships do bring out the best in our communities, but more than that, they bring out God’s colors, God’s beautiful and generous love. 

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