As communities across North America have been living through outbreaks of COVID-19 and dealing with the public health measures to slow the spread of the disease, local churches have been responding—meeting specific needs in their own towns and cities.
Nicole Pereira, a member of River City Church in Cambridge Ont., sent support to charities in her city’s downtown through a creative T-shirt sale. That initiative got a boost when River City Church became one of 11 churches to receive a community support grant from World Renew and Diaconal Ministries Canada. The two Christian Reformed Church agencies have partnered together to help deacons who want to make a difference but feel hampered by a lack of resources. They have made grants of up to $5,000 available to Canadian CRCs. As of May 14, $41,750 CDN has been granted to churches across Canada.
At River City part of the money went to Dawn Centre, a pregnancy support organization, and the remainder went to Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank. Melissa Burnmaster, a deacon at River City Church, said “as a congregation, we were able to reach out and give these gifts, while encouraging the congregation to step out and buy a T-shirt to make an impact … the spirit of generosity has been extended to many.”
Ron Vanden Brink, the national director of Diaconal Ministries Canada, said, “Right now, deacons and churches have a unique opportunity to support vulnerable people in their local communities and beyond … but many churches are also facing financial resource challenges, and we didn't want a shortage of money to slow them down.”
Before COVID-19, members at East Hill Community Church in Vernon, B.C., had been working to provide meals and hygiene products to community members without housing—offering those services on weekends and holidays, when a local soup kitchen was closed. When COVID-19 hit, the soup kitchen completely shut down. East Hill Community Church has been able to use the grant money they received, along with local contributions, to provide meals and toiletries to over 100 people every night since mid-March. Trevor Cairns, a member of East Hill Community Church, does deliveries every night.
“I spend a lot of time talking to people. I see it as a real ministry opportunity. … I’m really hoping that when (our church’s participation goes back to) just the weekend, that I can focus on housing initiatives or addiction centers, so that I can take the relationships that I made and go farther with it.”
World Renew is collecting donations toward the COVID-19 local church response, as well as international and Disaster Relief Services response. Canadian churches looking for more information about the grant, can find information here.