Providing COVID-19 vaccine information among the roles Flint churches are playing in the community

FLINT, Michigan -- Flint churches often step up to fill in gaps and provide basic needs for the community. COVID-19 vaccination information, registration, and testing is no different.

“If Jesus lived during the pandemic, this is how he would serve others,” said James Cogman, a senior pastor at Flint Bethel United Methodist Church.

Bethel provides free testing for COVID-19. In February, New Jerusalem Full Gospel Baptist Church provided COVID-19 vaccine information to church members on a live broadcast. Deacons at New Jerusalem are also maintaining a list of church members who are 65 and older and have been helping them sign up for the vaccine. 

“We've got members who go above and beyond,” said Barry Turner, a trustee on New Jerusalem’s board. “They basically kept us afloat. Even though we all struggle and things are different, we are still doing okay because of the commitment that all people here have. Once you have a community-based church, the community keeps you involved.”

Other leaders from several Flint churches are providing food and checking in on members who are unable to leave their homes due to strict quarantining.

Churches have also been rearranging and reorganizing the ways that Sunday morning services are held since the start of the pandemic last year. Churches in Flint have always been essential to the community because they provide a place of worship and essential resources for many residents. For New Jerusalem, its last in-person indoor service, was March 15, 2020. 

Nothing can replace the feelings of being in an auditorium surrounded by hundreds of people singing songs at the top of their lungs, feeling the energy of the filled room, and wringing out the week's worries. On a regular Sunday, New Jerusalem held 600-800 members. When the pandemic began, the church was able to hold services in the parking lot. However, since the start of winter and changing restrictions, church leaders have found ongoing creative ways to hold services and include community members.

As the world waits to return to a sense of normal, New Jerusalem continues to provide online Sunday services through livestreams. The church was also known for hosting several support groups, community gathering spaces, and classes prior to the pandemic. They have continued to provide online literacy classes in the Genesee County Jail and are planning to repoen other resource classes again soon.

Looking to the helpers during times of darkness and isolation can provide hope. New Jerusalem church members gather online on Sunday with the hope of one day filling an auditorium and worshiping together again.

“We have got to serve the people,” said Turner as he overlooked the empty church auditorium with a strong sense of hope at seeing it filled again.

Read more articles by Jenifer Veloso.

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