Creativity and determination are two of the most appropriate words to describe many churches’ response to COVID-19.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures closed the doors of houses of worship across America, so without the ability to meet in person, some churches went out of their way to practice their faith in new and creative ways.
“When the church is closed down, that does not mean that the caring stops and closes down as well,” Charlie Rivera, campus pastor of New Season LA/Downey church, just south of Los Angeles, told The Daily Signal.
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Rivera, 56, and his Assemblies of God congregation have distributed thousands of items to area residents in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether or not they attend the church of about 300.
New Season has partnered with an organization called Heart of Compassion to distribute hundreds of bags of food, 150,000 diapers, and 600 cases of baby formula, all donated to the nonprofit.
“I had no idea how expensive diapers and baby formula really [are],” Rivera says. “To be able to see young moms receiving packages of diapers and the containers of that baby formula given to them … and they are telling us, ‘Thank you for doing this for my child, my son, my daughter,’ that just brought joy. It brought a lot of joy.”
With each delivery, New Season encloses a note of encouragement in the bags along with Scriptures to provide hope. When he and others in the congregation travel to homes to deliver the items, Rivera says, “many times, when we would get there, the people would ask us if we could pray for them.”
He and his congregants are “just doing Matthew 25,” Rivera says. “Those that were in need, we are meeting the need. Hungry, we are feeding them. Trying to do our small part.”
In the Bible, Matthew 25:35 records Jesus as saying: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Rivera serves under the leadership of the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a member of The Heritage Foundation’s National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, who spoke with The Daily Signal in April about Christianity’s role during the pandemic.
“There’s beauty in the midst of ashes, and we were seeing that every single day in communities across America and around the world,” Rodriguez said during the April 20 episode of The Daily Signal Podcast.
Rivera and his congregation are working to create beauty out of ashes during the coronavirus pandemic as they serve their neighbors in California.
To reach more families and individuals in need, New Season also has partnered with the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, the Human Services Association just south of the city, and the Los Angeles Police Department to distribute items.
In addition to meeting physical needs, New Season is trying to meet the spiritual and psychological needs of those who may be struggling mentally or emotionally.
Through social media, notes of encouragement, prayer over the phone, and even drive-thru prayer and Communion, New Season seeks to build up those fighting anxiety, depression, or loneliness.
“We make ourselves available to be able to pray for people, whether it’s giving us a call or sending us an email or a text or what have you,” Rivera says. “It’s just being there for the people.”
His ultimate goal, he says, is for his community to know that New Season is a resource in a time of crisis and need.
“We want to be able to meet part of that need,” he says.