Responding to the needs of those caught in the coronavirus pandemic has brought church leaders to their knees in prayer and raised them to inspiring heights as they minister to the area’s most vulnerable people.
“We are seeing persons be the church in adaptive and creative ways. We are seeing Matthew 25 realized, even in a pandemic. Merciful is who the church is called to be,” said the Rev. Stacey Cole Wilson, executive minister of Justice and Service for the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
Churches are providing food to children who would otherwise go hungry, assisting vulnerable immigrant families, stocking neighborhood food pantries, helping people pay rent, ensuring the unhoused receive medical care, making sure that babies have milk and diapers, cooking hot meals and packing bag lunches to distribute to neighbors, finding safe havens for women suffering from violence and trauma, and sewing masks for health care workers.
Recognizing how the mission is being lived out in such a grassroots way, Cole Wilson and the Baltimore-Washington Conference recently initiated $500 Peace with Justice microgrants to supplement and empower ministry.
Within the first few hours, applications poured in and the need soon exceeded the $14,000 in available funds, which went to fund ministries at 28 churches throughout the Conference.
Convinced that the connectional system was created for such a season as this, Conference leaders created the COVID-19 Peace with Justice Fund to provide additional grants and Connectional Ministries pledged to match dollars donated.
As of April 23, 82 microgrant applications were submitted. Money is now being sought to fund these additional 54 applications and new applications are still being accepted.
Of the churches that have applied, 81 percent are funding ministries that began at least a year before the pandemic struck. This is on-going outreach, Cole Wilson said. “This is the church in action.”
Peace with Justice is one of the six special Sundays with offerings in the denomination. This year, a Peace with Justice Sunday will be held in every local church on June 7. In a typical year, between $8,000 and $10,000 is collected locally for ministries of shalom.
But as needs escalate in dramatic ways throughout the region and world, the COVID-19 Peace with Justice Fund in the Baltimore-Washington Conference is allowing churches to act in dramatic and connectional ways — seeding hope and responding with faith and love to their neighbors.