Churches haven’t been allowed to gather for Sunday services for weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, but that hasn’t stopped them from finding creative ways to do community outreach.
On Saturday, Hazel Dell Church of Christ hosted a drive-thru where people could pick up homemade soup and face masks.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how we could reach the community during this time,” said Ginger Thiesen, secretary at the church off Lakeshore Avenue.
She got the idea after calling her father in Louisiana, who told her he was heading to a church to pick up some soup and a mask. Thinking it was a great idea, Thiesen decided to replicate it at Hazel Dell Church of Christ.
“It gives us a purpose,” she said.
Church members have busied themselves by making soup, sewing masks and writing letters to first responders. It’s a way to bring the congregation closer together while remaining physically apart. The Rev. Mark Thiesen, minister at the church and Ginger Thiesen’s husband, acknowledged it’s hard to connect when people are isolated.
“Most of our members seem pretty stoic,” he said. “They’re learning to wait.”
Thiesen said he gathered with a group of pastors by video conference the other day for prayer. They prayed that a cure is found for COVID-19 and that people see the current state of the world as an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important.
“Suddenly we have all of this time on our hands and we’re with family,” Thiesen noted.
Community outreach doesn’t always involve a public event or gesture. For many churches it’s as simple as calling people. As faith communities trend older, they have church members who are widows or single and alone while quarantining.
A couple of miles away from Hazel Dell Church of Christ, SixEight Food Pantry, run by SixEight Church, remains open from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Camas United Methodist Church is holding a drive-thru food drive Monday morning to restock the shelves at the Camas School District’s Family-Community Resource Center.
Living Hope Church in Vancouver recently expanded the numbers of days it hosts a shower trailer for people without homes. Associate Pastor Brian Norris, who heads the church’s homeless outreach, said Living Hope and nonprofit Food With Friends decided to be available more days because there was more of a need.
Since the Vancouver Navigation Center closed — with limited access to services and its showers unavailable — the shower trailer is one of few alternatives.
Another response to the Navigation Center’s closure was the opening of the Fourth Plain Pit Stop at River City Church. People can use one of the port-a-potties and wash their hands in the parking lot.
The Rev. Ryan Sidhom, pastor at River City Church, said his congregation normally forgoes services one Sunday per month to do community service work. They were praying for an opportunity to assist the homeless community when approached about hosting the pit stop.
Churches are also opening their parking lots for people who live out of their cars through the SafePark program, and a couple of churches that host winter shelters have remained open during the pandemic.