What God Is Doing In His Church During The COVID 19 Pandemic
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
A Perspective from Rev Jim Salladin, Emmanuel Anglican Church, New York City
New York City was ground zero in the fight against the COVID 19 Pandemic back in April and May. As we begin the month of July, many across the nation are saying that the fight is shifting to Houston.
We found the story of the Anglican pastor, Rev. Jim Salladin of Emmanuel Anglican Church in New York City, to be insightful, instructive and very much in line with what God is saying to us today -- at Christ The King Vineyard Church.
Here is his story...
Everyone has experienced cataclysmic interruption through COVID 19. It is true of all us and not unique to New York City. If someone were to ask me, “What do you think God is doing in the church through all of this?” I would say the Lord has been doing an awful lot. In particular, it seems to me, that the Lord has been doing this...
I believe that the Lord, in His great kindness, has been denying us the false comfort of our hidden idols. By denying the false comfort of our hidden idols, the Lord has been increasing our misery in such a way that we are driven to a new dependence on Jesus. A new repentance in Him and a new commitment to His mission.
Bottom line… I am grateful for what the Lord is doing among us.
Let me explain. Just like all of us, back in March we had no concept of what was coming. I remember a Thursday morning when one of the members of our leadership team told us that COVID 19 was going to mean that we would need to suspend physical gatherings. I looked at this member of our leadership time and thought that they were crazy. There was no way we are going to do that. But, within 24 hours we had come to a consensus that suspension is exactly what we needed to do. It quickly became clear that New York City was facing an onslaught of suffering and death. Like everyone else we went to an online platform. Within days after that, some of our people were beginning to become ill.
It started with a lay leader that had, in the previous week, helped me serve communion to everyone in our congregation. Just a few days later he became ill. He had mild symptoms, but his infant son had a fever that spiked so high he began to have seizures and they had to rush him to the hospital. The child thankfully did recover, but it was very scary for a while. Then more and more people in our congregation became ill. We lost count eventually. Most with mild symptoms but some with severe symptoms.
One gentlemen, in his 70’s, lives alone in an apartment. The hospital wouldn’t take him. They said it would be more dangerous for him to come to the hospital than to stay at home. He had extreme symptoms but wouldn’t allow anyone to visit him. So, we had to deliver pots of soup to his door and order medical supplies to be delivered to him. I would call him each day and we would talk about what it meant for him to possibly die alone. Thankfully, his hope was deeply in Jesus and he eventually recovered.
But, other churches around us had far more severe experiences. One church nearby, a majority African-American church, lost 13 members of their congregation. They were just a short distance from us and a wonderful gospel-proclaiming church. Particularly, the African-American churches, the Latino churches and some Asian-American churches have experienced far worse than we have. Nevertheless, even for us, it was scary and it got our attention. It was extremely real.
In the midst of it, the Lord has been giving us a wonderful and precious gift. And that gift is that He is denying us the false comfort of our hidden idols, so that He can give us Himself. New York City is full of idols. We love our power, we love our wealth, we love our performance, we love thinking of ourselves as great. The Lord is denying us those things… tearing us down and bringing a great city to its knees.
At the same time, and I think even more importantly, the Lord is doing the same thing within the church. Because, in the church, even though we proclaim Christ, we love to cherish our hidden idols. Usually, we are not aware that we are doing it.
We love our buildings, our services, our liturgy, our aesthetics, we love our normal comfortable church life. But the Lord, in this season, is denying us all of those things, so He can give us Himself again. He is teaching us that His best gift is not safety or security, big crowds or success or beautiful buildings. God’s best gift is always Himself.
His best gift is Jesus Christ. We know this from His Word, the Lord is jealous for our affection. So, the Lord, in this season, is tearing down our idols, so that He can give us Himself. We see signs all around that He is doing this and I am so grateful.
Our people are praying more than ever before. We have discovered the daily office and we are praying together at 8am and 7pm every day since March. We are getting to serve our city in new ways. Some of us got to help build a field hospital in Central Park as part of Samaritan’s Purse outreach. I have heard that this is the first field hospital in Central Park since the Civil War. We get to serve some single mothers who chose not to abort their children. We get to help supply some of their physical needs.
Evangelism is up. Last night we had 30 people on a call praying together and learning how to share our faith in greater ways. Primarily, because people are asking better and deeper questions than they were previously. In addition to all of this outreach, I notice within our people a softness of heart and a desire to repent. You can see this particularly since George Floyd’s murder. I have noticed people running to the Lord asking how to repent of hidden racism? How can we as a church repent of our hidden racism? How can we reflect Jesus’ beauty into the midst of racial injustices that have plagued the church for hundreds and hundreds of years.
I say all this because I think and pray that it is a sign that the Lord is disciplining His church. Proverbs 3 says don’t despise the Lord’s discipline my son and don’t be weary of His reproof. Because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights. I think that is what the Lord is doing for us at Emmanuel Anglican Church. I am grateful for it.
I think the danger for us, and perhaps not just for us, is that we will just try to get back to normal.
We just try to survive the moment and get back to the blessed days of January. But, I want to say, “Lord, please don’t let us do that.” Because normal is too closely tied to idols like security and comfort. The problem with those idols is that they are palliative (relieving pain without dealing with cause condition) and will numb us to our need of Jesus Christ. So, I am asking the Lord to do the deep work and don’t let us get back to normal. Make us repent… and make us repent all the way down... before the beauty of Jesus Christ. So, that we gain nothing but Christ because in Christ we gain everything.
So, that is a little testimony of what I think the Lord is doing among us.
-- Rev Jim Salladin, Emmanuel Anglican Church, New York City