Reflections on our Pandemic Response, with Rev. John Wagner

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12: 28-29)

It was the third week of March––chilly temperatures, the wind still whipping along the Hudson, darkness falling on the city and the palpable fear of a pandemic bearing down on us––when Nate called. 

I need you to think about something with me.”
Soon after, I received a note from Mary Ellen introducing me and Abigail to Sarah Baggs Eastwood and her husband James. Sarah and James had already begun to give a lot of thought to the virus and the tsunami of potential chaos, panic and pain it was about to bring not only to this city, but to our church.
There is going to be an absolutely overwhelming amount of need coming at us fast…”

was the opening line of Sarah’s message. We needed to think. We needed to organize. We needed to respond. We needed to do it quickly.

So, the three of us got on the phone with Nate and the COVID-19 Response Team was born. God brought the leaders––Jeanette Larson, Ann Kosmerl, Carolyn Carney, Ariana Bellanton, Sarah Baggs Eastwood, James Baggs Eastwood, Mary Ellen Lehman, Chelsea Horvath, Abigail Hartley and myself. A team of absolute All-Stars.

The COVID – 19 Response Team’s distributive leadership model

Our mission was to, as best we knew how, form a “web of care and concern” around the church body, so that amidst the fray and fear of a pandemic, no one was lost, no one was forgotten, no one slipped through the cracks. We organized into seven teams, a distributive form of leadership–––data collection, communication, prayer, creative support, house church coordination, COVID-19 education, and a central team to pull it all together.

Our first task was to figure out how to connect with every member of All Angels. House churches were an invaluable resource. But, of course, not everyone is connected to a house church. Chelsea helped coordinate our outreach to our friends in Community Ministries. We sent out a survey to all the email lists we had, we promoted the link through on-line services. Jeanette and her team began work on a massive database, with e-mail addresses and phone numbers. We set up our own email address. We tracked down and connected with every possible member of our community that we could.

As we got organized, we also got to work. We contacted house church leaders to learn who was in their house group, what needs they might have, how we could help. We coordinated volunteers. We established prayer pods for people to connect through prayer. We had a magic show. We sponsored a two-part seminar on preparing for and finding work. We coordinated more volunteers. We added a page to the website with tons of helpful information. And we continued to pray for and elevate the most vulnerable among us––no one lost, no one missing, no one falling through the cracks.

Two weeks ago, we decided to pause. We needed to catch our breath and thought this would be a good time to do it. The pandemic has slackened in the city. We have found our rhythm. The needs have shifted. The winds have died down.
We also know this is far from over. So, it’s a pause. It’s also a time to worship and give thanks. Our God is a “consuming fire!” He has been faithful. He has been near. He has been merciful. He has given us strength, endurance, confidence, courage, resilience, power and protection. We needed to pause to rest, and to worship––with reverence and awe.
We also wanted to give thanks––for each of you, for our amazing house church leaders, for our pastors and staff, for our vestry and leaders, for Chelsea and the Community Ministry Team, for our worship leaders, for each person on this team and our opportunity and privilege to serve. 
We are grateful for you and remain in your service.
John Wagner
and the COVID-19 Response Team

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