A place where love grows
Charlotte Johnson is a Deaconess and Trustee in the New Testament Church of God in Willesden, north-west London. The New Testament Church of God is one of CTE's 50 Member Churches.
A Time of Crisis
The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus suddenly interrupted our daily lives with an unbelievable force. There were days of disbelief that this intruder was impacting our lives with such aggression, disabling our sense of normality and routine. Daily news issued from the government made it hard to ignore the imposing reality that our lives were being affected for an exceedingly long time to come. The news of deaths of strangers, friends and members of our families became unbearable to process. Panic buying, stockpiling of food and toilet rolls in the fear of running out of provisions sent a message that the world as we knew it will come to an end very soon.
Willesden New Testament Church of God (WNTCG) has 400 regular attendees, plus people who watch the service which is streamed via YouTube. Based in London, the church community is diverse with one of the largest African-Caribbean populations in the country, particularly from the Windrush Generation.
One week before the official lockdown, on the 23rd March, the Pastoral Reaching Out (PRO) Team was set up in response to the urgent need to contact every senior member and vulnerable person to ensure they would be looked after during the Covid-19 crisis. Led by the Pastors, the PRO Team agreed to contact an allocated list of people on a weekly basis, checking on the brethren’s well-being, offer spiritual support through sharing a Scripture and praying with them. The PRO Team’s strapline became Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (NKJV) It was important to be sensitive to the brethren’s needs, maintain confidentiality, protect people’s rights, and privacy.
Also, many of the congregants were contacting people within their own networks. An energy of checking-in on each other swept throughout the church community strengthening the church’s communication channels. Soon the church leadership were being praised by the relatives for the positive difference the calls were making to their loved ones. Relationships were strengthened; stronger bonds were formed, and individuals were engaging in a much more meaningful manner. The act of iron sharpening iron resonated with the PRO Team members. Regular checking-in was extended beyond the vulnerable to all groups, including children and the youth.
The use of social media assisted the church community to stay in touch and offer mutual pastoral care, hence, social media have overcome distance when reaching out to people to ensure their physical, psychological and spiritual well-being are being looked after, while staying connected as Church family.
Valuable lessons have been learnt, for instance, having a membership list fit for purpose makes all the difference to the effectiveness for better communication. Working collaboratively and networking with departments across the church community meant timely distribution of provisions, especially during this pandemic and lockdown.
An example of how good can come out of a disastrous situation is the establishment of a ministry for strengthening the church family’s relationships and spiritual growth. This ministry has demonstrated the importance of staying in touch, showing love, care, and kindness just as Jesus demonstrated. Paul encourages the Churches through his letters to look after the more vulnerable of our community. By reaching out we are being obedient as disciples of Christ, attending to the needs of God’s children, and given to hospitality, (Romans 12:13).
A member stated, “This season has brought out the best in a lot of us; a lot of loving and sharing between the brethren.” That statement summarises a positive outcome as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.