Update from Brooklyn
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Your love for me, my family, and our work in NYC has been made manifest in this difficult season through your Pastors, Elders, Mission Committee, and the laity. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I was asked for a report on how we've been doing and on any needs we might have. I took the opportunity to write up an honest and heartfelt testimony of what the last few months have been like as a pastor in a global epicenter for the Coronavirus crisis. Please pray for us, even as we pray for you as you resume fuller ministry.
I am thankful that my family is alive and well. There have been some very tense moments with six of us crammed in our small apartment, but mostly we are okay and it's been better than I imagined early-on it could be with and for our children. It's been harder for me and for my wife, Laura, as we both had to quickly transition the organizations we lead into virtual operations while suddenly helping teach four kids and provide for them all day. But that's probably true for many of you, as well.
What's been even harder is the excruciating loss of actual lives all around us and of the life we've built and love here in NYC. At first we were simply losing the comforts of the city and of seeing our friends, then our access to the building where we worship, then we were losing connection to our parishioners as many fled the city (though many more didn't) to other parts of the country, until finally we lost any hope of ministering or connecting in person for a long period of time. You have to understand the trauma this was to our collective psyche. New Yorkers share everything; that's almost what it is to be a New Yorker: shared space, shared offices, shared sidewalks, shared transit. Our home became lost to us. Then our neighbors were lost, as they might be our unwitting enemy. Then the created world turned on us as any doorknob or rail might kill you. And finally we realized our own bodies could be weaponized unknown to ourselves. This is Anti-Good-News.
And so everyone who hadn't left the city stayed indoors. The eerie silence was pierced endlessly with the echo of infinite sirens and you knew in the sound of each one was another neighbor going to his or her death. At one point in early April there were a couple weeks where so many people were dying daily in the city that the magnitude and shock of it all was almost as if one of the two World Trade Center towers fell anew each day. I don't think New Yorkers will recover from this for a long while.
Add to it all that almost none of us who pastor here, or especially who pastor church plants without buildings, have any certainty that our churches will still exist in a year. Will people return to the city? Will our sometimes already-thin connections to one another wither as we remain in extended virtual isolation in a long recovery? Will people still be able or willing to tithe as they lose jobs or face uncertainty? Will we simply run out of money and never have a final reunion?
I don't have the answers to these questions. I try not to entertain them for more than five minutes a day, and preferably in prayer. I made the firm decision that I was going to stay in the city and ride this out with my people. In this season we have given our very best in what I pray were the darkest days for us in NYC. We've previously had no budget or volunteer expertise in anything technological, so I quickly and furiously figured out how to provide virtual ministry even while it was almost impossible to secure new devices here for such. My family is now live-streaming the worship service from our small living room. I have barely any support staff so I've had to do most of this learning-curve and execution on my own. But we've figured out worship services, parish meetings, meals ministry through zero-contact chefs at our church, and more. I even had to create and officiate a virtual funeral for the father of one of our members who died of Covid-19 here in Brooklyn. Our parishioner still doesn't have his father's remains after six weeks. Many more of our members have been virtually diagnosed with Covid and recovered, and many still have vulnerable family in healthcare work or in other dangerous jobs. We are all exhausted.
I've also never in my life had such an overwhelming and consistent verbal response from my people as to how much the church means to them now, and for how much they appreciate what we are doing for them and with them, and for how much they need our church to be here in fullness and resume all of our embodied and in-person ministries when it is deemed safe to do so. We have wandering sheep who had left our congregation who've now returned virtually. We have scared and formerly disinterested neighbors watching our services and thanking us for them. God is always bringing new life out of death.
You might pray for me and my people that we are able now to pivot toward sustainable habits and ordered Rules of Life to heal from this shared trauma and learn how to endure for the long-haul. You can pray for our relationship with Cadman Church, our hosts for worship, who have disallowed us from entering their building for our live-stream, but still expect rent. I am trying to navigate this presently. They are a handful of dear sisters in Christ who are also the most vulnerable population: elderly people of color. We are also balancing our financial needs against the importance of supporting them, helping maintain the building, and preserving a good working relationship we had all hoped would lead to more stewardship of the building by our congregation in the year to come. You can also pray for our finances: before any real financial impact of the crisis we had a terrible Q1 and had already burned through nearly half of our meager reserves.
So, relatedly, I believe the All Saints youth mission trip here this Summer will be another loss we all have to endure. There are no circumstances I can imagine under which the folks I know here in Brooklyn will be ready for something like that by this Summer. And too many of the circumstances (building) are totally out of my control. I truly hope we can do it next year. I also hope it will be safe to come visit Austin for some R&R before the end of the year. Who knows? We miss you all and hope to be able to see you soon. In the meantime I ask myself two things each day: What does love require of us? What am I able to do today? Thanks for listening and loving.
Be All Manner of Well,
Jamison Galt | Pastor | Resurrection Clinton Hill