For one Send Network church in Montreal, finding ways to continue ministering to their community during the pandemic has been difficult, but not impossible.
Inspired by a church plant in Colorado, Renaissance Church began a movement in their neighborhood of Little Burgundy in December of 2020 called “Love Burgundy.” The goal was to partner with nonprofits and organizations already present to serve the community as a united whole. One of the pastors, Dylan Pentecost, shared, “There was a gap in services and in partnering with community members to work together to heal the neighborhood. While each organization was doing a great job at doing their own thing, we wanted to bring the whole community together and loop each other in on what our neighbors need and how to best love on Burgundy.”
As a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of government housing in North America, this community was in great need—especially after the pandemic hit.
After meeting as a staff and discussing the most pressing needs, lead pastor James Copeland suggested a monthly food bank. Burgundy is a neighborhood with no grocery stores and little-to-no access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy produce. Officially registered as a food desert, the neighborhood was in desperate need of emergency rations in the wake of the job losses and financial fallout of COVID-19. Many families walked several miles a day just to receive a free bag of groceries, so when Renaissance announced its food bank, it didn’t take long for the word to spread.
40 households showed up to their first event and soon began telling their friends about the church’s new ministry.
Eventually, the Renaissance youth were packing eggs into cartons, children were playing games with those in line and many recipients of the food boxes started to volunteer themselves.
One volunteer was helping check people in but also needed food assistance herself. At the end of her shift, she told Pentecost, “I’ve served at a lot of food pantries in my life and have volunteered a lot, but I’ve never worked with a group of people who so clearly love each other. This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had—your love is so plain.”
Another woman commented, “I don’t know what’s different about you guys, but I really like it.”
These conversations opened the door for deeper conversations about the love of Christ, and the ongoing distributions have helped build relationships and create comradery between the church and the surrounding community. Pentecost commented, “We haven’t been asking anything of the people receiving food, and there has been a positive shift in the people’s perspective of us once they saw we weren’t trying to trick them into anything. We’ve seen an attitude shift in the warmth extended to us now that people see we’re committed to loving them. We’re seeing people lose their skepticism about the church as we tear down these walls.”
Pastor Copeland, too, has seen a difference in the community: “It’s been great to see that our partners and neighbors trust us now. The most exciting part for me was getting to meet a practical need like hunger and also have deep conversations and relationships sprout from this. The community knows now that we are not here to take but to give and to invest in them.”
“This has been a perfect picture of the kingdom of Heaven for us,” Pentecost continued. “We saw the Lord at work and said, ‘We want to be a part of Your movement.’ This food bank brought us together as a spiritual family around a central mission. To have our community all out together—from four-year-old kids to senior adults—joyfully serving is so beautiful to witness as a form of worship. It just goes to show if you want to know what your community needs, you can’t sit in your office and try to predict it. You have to go out and spend time with them to witness the real needs.”
If you are searching for ideas on how your church can also be a light in your neighborhood during the ongoing pandemic, visit our ministry guides page to access step-by-step instructions on how to serve different communities in need.
Published February 11, 2021