Taylor Field: A new kind of church in New York City

It’s a new day and a new way to do things in New York City. It’s easy to say, “shelter in place,” but what if you don’t have a shelter? It’s easy to instruct people on the internet, but what if you don’t use the internet, or even have a cell phone? Here are some things we learned last night as we worked with the most vulnerable:

A New kind of volunteer:
We have had to streamline the numbers of volunteers and aim for only five volunteers to be in a room. Since Graffiti is considered by the city as essential services, volunteers are still able to come to serve. Some of those volunteers made the sacrifice to come all the way from our partner organization, the North Carolina Baptist Mission, to bring supplies that we added to our stock of food and other essential items (top photo). Above, you’ll see our new kind of prayer meeting, with all five people very far apart.

A New kind of message:
Sometimes we have a Bible in one hand and a tape measure in the other. The tape measure can show people just how long six feet really is when we are supposed to stand apart. This is a hard concept for our more social and independent-minded people. Last Friday night we gave out hand sanitizer and soap as well as food and Bibles.

A New kind of line:
We have moved to “grab-and-go” meals, and it has been a strange concept for some to stand in a line with such long distances in between. It’s quite an adjustment for people who have been used to standing in long lines all their lives and pressing to keep things moving.

A New kind of church:
People on the street, without other forms of communication, are desperate to make connections. They are willing to talk about a lot of things, and maybe groups of two or three give them a better chance to do so. The Salvation Army used to talk about “Soup, Soap, and Salvation.” People are once again willing to talk about all three.
Matthew 18:20 is perhaps the most misquoted Bible verse of all time. People say, “Where two or more are gathered together, there will I be.” The Bible doesn’t really say that. We just adapted the verse.

Jesus actually said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.

With people feeling so depersonalized, maybe this current restriction on the street is not such a bad thing after all.

Published March 31, 2020