City Church Spreads 'Safety As An Expression Of Love' Across Cleveland
“When there’s a crisis, I’m often gravitated towards it.”
That’s what Matt Moore says about his adrenaline-fueled response to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s the Director of City Programs at City Church, a neighborhood church with locations on the Near West Side and in Cleveland Heights.
“Not really being able to sleep, wanting to serve, being just really inspired by Jesus and how he serves me and how he serves the world... led me to use whatever tools I had in my tool belt,” Moore said.
The first thing he did was create an online map of emergency food sites, drawing on his years of experience in food systems and with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
“...I can’t sleep, I might as well do this,” he recalls saying to himself.
Moore's map has been shared on other webites across the city, viewed thousands of times since he posted it in mid March.
Connecting the dots between services and those in need is something Moore and the City Church community are striving to do more than ever these days. And they are using a variety of grassroots tools to get the job done, from email to social media to phone calls to paper fliers to the electronic billboard outside the old Centrum Theater on Euclid Heights Boulevard where they usually meet.
“If you need help right now...or if you have something that you’re good enough at to share with someone else...we want to help connect the dots,” said Matt Moore, Director of City Partners with @citychurchhts.
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Joel Negus, one of eight pastors at City Church, said many of the church’s members are finding their own creative ways to care for their community.
“We have seen a lot of our members engaging with people that they never would have otherwise,” Negus said.
In addition to serving new people, Negus said a big focus right now is doubling down on existing relationships and being faithful to the people they already know who are still in need. Members are offering food and financial relief as well as friendship, virtual companionship and prayer as means to counteract the stress many are feeling.
Deacon Te’Sheba Oliver leads a City Church community group in her Shaker Heights neighborhood. Before the pandemic, about a dozen community groups met in members’ homes throughout the week as an extension of Sunday church services. Those visits are still happening, but virtually.
“We do a lot of checking on our elderly neighbors,” Oliver said, “doing simple things like a Zoom call to see each other’s faces and care for each other too, if there’s a financial need.”
Dr. Steven Mawhorter is an infectious disease expert at the Cleveland Clinic and also happens to be a member of Oliver’s group. Mawhorter advised City Church staff early on about the need to take social distancing seriously.
“We focus on safety as an expression of love,” said Mawhorter. “Then, how do we look outward to love on our community through action? That’s what real love is all about.”
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