Stacie Mickelson is our guest blogger this week. She is the Director of Applied Research & Consulting at the Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC). She lives in an intentional Christian community in JP with her super patient and handsome husband Elijah and their two wonderful albeit cooped up daughters, Eden Gale and Anna James. Today, Stacie offers an honest reflection on how we can stay prayerfully present admist the challenges of the coronavirus.
Two weeks ago, I had plans with a friend: eat fried food and go bargain hunting at Goodwill. I’d been looking forward to it. But when the day came, so had the coronavirus, so we had to rethink our plans. I sent her a text:
In times of chaos and duress, we experience a variety of bodily responses across the flight-fight-freeze spectrum. Because of the palpable layer of unrest that pervades the atmosphere right now, we have ample opportunity to observe our stress responses.
Right now, some of us feel energized, some of us feel paralyzed, and many of us are not quite sure what we feel. My defense mechanisms rely on a healthy dose of denial, especially related to my own emotions.
“I don’t feel stressed per se,” was categorically untrue. I just didn’t—or didn’t want to—realize it. Three days after that text exchange. I sent out a staff-wide email to all my colleagues at the Emmanuel Gospel Center. I wrote:
“…I want to remind us all that our first job right now is that as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You have been created, set apart and equipped for just a time as this. Let faith arise. Let’s not confuse our preparation exercises with our assignment. That is, we should expect the Lord to be giving us specific and targeted instructions about how to focus our time and our energy right now… Work will need to get done, projects will move forward, meetings will happen. We still have our jobs to do, but how we prioritize our to-do lists needs a drastic re-evaluation. I encourage everyone to take time, lots of it, to be praying and in the word like never before. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the top few things he wants you to focus on in the next few days or weeks…”
In an endeavor to take my own advice, I sought the Lord: Father, what are you asking of me right now? How should I be prioritizing my time? What might you be speaking to me?
All I heard in reply was, Be present.
That response felt a bit underwhelming to me. But I wanted to be obedient, so I acted on it the best I knew how. I gave myself limits on how much social media I could take in. I tried my best to concentrate on one thing at a time and not multi-task. I made a color-coded master schedule (that I never used) so I could try to balance working from home with watching our two young daughters.
The problem is that I had interpreted “be present” as instructions for behaving better, rather than an invitation to be honestly present to my own feelings before the Father. And God always calls us into being before He calls us into doing.
My “be present” to-do list was just my grasp at maintaining some sense of control. Doing so was a faith facsimile. I was using the language of faith to obfuscate the places where I felt afraid and sad.
At the turn of the new year, many of us were asking God for “20/20 vision in 2020.” The global crisis upon us is shaking every system of the world—every nation, every organization, every individual. Injustice and inequity are magnified. The real condition of our souls is highlighted. Like never before in our lifetimes, we have the opportunity to be radically present to reality.
Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, he warned his disciples of the pain and grief ahead. He also promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would guide them into all truth and empower them to live in joy. In John 16:33, Jesus then says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The other day, I wept and wept and wept. I poured out in worship everything I’d buried—everything I’d tried to exhume through denial, every ugly thing that would want to stay hidden poisoning me from the inside. I was present with the Lord. And it was beautiful.
My prayer for us all, beloved, is that together we would all be:
This week, we have Rebekah Kerstetter as our featured blogger on UniteBoston. Rebekah is a Boston-area mom of three awesome kids, and a member of Highrock Church in Arlington. In the blog below, Rebekah shares about her new network for Christian Singles across churches to connect, which is especially important during this time of social distancing. Read below to learn more about how this ministry promotes Christian unity and how to join with Christian Singles in your area.
I have worked towards church unity for 20 years, and then ten years ago, God began pressing on my heart towards another focus – serving singles in the body of Christ. I have seen many of the challenges Christian singles face when looking for community, friendships and even dating opportunities. All of these forms of community are blessings God calls ‘very good,’ but I feel that America’s social structure does not support singles as well as it once has.
Wanting to step in and help out, I have hosted dating events, relationship trainings, bible studies, games nights and other activities for three years to build community for Christian singles. I started doing this in St. Louis, before returning back east.
Today, I believe that what will help most is a network of Christian singles throughout the Boston area. Heres why I believe this ministry is so important, especially in the midst of the Coronavirus:
- Not every single has a large single’s group or church network checking in on them.
- Some singles may need groceries dropped off because they are ill or have been laid off from their jobs due to the Coronavirus crisis.
- Some singles have no roommates (and/or are extroverts) and are going sTiR-CrAzY during social distancing and would love more connection.
Here is how you can help:
‘Talk Local’ on Thursdays at 8:30 pm is a weekly gathering to build a Boston-based network to connect Christian singles during social distancing. We will be currently connecting via Zoom, and then face-to-face once social distancing ends. Currently, it’s a 30 minute (not boring) Zoom call with Christian singles throughout the Greater Boston Area and then a 30 minute Zoom break-out by neighborhood or town to talk more with the Christian singles who live closest to one another.
Prayerfully, when the current crisis is over, ‘Talk Local’ will become ‘Dinners Next Door’ where Christian singles can eat with others who easily walk, bike or can drive quickly to their home or favorite nearby restaurant. Living closer to friends or who we are dating makes it easier to grow the relationships. The extra time we save by living close together can become more time spent together!
And the beauty of this is that since the Christians living around us are from many different churches and church backgrounds, building relationships with those who live nearest to us will naturally build authentic networks of unity across Boston churches.
Let’s get to know Christian singles from all over the Boston area and then further get to know those next door to us and serve together locally. Let’s watch this ripple effect bless all of Boston!
To stay connected with Rebekah & Dinner’s Next Door & Talk Local, go to www.SingleSocials.com or https://singlesocials.com/thursday-weekly-calls We also appreciate your help in spreading word to your church network and other singles you know!
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:4
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).
The coronavirus is now a global pandemic, forcing church buildings to close and to move online. Jesus asks us to “Love our neighbor as yourself,” (Mk 12:31) but what does this look like when social isolation has now become our reality?
Kelly Fassett is our guest blogger this week – As we all do our best to “flatten the curve” and help minimize the impact of this pandemic locally, she has seen new creative forms of community bubbling up in all sorts of different places – from online neighborhood groups, to inter-clergy video calls with Mayor Walsh and the Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. The world now has a common “enemy,” and this is a powerful force to bind people together.
Today, she offers six opportunities for Christians to be involved in serving our neighbors at this time.
These are just a few of the growing number of practical ideas that she has heard about based on her conversations and research; please email her at email@example.com if you would like to add something to this list about how we can serve and love the people of Greater Boston:
1. Serving food to students
The City of Boston, in partnership with a variety of community organizations, is providing 4800 free meals to all youth and teens at various locations and times across the City. Learn more about meal distribution locations here. Some churches have also recently been added to the list of food distribution sites.
They are looking for volunteers to distribute food at the different locations. The greatest need for your support is in the beginning of the shifts for set up. Here is the link to volunteer.
Also, if you live in Cambridge, food location and pick up times are available here. You can sign up to volunteer in Cambridge here.
2. Donate money and supplies
Boston Public Schools has provided Chromebooks for all BPS students, which cost 5.5 million. To date, they have only raised 1.1 million and would appreciate your generosity in helping to ensure all students have access to computers at home. Monetary donations should be made to the Boston Resiliency Fund. Please make sure to indicate your gift is designated to support Boston Public Schools. Also, Boston Public School staff are requesting new, unused reusable bags, art supplies, and sports equipment such as soccer balls, etc. You can drop these off at the security desk at the Bolling building, 2300 Washington Street, Roxbury, MA. Please ensure items are new, or wrapped and labeled as “donation.”
Finally, Boston Public Schools staff recognizes that there are other resources present within faith-based communities and congregations, and they are surveying to identify other ways that congregations can help. If your church or organization is interested in supporting the Boston Public Schools another way, you can enter it in this form.
3. Support your neighbors
While New Englanders may be known for being stoic and closed off, this has certainly not been the case these past few weeks. On NextDoor.com, folks in Jamaica Plain launched a “street sing along” every day at 5pm, while practicing social distancing. One post entitled, “Let’s Help Each Other Get Through This” had 25 comments of people who are offering their skills and resources for running errands for seniors, tutoring online, and more. Personally, I have made intentional effort to smile and say “hi” to everyone I pass on my daily runs through Franklin Park. We are all in this together – let’s show our support for one another.
If you haven’t signed up for NextDoor, I would encourage you to do so. It’s a great way to be part of the life of your neighborhood. I’d also ask that you consider the individuals you know who are most vulnerable in your community, and reach out to them directly to see how you can help, such as offering to pick up groceries.
Finally, there are also a number of neighborhood-focused groups forming such as the Dorchester COVID Care Facebook Group, as well as mutual aid organizations which list and link resources online in Allston-Brighton, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury and Medford and Somerville. Here is the overarching Boston Community Care Network.
As the number of coronavirus cases in our city have grown, it can be easy to be swept into anxiety and fear. It is important that we take our fear and anxiety to God, who lightens burdens and is a sure, strong foundation. The more we allow God’s promises to dwell within us, the less fear can grip us:
‘Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armour and protection.’ Psalm 91:1-4, NLT
The mayor and the superintendent of the Boston Public Schools have both independently shared about the value of churches at this time to provide care, guidance, and peace. Churches can use technology creatively to engage in bible study and mindfulness practices – check out this great list of COV-19 Church Strategies as well as Online Resources & Tools compiled by the Massachusetts Council of Churches. Here is also a comprehensive worship-oriented list of Resources for Churches Adapting to Social Isolation.
Some churches may want to open their doors for a quiet space for prayer. If you do open your doors, be sure to keep the numbers low, follow social distancing rules and a sanitization protocol. Finally, the American Bible Society is offering a free resource that “reminds us to remain anchored in God’s wisdom and peace as we navigate what may feel like chaos around us.” You can download their trauma-informed resource “Beyond Disaster” here.
5. Stay connected with friends and family
While everyone is talking about “social distancing,” in reality what we are encouraged to do is physical distancing. It is important that we continue to find community and connect with loved ones to connect socially; technology enables us to reach out to friends and family via phone or video call, without the risk of exposure.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh encouraged each of us to safely connect with loved ones who are particularly vulnerable and isolated, such as elderly relatives and neighbors, single people, and people who have lost their jobs.
“Reach out to a senior, to a neighbor, to someone with a medical condition, to a parent with children, to anyone who could use a word of support or a connection to a resource, by phone calls, text, email, video chat, or just a smile across the hallway, a smile across the yard. Let them know they’re not alone.”
You can also have a mini-worship service at your home to share concerns, pray, and sing with your family. Here is also a great article describing how you can talk about COVID-19 with your kids. Check out this great Family Resource Guide, published by Outdoors Rx, which includes education resources and learning at home, virtual museum tours, links to free home workouts and more, as well as Resources for Prayer and Faith Formation at Home published by the Archdiocese of Boston.
6. Find Moments to Smile
While this can be a heavy season, it is important to find moments of humor. I have found some hilarious meems online about social distancing. Additionally, in Chapel Hill, the worship pastor of Christ United Methodist Church wrote a “Hymn for Handwashing,” to the tune of “Amazing Grace”: “Amazing soap! How sweet the smell, that keeps our hands germ free! Please wash your hands, and dry them, too, that we might healthy be.” Get creative – together we can make the best of this.
This is an extraordinary time to be alive, and we trust that God is at work amidst of all the challenges. My friend Sherami shared with me that “in this season of COVID, we are experiencing a global “unity” in our fragility.” In the midst of crises, people often reach out to God. Let’s keep praying that this season of uncertainty will cause many to prioritize in life, and discover the One who is Unchanging and Everlasting – Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Guidance for Faith Leaders from the City of Boston, includes information about holding funerals and wakes
- Click here for recommendations from the Massachusetts Council of Churches on how churches might deal with financial strain.
- COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Fund: A loan fund of $10 million has been created to provide financial relief to Massachusetts businesses and nonprofits that have been affected by COVID-19.
- Corona Virus Resource List – All kinds of resources here, including food and financial support
This week, we have Dayanna Badillo as our featured artist. Dayanna is an Ecuadorian worship leader, singer-songwriter, and producer who uses her music as her evangelistic tool. Read Dayanna’s story below to hear how as a Latina, she values diversity, inclusion, and unity of the body of Christ and has been involved in several initiatives with similar visions.
Since Dayanna was a kid, her dream was to become a singer. Lyrics would always pop into her mind and she would write songs even as early as seven years old. At 18, she gave her life to Jesus and committed to spread the gospel through music and relocated to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston after winning a full-ride scholarship from the Ecuadorian government. The extremely selective award, which covered the entirety of her education, was given only to the leading students scoring in the top 0.05% of the country. While she was at Berklee, she became the Young Adult Worship Leader at Lion of Judah Congregation, Boston’s largest Spanish-speaking Protestant congregation, which draws 1,000 worshippers every Sunday. This opportunity allowed her to grow in her gifts, character, and leadership.
Dayanna believes what the apostle Paul said, that “many parts make up one body” (1 Cor. 12:12). She says “even though some are Latinos like me, others are Asians, others Pentecostals and others Baptist, we are all one and we all work for the same cause: to make Jesus known by loving God and loving one another”. That is why she has collaborated and led worship at different Christian events that support the unity of the Christian body spanning denomination and race. For example, she has been a part of the Revive Boston team as a worship leader in collaboration with evangelist James Sideras, she had the honor of leading worship at “We Will Go” with Bethel pastor Chris Overstreet, collaborated as a UniteBoston musician for Awaken the Dawn’s Tent America in 2018, led worship at Awaken the Dawn 2019 representing Lion of Judah, collaborated with YWAM at “10 Days of Prayer,” and she led worship at “Mygration Christian Conference.” Her significant impact on concerts, performances and worship services around the New England area was recognized when she won the “Best Female Contemporary Gospel Artist of the Year” award at the largest Gospel concert in Boston, in which she ministered as a guest artist.
Her dream is to launch a bilingual music ministry so she can reach both English and Spanish speaking communities. Her first step towards this dream was the release of her first single in Spanish called “Victoria”, which she plans on releasing in English later this year. “Victoria” is a declaration of our identity in Christ and the freedom we find only in Him, based on Romans 8” Dayanna says. “Victoria” is the beginning of a collection of songs Dayanna will be releasing this year. Already, Dayanna has seen how “Victoria” has resonated with Hispanic people of different cultures, backgrounds, and practices.
You can watch the lyric video for “Victoria” below.
To stay connected with Dayanna and be informed about her upcoming music releases, you can find her at dayannabadillo.com or on Instagram, Facebook, @dayannabadillomusic. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel and follow her on Spotify for more to come.
The season of Lent has begun this week, where Christians throughout the world are taking time to remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in personal consecration. Here on UniteBoston, we want to share “Lenten Meditation” for you, which is a song composed by Daniel Faris and music video by local video producer Luke Zvara.
Luke describes: “Daniel Faris first wrote “Lenten Meditation” for a mid-day Lent service at Park Street Church a couple years ago. Last spring he and I began talking about creating a music video for one of the songs off his new album (a collection of his own arrangements of a number of hymns). “Lenten Meditation” stood out to me, not just because it was an original piece, but because it had a haunting beauty and emotional depth to it. Daniel wrote it while reflecting on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, incorporating “descending” musical patterns that reflected the tears of Christ. I wanted to create a video that complimented the reflective nature of the song by adding symbolic images to the music, but that also told a story; a story about the brokenness and sin that made Christ weep in the Garden, but also a story that gave a glimpse of the hope his suffering brings. It’s our hope that the music and the video serve as a catalyst for prayer and reflection this Lent season.”
On Left – Daniel Faris is a New England-based violinist, who has spent the last 10 years studying and working in the Boston area. He has also been traveling as performer on cruise ships with Lincoln Center Stage. He has attended Park Street Church since 2013, and has been privileged to be an active part of the music ministry there. He would love to see the global impact a vibrant Christian community can have as so many different people come through the city.
On Right – Luke Zvara is a freelance filmmaker in the Greater Boston Area and a member of Park Street Church. He longs to see Christian artists thriving and serving the church in Boston.
We also want to share a Lenten resource with you, provided by the Race & Christian Community Initiative at the Emmanuel Gospel Center. RCCI director Megan Lietz describes, “Racism and its impact is deeply embedded in our society, and yet through ongoing repentance and the grace of God, we can experience the healing power of the resurrection.”
An American Lent is a 40-day devotional that can be used by individuals or small groups to reflect on the ways our nation has upheld racism with a focus on the Atlantic slave trade and its legacy. Read it here.