FaithHamil R. HarrisReligion

Churches, Charities Mobilize Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The parking lot of THEARC in Southeast was filled recently at lunchtime with small children picking up bag lunches served by staff from DC Central Kitchen.

And outside the THEARC West building, people lined up behind a blue van filled with bags of vegetables that were distributed by staffers from Martha’s Table.

At a time when children are out of school and people are prohibited from restaurants, movie theaters and even church sanctuaries, the charitable gathering was both inspiring and welcomed.

“We are here to serve the Ward 8 community any way that we can,” said Scott Kratz, vice president of the nonprofit group Building Bridges Across the River. “During this [coronavirus] epidemic, it is important that we respond to immediate needs of the community and that is partnering with amazing nonprofits like Martha’s Table and the DC Central Kitchen.”

Meanwhile, area churches have also shifted into high gear to assist others amid the coronavirus pandemic with similar events in the parking lots of Charles H. Flowers High School in Prince George’s County and the City of Praise Ministries in Landover.

The United States now has nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a disease that has killed more than 18,000 people around the globe.

“People are losing it. My brother drives a bread truck and he said that his colleague was robbed,” said Sean Brown, 39, a financial manager from Severn, Maryland. “They took his entire bread truck.”

Such incidents, along with widespread panic-buying and hoarding that have left less-fortunate people in a quandary as supplies dwindle, have sparked a nationwide call for decency among U.S. citizens as the pandemic worsens.

“If ever there is a time to practice humanity — it is now,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Sunday. “The time to show kindness, to show compassion. New Yorkers are tough — but we are also the most courageous community that you have ever seen.”

On Sunday, Brown, a husband and father of two, watched a taped worship service from the University Park Church of Christ and even though his church is closed, he and members of the men’s ministry opened a Zoom account to keep up with each other online.

“God is still in control,” Brown said.

With Easter less than a month away, Rev. Grainger Browning said he is holding Lenten services every morning at 6 a.m. so that people can start their day on a spiritual note. In addition, Browning is still preaching and streaming messages from his pulpit with members from his praise team.

“There is concern about people dying, but I don’t think I hear a heart for the people who survive,” said Browning, whose church also operates a large food bank. “They literally don’t know how they are going to eat.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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