Tuesday, August 25, 2020

COVID19 responses in Winnipeg - Josh Ward

In Winnipeg (Canada), United Church of Canada Diaconal Minister Josh Ward serves as the Community Minister at St. Matthews Maryland Community Ministry – an outreach ministry that works to provide support and build community alongside some of the most vulnerable people. When COVID first erupted, most of the support programs had to be cancelled. But there was no intention of abandoning the community entirely! So, fully masked, goggled, and gowned, Josh and the team continued to provide food service at the door for the first months of the pandemic. Where our drop-in normally sees 60 or 70 people in a day, those days saw up to 150 people each day coming to our door for food! The network of partner churches provided incredible support, which was even more incredible when you consider that they were also closing their own doors and trying to figure out next steps for their congregations as all this was going on. A local business person stepped up to provide hot lunches 4 days a week. With all this help the increased demand was able to be met. Though providing food is an important service, St. Matthews Maryland is truly about building relationships and a safe community for folk who don’t enjoy that elsewhere in their life. It was easy to overlook in the early days of the pandemic, when it felt more like a food line. But one thing that was really encouraging was seeing how people in this community responded to the pandemic. They were patient and generous. They took care of each other. They followed safety guidelines and social distanced when they were lining up for food. Instead of panic, we saw smiles and gratitude. A pandemic is exactly the kind of time when a strong community is needed most! So it was totally fulfilling to see how this community banded together. It confirmed for us that what we are doing in this community is working.

Thankfully, COVID hasn’t hit Winnipeg as hard as it has in other places. The community program is currently in the process of slowly re-opening in a safe way, with social distancing protocols in place. The commitment remains to build relationships and a strong community, so that everyone in the community knows that no matter what COVID throws at us next: We can handle it together! (Josh is based at 1JustCity - St Matthews Maryland Community Ministry, Winnipeg).

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