Deeper Community Amidst a Pandemic

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My name is James, and wanted to share with you how I got connected to Astoria Community Church over the past year.  Though I grew up in Queens and have lived here mostly since, I had been attending a large church in Manhattan for many years due to working in the city and many of my friends being there.  I, for some time, had a desire to attend a local church in my borough where I can be more integrally involved and serve.  After some exploration, I learned about Astoria Community Church and initially checked it out by listening to a sermon online.  Pastor David’s sermon immediately resonated with me, with its focus on the Gospel and its ready applicability.  I visited the church for the first time in December of 2019 and was moved by the Spirit-filled worship, the welcoming members, and the continued clear, relevant, sensitive, and Gospel-centered sermon by Pastor David.  It would not be an overstatement to say that I knew ACC would be my new church home by the end of that first visit.  I sought to learn more about ACC in the ensuing weeks.  I continued to attend the Sunday services and looked into possible ways to connect, including community groups and service opportunities.  A challenge then surfaced that we’ve all been facing since, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the pandemic created many challenges for me in my professional and personal lives, the pandemic surprisingly created more opportunities for me to connect with ACC.

Soon after the pandemic began, ACC changed its Sunday services to the online format.  While I missed the live worship service, a benefit of the move to online was that there was a post-service fellowship time hosted by our elder Raul that allowed me to get to know others at the church and for them to get to know me.  I enjoyed hearing various people’s stories, seeing their homes, learning about their many talents, sharing during small breakout groups, and hearing about the church’s work.  I was able to share my story to the group one Sunday, including working as a psychiatrist, and have a discussion about mental health in these times.  I participated in weekly virtual prayer meetings.  We heard a message of exhortation from Pastor David before praying together, including praising, confessing, and interceding for one another, the church, and the world in these difficult times.  I also joined a community group led by Pastor David in which we studied the book of Colossians and had further opportunities to fellowship, praise, and pray for one another.  The community group was capped off by an in-person potluck picnic when the pandemic had improved to allow for such a gathering.

While I had concerns about connecting with ACC in the midst of the pandemic, God opened new avenues for connecting that actually allowed me to connect quicker and deeper.  As someone whose professional demands have often been a barrier, whether real or perceived, to deeper engagement in various personal pursuits, the virtual means of connecting with ACC afforded me many ready avenues that were not easily thwarted by my work demands.  Also, though in person connections are in many ways irreplaceable, the virtual connections were nonetheless deep and meaningful, allowing me to feel connected to this family of Christ and its mission.  As my connection to ACC deepened, I was able to take part in a reopening taskforce for ACC, where I felt blessed and happy to be able to contribute to developing a safe reopening plan for ACC.  My connecting with ACC culminated with me becoming a member at ACC this fall, being welcomed into the church in person after the church reopened safely.

This pandemic has been a tragedy for many in our city, country, and the world.  I am amazed at how God is present for His church in the midst of trials to bless, protect, and open new doors for His Gospel of salvation, redemption, and healing.  The early church existed in a world that in many ways was far more uncertain, dangerous, and hostile than the world we live in today.  Yet, God caused His church to grow and prosper as Christians sought and received God’s grace and shared this grace with the desperate world around them.  I am grateful to God for drawing me to ACC in these pandemic times, and I pray that more would be drawn to the life that Christ offers at all times but is perhaps more saliently so in times of distress like today.  I encourage you to consider prayerfully how you might get more connected to God’s work of healing in the world and to ACC in our corner of His world.