Sowing seeds in Detroit amidst COVID-19

Mosaic Midtown Church is a relational-based church. With the current executive order in place that limits activity in the state of Michigan, the Detroit church is having to find other ways to connect with people during this coronavirus-ravaged season.

Cases of COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus that is spreading across the globe, continue to increase across the Detroit area. And while Mosaic can’t gather physically, just like other churches across the U.S., they still feel like being a blessing to others and “salt and light” in this time of uncertainty and fear.

Campus pastor, Rev. Santes Beatty, said that while they are honoring the state’s mandate to not gather, they feel like God is still asking them to be available to assist people with things like making grocery runs or getting people to doctor appointments. Mosaic has instituted a care ministry where the church is divided into smaller groups to increase connections by reaching out to people who may need help, have questions or simply feel disconnected.

“This gives us an idea of how to specifically pray and support our people” said Beatty. He said the church’s DNA is very interactive and family oriented. Often, when groups at the church are gathered, whether youth or adults, food and fellowship are involved. Since that in-person option to gather is not possible with the pandemic, Beatty said they’ve set up online meetings for youth, adult Bible studies and recovery ministries. Devotions are also being shared via Zoom twice daily by the pastoral team.

The church is gathering online for Sunday services, like most churches in America. Mosaic is multiethnic, multieconomic and multigenerational, and folks are used to interacting regularly. Therefore, leaders have established Zoom meetings for interaction after not only Sunday services, opening the door for more connection points, but after weekly gatherings too. Because many in the younger generation are not on Facebook, the church is using Instagram and other apps to connect with them. Maggie Slusher, children’s pastor, hosts gatherings on Sunday afternoons on Facebook where kids are the focus, finding out how they are doing at home and giving them practical tools from Scripture to navigate their days.

The outreach leaders for Mosaic have reached out to city officials to ask how the church can serve. Pastor Michael Newton is the leader of that team.

“We’ve been praying with people and connecting them with resources,” said Newton, Mosaic outreach and assistant pastor. “Our main objective is to let them know that they are not forgotten and that we as a church are here for them. We are trying to create a lunch program and open our doors as a resource center and passing out care packages.”

Tom*, director of Dearborn Project, a ministry of Mosaic, has noticed a challenge in doing the ministry to which he feels called — reaching out to Muslim immigrants and refugees. Tom also helps train local Christians on how to reach out to this group too.

Much of his team’s outreach is program-directed with face-to-face interaction. Presently, those programs cannot happen.

“We are pursuing a Facebook ad campaign in hopes to somehow find people who are seeking Jesus and asking who he is during this time,” said Tom. “We had started before the pandemic but have sped that up as a strategy to reach people, especially since people are online a lot right now. It’s the perfect time do it with Easter approaching.”

One way Tom is approaching this season is by trying to connect with three to four people rather than thousands.

“How do we stay present and faithful?” said Tom. “What does it look like to have conversations via text with a Muslim who believes in God but doesn’t see him as a personal God?” Tom has had several conversations, via text, with Muslims trying to tell them about Jesus, who calms the storm and cares about each person on a personal level.

Tom also said there is a tension within the refugee group. For some, they are used to living through crises. They remain calmer with less panic and provide perspective like “this will pass.” But for others, the pandemic is bringing to mind memories of living through their own crisis as refugees, when they didn’t have food or lived in a refugee camp.

“We are constantly trying to figure out how we can learn from those in our community and empower those who’ve been through crises before,” said Tom.

Beatty noted that a lot of Mosaic lay leaders work in the medical or mental health fields.

“One of the things we are recognizing is how heavy and serious this is for them,” said Beatty. “We also have a lot of people who live on the margins and may be one paycheck or medical bill away from being out of their home or having no food. I’m concerned not only for people’s physical health but their mental health.”

The tension exists, on how to encourage and empower them with resources and medical supplies — especially when many on the front lines are contracting COVID-19 and dying.

Another challenge for some Mosaic congregants includes how to minister to students, especially those who have various challenges at home. Some may not have healthy, consistent meals with school closings, while there are also concerns about safety at home. So, the recurring question is: how does the church help meet those needs? Mosaic is also a place where some kids have birthday or graduation parties after youth group on Wednesday nights. Not being able to affirm those milestones together as a church family is disappointing.

“For some students this [pandemic] is really hard,” said Beatty. “That challenge of how do we care for people, that when they come to our church, it’s one of the few places that is a place of peace. Currently, we have a partnership with Hepzibah 62:4, a ministry focused on vulnerable children. We are tackling this by selecting multiple families that have unique challenges and helping meet needs. “

Prior to these days, church leaders were gathering via conference call doing a daily “huddle time” to check in, bringing prayer requests and praises. Now they’ve opened it up to more people via Zoom. It’s a sweet time of transparency and encouragement.

Beatty and Tom also mentioned how this quarantine time is a gift for their families. While there are challenges with working at home, engaging with schoolwork and not being able to see friends or extended family members (like Beatty’s grandmother turning 100 and having to cancel the party), everyone is trying to keep daily family devotions a priority.

“How can we leverage this time to build something new within our family?” said Tom. “It’s important to think small and not too big, such as how can we serve and love each other well during these hard days? How can date night for spouses still happen in quarantine?”

“The great thing is that it’s created a new rhythm for our spiritual cohesiveness,” said Beatty.

The pandemic has sped up Mosaic’s process of bettering its social media and online presence, which was already in the works for Easter before COVID-19 hit. Leaders have had to “step up their game” and prepare in a positive way. The opportunity created new avenues of connection to reach people they normally wouldn’t reach. This is exponential in being able to “think outside the box and unleash something new.”

Opportunities to Unleash a Kingdom Force in southeast Michigan and beyond exist in these days, and the leaders are ready.

*Name withheld for security purposes.

Photo: The Dearborn Project packed and distributed lunches to students at an all-Arab elementary school. Volunteers filled and handed out over 500 breakfasts and lunches as a simple way to bless the community.