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Community Missions Brings Spiritual Hope to Niagara During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Christian Hoffman
Mon, Mar 30th 2020 12:00 pm

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – Community Missions (CMI) has launched a website (www.HopeForNiagara.org) and companion Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/HopeForNiagara) to provide a resource for spiritual help and hope to Niagara during the COVID-19 pandemic. The website provides daily reflections, an online version of the Missions’ regular mid-week chapel worship service, links to other online worship services, and more. In partnership with the Niagara Ministerial Council, faith leaders from Niagara Falls and elsewhere are contributing reflections and other resources to the site.

CMI’s Agency Minister and Director of Ministry & Community Partnerships, Rev. Mark Breese, created the site and Facebook page. As social distancing and restrictions were implemented across CMI’s many programs, it limited the work that Rev. Breese was able to do for the faith needs of the individuals and families that CMI serves.

“I was especially concerned,” Rev. Breese said, “about the folks we work with every day. These are people who were already under stress because of poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, and mental health issues. For all of us, this pandemic is a difficult time, but for these populations it is really like adding insult to injury. I needed a way to make sure I was still able to provide spiritual support especially for them. I needed to bring them spiritual hope in some way that met the demands of social distancing. We need hope for Niagara.”

The goal of the site is to create and provide daily reflections and other materials, as well as aggregate links to online opportunities that will speak to the immediate spiritual needs of anyone who came into this moment already under duress.

The Hope For Niagara effort is just one way that Community Missions is serving the community during the pandemic. While many of its programs are still operating, the biggest increase in demand has come in its Food Pantry, where twice as many as people have visited in the past two weeks than typical.

CMI has often met such challenges by organizing and reaching into its decades’ deep connections and community relationships. In the case of HopeForNiagara.org, Rev. Breese is doing the same—reaching out to mobilize partners.  “It might seem like an easy thing to write a small spiritual reflection each day and put it out there,” said Rev. Breese. “The issue is that we serve a diverse population. I’m a Baptist by tradition, and a really liberal and progressive one at that! That really helps me when face to face with people, meeting them where they are. But working at a distance and in a large part in writing is different. People need to hear the message of hope from the perspective of their own traditions, religious or otherwise.”

Although HopeForNiagara.org is focused on reaching those who came into this time already under duress, everyone will be able to find hope there. “Nearly everyone has had times of struggle in their lives,” says Robyn Krueger, President and CEO of Community Missions. “This is such an unprecedented and uncertain moment that many people may be finding themselves at a loss, recalling harder times in the past, and really in need of a message of hope. The Hope For Niagara site that Pastor Mark has created will be a resource for all of us.”

The Mission is asking that faith leaders from all religious traditions submit:

  • Brief reflections (½ to one page long) of hope from the perspective of their traditions—with particular focus on meeting the spiritual needs of people were already struggling with poverty, hunger, homelessness and mental illness;
  • Written sermons from this time that are focused on hope and community unity;
  • Links to online opportunities for worship, religious study and faith focused discussions (if livestreamed, include when they are scheduled);
  • Links to original music performances that are focused on music from various worship styles (if livestreamed, include when they are scheduled).

“The Mission serves many who are not religiously inclined,” says Rev. Breese. “So we are also seeking the same sort of submissions that speak to the same basic message of hope, but are secular in nature. This is a time when everyone needs help finding hope and peace.”

About Community Missions

Since its founding in 1925, Community Missions has provided a unique blend of referral, crisis, community support, and residential services for youth and adults. Last year, Community Missions provided over 110,000 meals and over 13,000 nights of care to neglected or abused children and homeless adults. Additional agency programs serve adults and youth with psychiatric disabilities, parolees, at-risk youth and other underserved populations in both residential and recovery-oriented settings.


 

By The Numbers...

In 2019, Community Missions provided:

13,142 nights of shelter

112,562 meals

5,085 individuals with clothing

3,487 care days in Youth Services

43,973 care days in Recovery Services

72,450 care days in Housing Services

192 opportunities for Faith Development

 

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