'Hope is Rising, Even in the Midst of Tragedy': NYC Churches Pray God Will Bring Many to Jesus in This Crisis
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As the coronavirus hammers New York, churches continue to serve the needs of the community and pray for an end to the outbreak.
In New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the US, several thousand are already known to have died from the virus. More than 60,000 infections have hit the city.
All indoor and outdoor church services were canceled and have been replaced by virtual worship online or through the phone. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio even threatened to close churches permanently if they kept meeting.
The NYC Health website posted guidelines for local faith leaders with concerns over specific services churches provide to the community.
Churches that offer food pantries for the less fortunate must adhere to strict guidelines put in place to protect everyone. The city suggested expanding food pick-up hours so fewer people arrive at a given time, to shorten lines and decrease the size of groups gathering. Also, churches can increase the food package size to last up to 14 days, reducing the number of visits.
And churches that serve the homeless were given directions and resources on how to safely care for the population.
Torrey Harper, pastor, and senior director at Global Prayer Room in Times Square is in the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. He told CBN News that groups of people are praying online together three times a day and God is shielding them in the midst of this difficult situation.
"Hope is rising, even in the midst of tragedy - this is an invitation to prayer," Harper said. "This an invitation from God...He is not the author of the virus but I believe He will get glory in the midst of this."
Harper explained that the challenging times have been overwhelming and many are fearful, but there is hope.
"It’s been a challenge, we don't know when we'll gather. Pastors and people are being affected in fatal ways. It is scary but God is speaking to our hearts - we are going to have victory over the virus," he said.
St. George's Episcopal in Gramercy Park is attempting to raise spirits by ringing the church bells four times a day to songs that offer peace during the pandemic.
"Church bells are historically rung to call people to prayer, in times of celebration, and in times of sadness," Rev. Jacob Andrew Smith told The New York Post.
"We wanted to specifically play some comforting songs that reminded us of hope during sadness. We're tapping into the tradition to ring the bells during a tragedy - I would say we're in a time of tragedy," he said.
Despite the brokenness felt by New Yorkers, the church is standing strong as a source of hope and peace during this crisis.
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir posted a message this week with an excerpt from one of their songs about God’s peace: “Your peace You give me in time of the storm. You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. I lift my hands in total praise to You.”
Meanwhile, Harper believes the pandemic will end up renewing the metropolitan area and bringing many to faith in Jesus Christ.
"This is a reset in New York City, to bring us back to Jesus. Even in the tragedy, God is calling us to triumph," Harper added.
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