The Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) office of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) announced July 8 that this fall’s Coats for the City is canceled because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are instead asking for funds that would have been spent on coats, travel and supplies for the event be donated to partner planters, churches and missionaries in New York City.
“When the church in Antioch learned of an impending famine in Judea, ‘the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers’ (Acts 13:29),” said Zac Lyons, GCP senior consultant, in a statement to the Biblical Recorder. “I pray that N.C. Baptists will take this same posture toward our brothers and sisters on the front lines of this pandemic in New York City. May we all, each according to our ability, send relief to the brothers.”
Coats for the City is an annual outreach event organized by the GCP in partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA). In recent years, North Carolina Baptists have collected new and slightly used jackets to send to New York City for participating churches to distribute in their neighborhoods. N.C. volunteers have joined them in the community outreach and in starting gospel conversations with recipients.
“While this was not an easy decision, our God was not caught off guard by the current conditions of our world, and we firmly believe that He intends to leverage even tumultuous times like these for the spread of His glory among the nations throughout New York City and beyond,” Lyons and George Russ, MNYBA executive director, said in an email to participating BSC churches.
Event organizers considered several factors in deciding to cancel, including the possibility of another COVID-19 surge in New York City; travel restrictions and quarantine requirements; the risk of volunteers transmitting the virus; and the additional challenges of disinfecting coats before and during distribution.
Lyons and Russ also said they realized “the greatest needs for partner planters, missionaries and churches in New York City may not be a coat distribution, but some other form of relief efforts.”
MNYBA churches face an uncertain future, Russ said. Some may not reopen; others that met in schools and theaters might not have a place to meet even when gathering is allowed. There have been at least 24 COVID-19 cases and one death among MNYBA pastors. A Brooklyn church held 30 funerals in one month, having lost members because of the virus.
“Right now all of our churches are facing two major matters: the economic impact of the pandemic, including the loss of jobs and business closings, and the best way to resume in-person gatherings. … It is quite stressful for pastors and leaders. And yet in the midst of this, the opportunities for ministry and witness are everywhere,” Russ told the Recorder.
MNYBA will distribute donated funds to planters, missionaries and churches that have partnered through Coats for the City within the last three years, and particularly to those that have been most affected by the coronavirus.
To donate, go to www.mnyba.org/give, and designate gifts toward Coats for the City.