The Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church hosted a mass food distribution at the church on March 21, 2021, as part of their partnership with Albany's Catholic Charities (photos provided from Metropolitan Church Facebook)
The Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church hosted a mass food distribution at the church on March 21, 2021, as part of their partnership with Albany's Catholic Charities (photos provided from Metropolitan Church Facebook)
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Catholic Charities has been serving the needs in the Diocese of Albany since 1917. When COVID-19 hit, the Regional Food Bank asked Catholic Charities if they would be willing to do more food distribution with partners all over the Diocese. To date, Catholic Charities has distributed food in eight of the 14 counties of the Diocese and over 250,000 people have been fed through their efforts. Following the death of George Floyd and the civil unrest, Catholic Charities felt compelled to work more diligently at partnerships with communities of color and forge friendships and build bonds. One partnership is with Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church in Albany and the following reflection was prepared by Pastor Rev. Dr. Damone Paul Johnson, senior pastor.

Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church is known as the Light on the Hill.  We are one church with a passion to serve many generations.  Our vision is to exalt Jesus, equip people through discipleship and Christian education, and engage community through outreach and mission projects. Our priority is serving the public, being a “good neighbor.” Catholic Charities was seeking an urban community partner to expand the mass food distribution and our earlier dialogues helped us come together. In June 2020, we hosted our first event, and in May 2021, we prayerfully acknowledged one year of partnering. It has been a blessing to see racially, culturally and across the spectrum of creed and color, so many joyously serving the public, and specifically, serving a community long under socioeconomic challenges.

How do you talk about the partnership your community enjoys with Catholic Charities’ CCMOVE (Mobile Outreach Vehicle Extension)?

During Sunday Service I speak to our wonderful partnership, the vital importance of serving the public, and how we are able to do more, when we serve together.  With our other community partners, we highlight our partnership with Catholic Charities and its importance to the community.  There is a lasting value to us keeping and serving together and that remains a priority.

During the most challenging periods of the pandemic, it was critical to provide food, and as important, hope. As Metropolitan was engaged and hosting, others reached out, and between our collective efforts, we expanded to other senior housing, other churches and organizations, all in need. The partnering enabled us to provide other forms of support — masks, gloves and information on ways to combat the pandemic.

What bumps have been encountered on the road and how have they been dealt with?

Bumps we prayerfully refer to as challenges, as we always found a way forward. The heat of the summer, the cold of the winter or some traffic issues never stopped us from providing. Sister Betsy Van Deusen, CSJ, and the CC team worked seamlessly with our mission team, and it always came together.  Many wonderful and spirited volunteers have come to Metropolitan and we are deeply thankful for their service.

What do you hope for once there are fewer mass distributions?

If we say that we love the Lord with all of our heart, then we must do as commanded: Love thy Neighbor. We love by serving, supporting, feeding, clothing and doing all that we can to lift up those in need. What must come from this is lasting partnering and collaborating. That we develop even deeper systems and ways to expand our partnering and bond.

From the throes of civil unrest and upheaval caused by the pandemic and all else we endured during 2020, is hope that we can do more, and the Light on a Hill shines brighter because of our friendship with Catholic Charities, and prayerfully we’ll collectively keep lighting up the Hill, the city and everywhere we go.