In downtown Columbus, Manna Café has become a place of community to share a hot meal with an offering of prayer and Holy Communion.
Manna Café at Broad Street United Methodist Church provides weekly meals sponsored by organizations or groups and served by countless volunteers.
As COVID-19 began to unfold in early March, Manna Café did not stop ministry to their neighbors; they modified. A boxed lunch consisting of a sandwich, soup, dessert and bottled drink "to go" was given. Leftovers were donated to Friends of the Homeless, an outreach for homeless men and women.
According to the Columbus Community Shelter Board, more than 1,200 people sleep in homeless shelters in Columbus and Franklin County on any given night, and an estimated 600 or more are on the streets. With job losses as a result of the pandemic, that number may increase.
In navigating new ways to remain in ministry during the pandemic, the Rev. Angie Cox said, "We offered care packages that we distributed throughout the city. The packages contained perishable and nonperishable food and hygiene items." Cox is associate pastor of Broad Street UMC. They will continue to offer available food items to anyone who calls requesting assistance.
To remain connected with their worshipping community, Broad Street has used Facebook and their website to livestream services regularly and will soon have a YouTube Channel. "This pivot has seen a wide range of viewers participating in worship from all over the country," Cox said. That includes those whose home church has not provided an alternative to in-person worship. Technology has also been used for Bible study and social gatherings.
As we continue to live through uncertain times, Cox said, "Being in ministry has reoriented my own understanding of what it means to serve 'the least of these' and what community looks like." Broad Street remains committed to adapting their practices of ministry to continue to share and reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ.