In the spring of 2020, African Americans were being infected and dying at a higher rate than any other demographic in Ohio. While African Americans represent 12% of Ohio’s population, that demographic accounted for 20% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
When testing for the COVID-19 virus became widespread, vulnerable populations were left out. “No symptoms, no test” became the narrative; yet, asymptomatic individuals were transmitting the virus.
Pastor Peter Matthews became distraught because the community he served lacked access to testing. He began to devise a plan.
Matthews, lead pastor of McKinley United Methodist Church in the Miami Valley District, presented a proposal to Primary Health Solutions, a nonprofit, safety-net health care provider in the area.
“They had to go to where the people were”, Matthews said of Primary Health Solutions. He recruited local agencies and colleagues who led churches in the neighborhoods that needed access to testing. Primary Health Solutions provided the testing, while the churches provided the location and volunteers.
Since late April, over 1,500 people have been tested in the Dayton area. Testing is currently scheduled through August but will continue if needed and sites are available. Results are communicated between 48 and 72 hours.
With their online presence enhanced with the onset of the pandemic, providing free COVID testing moved McKinley to “reimagine church,” Matthews said.
In partnership with the Dayton Food Bank, McKinley delivered food to seniors, a demographic vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, Corona Camp for Kids provides a weekly kit of study activities and food to community children. Included is a disposable camera for children to capture what they learn during the week. McKinley develops pictures and creates a collage of the activity.
As McKinley continues to re imagine ministry in the virtual world, other projects will evolve so the church and community will remain connected throughout the lingering pandemic.