Photo: Rev. Jacques DeGraff (Canaan Baptist Church) is tested for COVID-19 at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
By Daniel Hubbard, Staff Writer
Clergy of twenty historically Black churches in Newark and New York City began an initiative recently to further COVID-19 rapid testing and vaccination awareness in their communities.
The Choose Healthy Life Action Plan is a nationwide partnership between churches, Quest Diagnostics, and the United Way of New York City.
Rev. Calvin Butts, of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, said the program will help the Black community, which has been disproportionately devastated by COVID-19.
“The Black church is among the most trusted institutions in our communities and has historically risen to the occasion when our communities are in need. Through Choose Healthy Life, we are doing so once again to address the COVID-19 pandemic and health disparities in our communities,” said Rev. Butts.
City Hope Ministries of Newark is one of ten New Jersey churches participating in the action plan. Its pastor, Rev. Paul Valerius, said Dr. David Jefferson of Metropolitan Baptist Church approached him about participating in the action plan.
“My response was, ‘of course!’,” Valerius said. “City Hope has been involved in the community for the past 23 years. We want to have a positive effect on the people in our community.”
The multi-point action plan will provide services including COVID-19 testing, vaccine awareness, and preventative health education.
“To be able to be a testing site, especially as teachers are about to go back to school, is a blessing,” Valerius said. “People may need to get tested before they get vaccinated.”
For Valerius, participating in the program and going through the pandemic have given City Hope the chance to meet more than people’s need for relief from COVID.
More Than COVID Testing
“The church is supposed to be an instrument of God’s grace to the community. It’s a privilege and an honor when the Lord uses us in this way to meet the needs of the people in a time of crisis,” Valerius said. “Earlier in the pandemic we were able to bring in nine tractor-trailers of fresh produce from Farmers To Families in partnership with Convoy of Hope.”
Local public health navigators are walking community members through the COVID testing process. They are making sure participants receive the care they need, including connecting them to social services, food, and childcare. Testing began in late January.
For now, the plan only includes testing, but Valerius said the group hopes to roll out vaccinations as they become available. Quest Diagnostics sends health teams to the churches to collect the tests regularly. Results are known within 10 minutes and results are sent to one’s MyQuest account within two days.
Events are being planned at the following Newark churches on the following days and times:
- Bethany Baptist Church – Tuesday, March 16 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Pleasant Grove Baptist Church – Friday, March 19 1 to 6 p.m.
- City Hope Ministries – Saturday, March 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m
- Metropolitan Baptist Church – Thursday, March 25 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To sign up, or for more information, visit: http://patient.
The following churches are part of the Choose Healthy Life Action Plan:
New York City
Abyssinian Baptist Church (Harlem)
Canaan Baptist Church of Christ (Harlem)
Cornerstone Baptist Church (Bedford–Stuyvesant)
Faith @ Work Christian Church (Bronx)
First Central Baptist Church (Staten Island)
God’s Battalion of Prayer (Queens)
Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York (Queens)
St. Paul Community Baptist Church (East New York, Brooklyn)
Thessalonia Worship Center (Bronx)
Walker Memorial Baptist Church (Bronx)
Metropolitan Baptist Church
Bethany Baptist Church
City Hope Ministries
Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church
Jehovah-Jireh Praise and Worship Church Center
Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church
Peace Temple Church of God in Christ
Pilgrim Baptist Church
Pleasant Grove Baptist Church
St. Marks Free Will Baptist Church