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Even though many churches have had to cancel worship and shift to online services to protect congregations from COVID-19, that doesn’t stop Jordan Memorial United Methodist in Ramseur and Boonville United Methodist in Yadkin County from continuing to serve and support their community. 

Funded through a five-year grant from The Duke Endowment, the NC Rural Center’s Faith in Rural Communities initiative partners with rural United Methodist churches (UMC) throughout the state to assess their congregational assets and also provides training and resource support to help rural churches better engage with their local communities. Both Jordan Memorial UMC and Boonville UMC are in the 2019-2020 cohort of Faith in Rural Communities-affiliated churches. 

Faith in Rural Communities recently provided emergency grants for affiliated churches to implement programs that respond to community needs caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both Jordan Memorial UMC and Boonville UMC are using their emergency grants to pay local restaurants to provide meals that the churches can give out to the community. Jordan Memorial UMC provides their community meals through a drive-thru at the church, and Boonville UMC delivers their meals to homebound individuals. 

“These partnerships help in two ways,” says Jordan Memorial UMC member Donna Urban. “It helps bring business to local restaurants already feeling the impact of the pandemic and it helps feed people in the community.” 

Both Jordan Memorial and Boonville UMC were operating community dinners prior to the pandemic. “We were already meeting a need in our community by doing the dinners” says Boonville UMC minister Jenny Stewart. “We’re meeting another need now by delivering meals to people who can’t go out.” 

Bonnie Lasky, a member at Boonville UMC, notes that the delivery component is important because Meals on Wheels is no longer delivering in their area. “We have volunteers who are really excited about going out and delivering to the community,” says Lasky. “Our meal recipients are getting something nutritious to eat and I think it helps too that they get to see somebody during the day—even if it’s at a distance.” 

Prior to the pandemic, restaurants around Ramseur were already donating desserts, tea, and other food items to Jordan Memorial UMC’s monthly community dinners. “They’ve helped us so much over the last few years that when coronavirus started impacting restaurants, we wanted to love our community as best as we could in conjunction with our small businesses—which are such a vibrant part of our community,” says Jordan Memorial UMC minister Josh Kurtz. 

Through a nine-month education and training program, the Faith in Rural Communities initiative helps rural churches develop high-impact projects that will benefit both the economic and social well-being of the communities they serve. 

“We realize that our ministry has to take different forms in this season, but we’ve had so many beautiful conversations through these events,” says Kurtz. “And I think we’ve been prepared through the Faith in Rural Communities training for such a time as this.”