By Michael Duane Johnson
Throughout the entire shutdown of our City, The Church of the Village United Methodist Church located on the corner of 13th Street and 7th Avenue continued their ministry of hospitality by providing pantry and emotional support to thousands of New Yorkers seeking food for nourishment and human contact for others needing emotional support.
Two years ago I too was in need of food. When I entered the church sanctuary, while waiting for my number to be called, Pastor Jeff Wells allowed me to sit down at their grand piano and perform. The experience was so entertaining and enlightening I was invited to continue to bring Carnegie Hall quality music to New Yorkers that can’t afford to hear it otherwise. Today the Church of the Village is the only program that in addition to providing food also provides Music Therapy as part of an organic experience
that also includes social services and voter registration.
Mr. George Capsis, publisher of WestView News said, “We are seeing the last days of the traditional church experience. What the Church of the Village is doing is indeed the business that Jesus would be doing outside of a confined structure behind closed doors”! Pastor Jeff Wells encourages the ideology that “the people are the church—not the building. We are our brother’s keepers”!
The person who manages this expansive ministry is Teresa Concepcion. It is behind the scenes where the real work of Ministry is seen in action. With the support of individuals representing various organizations and denominations, her team prepares hundreds of bags of food to be safely distributed to thousands of people, including some who come from New Jersey seeking quality cuisine and nutritious food. For the Saturday Ministry, the food is prepared by professional chefs. Also, food is purchased from New York State farmers. Starbucks is one of many corporations that also contributes to this humanitarian effort. It is the eclectic diversity of corporations that makes this ministry unique.
Mr. Capsis revealed that some people have actually complained about the line of people waiting to receive food. During this pandemic that line extended all the way to 8th Avenue. It is indeed for many, a chance to feel hope when we see humans showing empathy, something we don’t see from the President. There still is an authentic representation of decency expressed through empathy.
There is something we all can do to support this community-based institution. Before the pandemic, the church was averaging 1,700 meals. Recently that number grew to over 3,000! It is necessary to request that anyone who is able to donate any amount of money or even time as a volunteer. The beauty of helping neighbors in need is a remarkable piece of our hearts we give to each other.
WestView has been tireless in supporting our community. We can express our gratitude by patronizing the institutions and vendors that advertise in this paper. This is how we support each other. We together lift each other up higher and higher to rest in peace and unity.
Teresa Concepcion, administrator for the food program, stands in front of volunteers at the Church in the Village, who hand out groceries and produce to approximately 800 homeless and unemployed every Tuesday and Saturday starting at 11:00am. Photo by Bob Cooley.