The 2020 holiday season will be like none other in many of our lifetimes.
A COVID-19 comeback is already putting a damper on family and church gatherings. But that doesn't mean churches and ministries need to be on the sidelines during these unprecedented times.
Experience in helping people deal with tragedy and disaster allows the faith community to gain trust, reduce fear, and spread hope where it's needed most.
As restrictions ramp up again across the country, churches must remain creative to ensure meaningful worship while encouraging hope and fellowship amid a relentless pandemic.
Still, social and spiritual interactions are limited not by choice, but in many cases by law. Since the virus first hit, we've seen how loneliness, fear, and stress can overwhelm.
"The church is often where people turn to first when they're in crisis looking for help. So that one of the immediate things that churches can do would be to provide counseling or other types of support service," said Dr. Stephen Grcevich, a psychiatrist and founder of Key Ministry.
Earnest Clover of DC's Dream Center says following that divine direction means leaning on faith.
"I believe that the Lord is calling us out of the boat like Peter," he said. "I don't know where the other side is. I don't know how bad the storm will get."
With the blessing of his team, Clover and the Dream Center have been supporting the community by temporarily scrapping other community programs to focus on food and other supplies to help those in need.
"It fills the gaps. I would say due to the income that comes in. It is not a lot. But it does what it does," said Mark Barber who is a client and volunteer.
"We've had over 50,000 meals go out that window in that little white house. We've had over 100,000 hygiene items and nonperishable food items go out of the Dream Center, and fresh produce that came from nowhere to 400,000 pounds to people in need right now," said Clover.
Much like churches and ministries elsewhere, people are coming to the center with a hunger for more than food.
"The structures of society have been so thoroughly rocked to their foundations," said Clover.
"Even when we're not giving out items, they just want to talk, they just want a human connection," said Iris Lamberson, a staff member.
A basic need that for some is no longer easily met which health experts say can have grave consequences.
As the government and health care system deals with areas like testing, masks, and social distancing, Grcevich says ministries play an essential role in addressing the unprecedented social isolation felt by so many.
"Being able to offer people the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, and being able to offer people opportunities for connectedness. We as a church as uniquely positioned to be able to care for them and offer connectedness and hope," said Grcevich.