At Robbinsville United Methodist Church, the Rev. Eric Reece centers the congregation’s community outreach in three simple rules from the teachings of John Wesley: Do no harm; do all the good you can; and stay in love with God. “We’re not just supposed to be preaching the Good News,” he says. “We’re supposed to be living it out in the community and working to bring about the kingdom of God.”

When the pandemic hit their rural western North Carolina community, the church and its mission-minded pastor sprang into action. When shelves started going bare at the local grocery store, the church ramped up its food distribution. When the county’s schools went to virtual learning, the church served as one of 10 distribution sites for school buses packed with school supplies and food. And when a vaccine outreach group needed a local partner, Reece and his Duke Divinity School intern joined them in going door to door as the group offered shots and personal protective equipment to any who wanted them.

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“It was a lot of work,” Reece says. “It was exhausting. You didn’t even have time to be fearful about possibly getting sick.” Hard though the work was, Reece went into the pandemic ready for action. Because of his missional mindset, he had already received training from a local food bank as well as Resourceful Communities and Rural Advancement Foundation International, two organizations supported by The Duke Endowment that help rural congregations with community outreach projects. His message to other congregations and nonprofits: Learn about the resources available to you. Don’t wait until an emergency.

“When a pandemic hits, you can’t move slow. You have to be able to adapt,” he says. “It wasn’t like I was just sitting there scratching my head. We had the capacity and the sustainability to say, ‘Okay, let’s settle down and get the job done.’”


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Photo Credit: Amplified Media

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