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Being the Church in Paterson

October 28, 2020
Gifts to the CRC’s Church Engagement Fund gave students in Paterson, New Jersey, a place to study and use laptops.
Gifts to the CRC’s Church Engagement Fund gave students in Paterson, New Jersey, a place to study and use laptops.
Photo by Rev. Sheila Holmes

Like many churches, Northside Community Christian Reformed Church in Paterson, New Jersey, has been quieter than normal on Sundays during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But on the weekdays, the church building is still alive with activity.

When Paterson’s public schools announced that it would be closed for in-person learning, members of Northside CRC knew they had to help these students in a new way.

“Normally we  would have an afterschool program in which we would assist the youth of the community with homework,” said Rev. Sheila Holmes, senior pastor at Northside. “With the new normal of remote learning we knew we had to come up with a new program that will better assist our community.”

For many of the students in Paterson, remote learning meant finding a way to access the internet.

“We learned that many people in our community do not have access to the internet, a proper device to complete their work assignment, or just needed assistance in understanding their assignments.”

To help with this need, Holmes applied for a grant through the CRC’s COVID-19 Church Engagement Fund, a fund provided by Back to God Ministries International and Resonate Global Mission, specific CRC congregations, and individual members. The grant provided laptops, software, and improved internet service at the church.

“Working with Northside CRC was a unique and exciting way for BTGMI’s Church Juice to help a church with its technology needs and more importantly serve the wider community,” said Bryan Haley, Church Juice’s producer, who has been helping with these grant requests. 

In response to the added equipment and the new program, students about 5-8 years old are entering the church—many for the first time—and signing up for time slots to use the equipment and receive learning help during and after school hours.

Rev. Holmes anticipates that there will be a higher demand for their program when the first school progress reports go to parents.

“Unfortunately we’ve heard stories of children signing into their online class, and not actually participating,” says Holmes. “As we receive more applications, we hope to open up our second floor of desks as well.”

Holmes says that they will need additional volunteers  to achieve that goal of helping more students, and they are actively looking for volunteers to help. Stipends are likely available, too, with help from the grant. Those in the Paterson area can contact her directly at [email protected] or by calling the church at 973-595-5311.

“Ultimately, this is a new way to share Jesus Christ with the children of Paterson schools,” said Holmes. Praise God for this new opportunity and pray for students around the world as they adapt to new school routines.