Nov 9, 2020

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Roosevelt was referenced in this thoughtful piece from The Gospel Coalition by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

Here’s Sarah’s bio: Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer and faith-and-work editor for The Gospel Coalition. Before that, she wrote for Christianity Today, homeschooled her children, freelanced for a local daily paper, and taught at Trinity Christian College. She earned a BA in English and communication from Dordt University and an MSJ from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She lives with her husband and two sons in the suburbs of Chicago.


The link for the full article is here.

Pastor: Vermon Pierre
Church: Roosevelt Community Church
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Size: Current attendance is about 100

When Roosevelt Community Church opened up in July, the weather was already uncooperative—the average summer temperature in Phoenix is around 105 degrees. So from the beginning, pastor Vermon Pierre has been handling all interactions indoors.

“Most of July, a very small number of people came,” Pierre said. “There was no pressure for people to come back. In our communication, we told people the only way to have zero percent risk is to stay home. However, we think we can make the risk to come as low as possible.”

People wash their hands when they enter the lobby, and they wear masks until they’re seated, socially distanced, in the sanctuary. They also mostly wear masks afterward, when visiting in the sanctuary.

“From what I’ve been seeing, it’s ideal to wear masks and space out,” Pierre said. “But if you aren’t able to space out, at least wear masks.”

He encourages members to stay six feet apart when chatting. Sometimes, if a few people are still in conversation more than an hour after the service, the masks slip down, he said. His rule of thumb has been communication—if you aren’t sure, ask your conversation partner what they’d prefer.

Roosevelt Community Church is multiracial, but that hasn’t affected the mask conversation in any discernable way, he said. Both white and African American members fall on both sides—more relaxed and more strict—of the mask spectrum.

The church dug into racial issues back in 2016, when Donald Trump was first elected president. About a quarter of the congregation left, and the budget—including Pierre’s salary—had to be cut for a while.

Installation of a new elder in October / Courtesy of Roosevelt Community Church

But “a church that wants to reach minorities has to have these conversations,” Pierre said. And it’s borne fruit. The congregation was able to maintain unity throughout the racial unrest of the summer, and that’s holding even through the presidential campaign.

“We just had a panel, with a guy representing Christians voting for Biden and a guy representing Christians voting for Trump,” Pierre said. The two shared common convictions, and were honest about the compromises in their decision, he said.

“For a lot of churches, that’s the deep end of the pool,” he said. But so far, none of his congregants has even complained to him about it. In fact, “people have been supportive and excited about us continuing to have these conversations.”

As Roosevelt Community Church continues to meet in person and add back in children’s programming (they now have a nursery for those 5 and younger), more and more people are showing up. Many are brand-new, having found the church online.

“Our regulars are slowly coming back, it seems, but our current attendance, I would venture to say, is largely new people,” Pierre said. “People are still looking for church and community in this season. In many ways, it’s reinforced my commitment to have something in person, as much as we can, so that option is available for people.”