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Faith leaders guide congregations during difficult times

Posted at 8:15 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 10:13:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City area faith leaders are guiding their congregations through a year that has brought a number of challenges, such as COVID-19, high unemployment and civil unrest.

"Chaotic. Different. Learning on the fly," that's how Rabbi Doug Alpert described the first few months of 2020. "I think those of us who are rabbis, cantors, other clergy in and outside the Jewish community, I think on some level we like to feel needed and we're definitely needed in this moment."

Rabbi Alpert oversees Congregation Kol Ami in Kansas City, Missouri, and explained communication with his congregation has been important.

"We thrive on being in community and connecting with each other. So we redouble our efforts to find ways to stay connected when we can't be in the same room at the same time," Rabbi Alpert said.

Pastor Armour Stephenson III advises his congregation to not ignore the pain they're feeling, but don't dwell in it.

"My main message is to never let the hurt steal the hope," he said.

Stephenson is the pastor of City of Truth Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, reports of hospitalizations and deaths naturally had some of his church members concerned.

"I'm knowing people who have contracted the virus who are really scared for their lives. I'm knowing members of my church who I'm having to comfort who are losing relatives to this virus, and I'm like ok, this thing is real," Stephenson said.

Pastor Stephenson found himself once again trying to comfort his congregation during a nationwide protest following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody.

"I've had to minister to people's souls. Their experience in America. Their experience in their black bodies and their black skin. I've had to sit down and listen," he explained.

Pastor Stephenson and Rabbi Alpert say listening and a focus on solutions are part of the process in helping their members rely on their faith.