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Re-imagining loving our neighbors

Last night, I put on a mask, washed my hands until my skin cracked, and volunteered at a Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) clinic. Several of their clients’ asylum cases still needed urgent attention, and so RILA opted to have a pared-down clinic for those who needed it most, following strict protocols around hygiene, food, and social distance. The smell of bleach hung in the air and the normally bustling clinic space was oddly hushed. On my way there I passed a COVID-19 mobile testing site being closed for the day, surrounded by traffic cones and flashing police lights, law enforcement officials with guns and medical staff in full protective gear.

COVID-19 has drastically changed what is possible when we imagine how to love our neighbors as ourselves. Right now, love looks like small choices and unseen actions—washing our hands, limiting our social exposure, withholding touch, maintaining distance, praying from afar.

But we also know that just outside the safety of our homes, insecurity is mounting. People are losing their jobs, groceries are scarce, school meals have ceased, health care priorities are rapidly shifting, public transportation is limited, and people are frightened. Arlington’s most vulnerable families live along the Columbia Pike corridor—they’re Incarnation’s neighbors—and will be disproportionately impacted by these secondary challenges of COVID-19.

Incarnation has always been a church that looks outward, and so our vestry has set aside money for COVID-19. Our outreach team is quickly developing protocols for how that money will be used. As a small church, we cannot do everything, so we are prioritizing ways we can help those with whom we are in close relationship: neighbors at L’Arche, vulnerable RILA clients, and those within our neighborhoods.

There is still much we do not know about how this virus will progress and what needs will emerge in the coming weeks. We are listening closely to you and to local leaders as we discern how we can best serve with the resources we have.

And we encourage everyone to consider supporting the efforts below, many of which particularly benefit neighbors along Columbia Pike who are most vulnerable:

  • Support Columbia Pike restaurants. Incarnation loves to eat out on the Pike together, and many small Pike restaurants are laying off workers and in danger of closure. This website has a growing list of Pike restaurants who are offering take out and delivery options so you can support them from home. Loving by eating — sounds like an Incarnation project!

  • Run errands for neighbors. We are in communication with the Alcova Heights Community Association, which is coordinating errands for those who are quarantined or high risk who live in the neighborhood surrounding our church. If you are interested in volunteering to make CVS or grocery runs using safe hygiene protocols, please email me (!

  • Donate blood. Many blood drives have been canceled due to social distancing, creating a critical blood shortage. If you are healthy, you can donate at various locations throughout the region by making an appointment through Inova Blood Donor Services or the Red Cross (we've heard that the Red Cross is swamped, so try Inova first!).

  • One Pantry at a Time, a GoFundMe organized by Arlington teachers that aims to give a $100 grocery card to every family of students who receive free and reduced lunch in Arlington. The majority of these students are in South Arlington schools, especially along the Columbia Pike corridor.

  • Arlington Food Assistance Center, our neighbors here in South Arlington, have seen their food reserves dwindle amidst rising food insecurity. Monetary donations enable them to quickly buy needed food while preserving social distance.

  • Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) supports the needs of Arlington's homeless population, most of whom are along the Columbia Pike corridor. A-SPAN is requesting monetary gifts to meet emergency needs , as well as donations of cleaning supplies (bleach wipes, bleach spray, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer) that enable them to continue service provision safely. Drop Off Location: 2020A 14th Street North Arlington, VA 22201. Please phone (703) 228-7803 in advance so that staff can arrange to receive your donation in a safe manner.

  • Arlington Thrive provides same-day, emergency financial assistance to Arlington County residents who experience sudden financial crisis such as temporary unemployment or illness. They are requesting donations to their emergency relief fund.

  • Restoration Anglican Church is holding a food drive for Glebe Elementary School families experiencing emergency food needs. Read more here about how you can support the generous work of our “mother church” during this time.

Thank you for being a generous church. Thank you for loving your neighbors. Thank you for checking on one another. Keep washing your hands, turning off the news, and praying in love.


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