Seattle Childcare Proves Church Essential to Community during COVID-19

 In All Church of God, Change the Story, CHOG, Give Life, The Way, Western

By Stefanie Leiter

Little did Talalotu “T. J.” Samuelu Jr. know that his first sermon as the new pastor of The Fairview Church in Seattle, Washington, would be only one of two delivered in person. Following his February arrival as lead pastor, Seattle became the first epicenter of COVID-19. Immediately, decisive leadership was needed from T. J. with a congregation barely knowing him or his leadership style.

T. J. and his family notified the church that he was accepting the senior pastor position on New Year’s Day. Four weeks later, he, his wife, Courtney, and children Tre, Elekana, and Isaia would move from Idaho to Seattle. Thrust immediately into the nation’s virus hot spot, T. J. began providing leadership for protecting the congregation and keeping a critical ministry open for essential workers and first responders. Online services and sermons came quickly, but so did work for keeping their child center open.

Faithful to the Seattle area, The Fairview Church was established in 1906 as Woodland Park Church of God. Birthed from the church was the Fairview Christian School in 1984 and a daycare center known as Fairview Child Center. This center has been providing expanded services to children since 2001.

“Early on in the crisis we were committed to helping the community. The most tangible way was to love on people,” T. J. says. “The childcare center is the one constant essential service we can remain involved in for staying connected.”

T. J. Samuelu

T. J. notes that normal capacity for the center is over sixty children. Currently, it is functioning with twenty to twenty-five. Only three families withdrew completely. Two families left because of moves. Relying on their faith in God to provide, their doors remained open to those needing daycare, even with the steep decline in attendance due to stay-at-home orders and parents keeping their children at home.

Safe childcare has been a blessing for those in need, like Anjie Breiling and her husband. Breiling, an executive assistant at BlackRock, was early deemed an essential employee for this hedge fund asset management company. Her husband, a CPA, was entering into his busiest season, working fifty- to sixty-hour weeks. The Breiling’s son has attended the Fairview Child Center since infancy in 2017. “With a social and active child, it is hard for him to understand what is happening since we cannot take him to see his friends or other family members,” Anjie comments. “When the daycare decided to keep their doors open, it provided a daily social outlet for seeing his friends.” Anjie notes that many other friends are not as lucky. These friends find their daycare centers closing during the stay-at-home orders.

The Fairview Church implemented several measures for keeping families, children, and childcare providers safe. Every person entering the church campus is scanned with a thermometer before intake. T. J. also noted the dedicated maintenance staff at Fairview intentionally purchased cleaning products recommended by Washington State to enhance their center’s sanitization. Every day this intentionality includes wiping down the smallest of locations, along with common touch-points, like doorknobs and handrails.

“I am grateful the childcare center is our landing spot in connecting to the community. Congregational support has been a blessing,” said T. J. “It would be easy for the congregation to think, ‘Who is this new guy keeping the daycare open?’” Confidence was afforded the new pastor by a congregation seeing the local need.

T. J. notes that, at least three times a week, he is connecting through online services, e-mail, video, personal phone calls, and social media for letting older congregants know the church is still present. “We are a legacy church, so we are continuing our mission that the church is not a building, but people serving those who need us right now.” Giving normalcy to children and their parents in time of crisis will have future benefits the church can only imagine. This seemingly huge undertaking for serving such small numbers, however, is the way of Jesus.

 


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Stefanie Leiter graduated from Anderson University with a B.A. in mass communications and a specialization in public relations. In 2016, she graduated with her master of science in communication from Purdue University and received a graduate certificate in strategic communications in 2015. She is currently an assistant professor of public relations at Anderson University and is earning her PhD in communication from Regent University. Stefanie has been married to David since 2005 and they have two children: Ava and Jackson. The family attends Madison Park Church of God.

Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.

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