Methodist Churches Host COVID-19 Pop-up Clinic to Minimize Spread of Virus in Beaumont
By Lindsay Peyton
Two congregations in the Texas Annual Conference – Trinity and McCabe-Roberts Avenue UMCs in Beaumont – are working together to offer free COVID-19 testing. A pop-up clinic, in partnership with American Family Care, opened June 22 through June 27 and continues June 29 through July 2.
Trinity’s senior pastor Tommy Williams said the idea for a testing site, sponsored by the church, came as he wondered how to best serve the community during lockdown. “I was thinking, how do you reach out to the community at a time when you’re supposed to be distanced?” he recalled.
At the same time, Williams was troubled that the virus was disproportionately affecting some populations more than others, including minorities and the uninsured.
Williams turned to prayer – and soon the idea of a pop-up testing site came to him. He started researching the idea and called pastor Dr. Rodney Graves at McCabe-Roberts Avenue UMC to brainstorm. “We hatched up a plan,” Williams said.
Graves remembers when Williams first reached out to him. “He had a heart for helping the area that could benefit from this the most,” Graves said.
Graves explained that affordable and accessible testing would benefit the neighborhood around McCabe-Roberts Avenue UMC. “I’m really hopeful that we’ll get a good response, because the need is great,” Graves said.
The two churches joined with American Family Clinic, an urgent care clinic. “They show up and do the testing, all of the lab stuff,” Williams said.
McCabe-Roberts Avenue UMC agreed to house the clinic at its location, and American Family Care will provide patients on site with access to a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner by phone. Volunteers at Trinity UMC have been making appointments ahead of the visit by phone.
Grant money at Trinity will also be used for signage, education and communication. Students from Lamar University’s public health program also volunteered to help spread the word about the free testing.
Williams said that the coronavirus pandemic has shown how truly interconnected everyone is. “Our welfare is tied to each other,” he said. ‘We are all connected. My health and welfare literally are connected to yours.”
He is reminded of Jeremiah 29:7: “ Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Williams explained that the prophet Jeremiah taught the ancient Israelites to invest in the welfare of the community in a time of crisis — because communities can only recover and thrive when all human beings flourish.
“Our communities are facing the challenge of this unseen virus and its many fallouts,” Williams said. “Our physical health, as well as our mental and emotional wellness, is at stake, and the economic and financial impact is enormous as well. How we recover depends on how we work together.”
Testing is a way to take positive action in the midst of the current health crisis, Williams continued. “It’s a small effort, a small pop-up testing site at a church, but it’s a start,” he said. “And I’m hoping that some long-term seeds are planted in this city.”
Faith leaders can help expand testing sites. “The scaling up of this testing effort will have ripple effects across our community as healthier people mean healthier families and a healthier community sharing life together,” Williams said.
The ultimate goal is to make possible more equitable healthcare, Williams added. “This is where you have to start,” he said. “There are people who don’t have the option to stay home. They get paid hourly or they don’t get paid. They often don’t have insurance. This is a first step.”
Graves said that promoting health is an important role for the church. “The same God who saves our souls wants our bodies to be in good health,” he said. “Health is vitally important.”
He turned to John 10:10, when Jesus states: “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”
That abundance means life spent in joy, peace, happiness and health, Graves explained. Hosting the pop-up clinic is an opportunity for the church to promote health in the community. “We get a chance to begin moving in a good direction, even though it’s temporary,” he said.
He hopes that the clinic will help Beaumont residents minimize the spread of the virus and become more informed about COVID-19. “As people come through here, they will also get informed about the seriousness of this,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
For free COVID-19 testing appointments at McCabe-Roberts Avenue UMC, call 409-240-1494.