Loving our community in dark times

By Dale Huntington

By Dale Huntington

This is a historical time for all of us.

The last time our country experienced something like this was 102 years ago. My great grandmother was sick with Spanish Flu and pregnant with my grandmother, Ruth.

It was an unprecedented time, and they had to make new rules as they went. We are going to have to do the same thing in our churches.

As church planters, this should be our new norm. We’ve always been told church planting is like “building a plane in the sky.” That silly axiom rings truer today than it did a week ago.


I pastor City Life Church in a diverse and economically challenged neighborhood in San Diego called Mount Hope. Two weeks ago, caring in the age of COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) meant going down to the bus stops and cleaning them off with disinfectant wipes. Many folks who hang out at our bus stops are older and medically fragile, so we thought we would do this often while praying with them.

That changed quickly.

We normally meet in a school about two blocks from my house, but the school closed Friday. As church planters, we’ve been taught to become part of the community. Dhati Lewis—lead pastor of Blueprint Church and vice president of Send Network—teaches that we won’t truly care about the people in a community until we become the community. I’ve found this to be true.

We care about the children at Chollas Mead Elementary because they are our children. We tutor them in math and reading, they play with our kids and they invite us to local parties. The children of this community are extended family.

So, when a crisis hits here, it pierces our hearts.


Our children receive free meals for breakfast and lunch every week. When the school shuts down, they lose their food. And since some are undocumented, they don’t have the same access to government programs like Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).

When the schools closed, the San Diego district made a decision to offer food service to eight geographic areas.  Sadly, our closest one was 53 minutes away.

As a church planter, one of the best things you can do for your community is advocate for children like this. If you are embedded in a community, fight for the children that live there, and make your voice heard for the most vulnerable.

Until the district decided to bring food closer, we held ourselves responsible for feeding the children in our community.

Thankfully, we had earned our principal’s trust over a period of time. We asked our principal to send out an automated call to the surrounding area saying, “City Life Church will have groceries for those in need this Thursday.” In God’s kindness, we raised $1,400 to buy food and were able to hand it out to many grateful families. The teachers from the school also helped.

We’ve also begun taking food to the people in the community who are not involved in the school but have great need. We have a sign in front of my house encouraging people to ask us for food, if needed. In the last two days I’ve prayed safely from a distance for those coming to get food, who are not believers.


Our services have moved online, and we’ve actually had some people “attend” for the first time. Victory can come amidst great suffering and struggle.

We are going to move to all online Bible studies, and we’ve started a daily prayer time online. I have six leaders from my church leading the prayer times at 8:30 a.m., and we’re considering adding an 8:30 p.m. prayer time as well.

My wife is a Zumba teacher at the Jackie Robinson YMCA but she cannot teach right now because of the coronavirus, so she’s moved her class online. It’s fun to hear from the moms in the community about how this time is helping them.

Make no mistake, this is a crisis. As a church planter, we’re allowed to grieve the things we can’t do for a season. We had our largest event of the year canceled. It’s okay to mourn. But it’s not okay to sit still.

Your church, your family and your community need you. We have an opportunity to serve others in ways that were impossible two weeks ago.

I believe millions of people will have stories of God redeeming them in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and I believe He is going to use each of you to write these stories.

Yes, it is dark. But when it is dark, Jesus shines brighter.

Looking for hope and encouragement in this unpredictable season? Click here, for more helpful and practical resources about the coronavirus.

Published March 30, 2020

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Dale Huntington

Dale Huntington is the lead pastor of City Life San Diego—a multiethnic, multi-socioeconomic, multi-generational church. He was formerly the lead singer for the worship band, Shine Like Stars, until he planted City Life in 2015. Dale is probably the worst surfer in San Diego, but he has the most fun.  He is married to his wife, Ashley, and they have two beautiful children. You can connect with him on Twitter at @dalehuntington.