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Home Column NYC's Mayor and the Pursuit of Faith amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

NYC’s Mayor and the Pursuit of Faith amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

NYC’s Mayor and the Pursuit of Faith amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

Faith is unseen but felt,
faith is strength when we feel we have none,
faith is hope when all seems lost.
– Catherine Pulsifer

There’s no question of the importance faith plays amongst the 8.6 million residents of this city. It’s easy, in the midst of adversity brought on by the current health and economic crisis to feel lost. To feel absent of hope.

But there’s always a glimmer.

One merely loses one’s way – something which comes more easily when you’re alone. The churches are closed, as are the synagogues and temples and other places of worship. Thus, those who’ve depended upon their place of worship for spiritual support are left without.

Not so long ago the papers were all going on about COVID-19 victims being buried on Hart Island. They were lashing out about the horrors of the dead being sent there needlessly due to the supposed lack of space at the morgue. A body unclaimed for two weeks will be sent to that potter’s field, best known for mass graves filled with the unidentified, the homeless, the indigent.

Our response? Of course they are!

It’s sad how a certain reality never found its way into the heads of these people. The truth is, that there are those within our senior populations who are abandoned, if not merely alone.  Remember, the elderly are most at risk of succumbing to Novel Coronavirus.

There are, as well, the homeless and all the many loners for whom a lack of contact with someone near, for as much as a month or more, would be the norm.

Along with those who are alone, and in need of their customary faith-based support, are all the many who are suffering economically. People worrying about supporting their families and concerned over their own livelihoods. You can throw in the many businesses at risk of closing, regardless of any governmental financial assistance that might be offered.

I like to think that faith goes a long way in providing sustenance for a great many of these people.

Our city needs for our faith-based communities to be recognized in the face of our eventual return to normality. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has hinted that he would be doing exactly that. That is, bringing about an all inclusive examination of that which needs to be considered in the days, weeks and months ahead in the face of a recovery.

We’re sincerely hoping that New York City is renewed economically, socially and most importantly, in the spiritual sense. There’s great opportunity to be had in a “re-imagined city”. An idea put forth by both the Mayor and our Governor. It’s also a sentiment held dearly by yours truly.

Let’s bring New York City back. Better, Stronger and more Enlightened.

Mayor Bill de Blasio thus far on the subject of Faith in the face of recovery

As part of an approach to better get the word out, about the city’s response to the COVID-19, the Mayor’s made an announcement on April 24. In addition to a public awareness campaign, there would be a grass roots effort to the many folks of varying ethnicities and languages.

Reaching out through trusted leaders would be one method.

“So, some of the things we’re doing particularly to bring into play voices that communities know and trust. Four tele-town halls with faith leaders and those will reach tens of thousands of folks. Another crucial voice that people want to hear from, need to hear from giving them the same kind of guidance,” said Mr. de Blasio

Since then, the COVID related statistics would slowly become less tragic with confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths slowing down. Mentions of an eventual recovery would be heard from both the Mayor and the Governor on a near daily basis.

The Mayor on April 26, “The faith-based community – we already have extraordinary efforts with CORL, the Council of Religious Leaders, with our clergy advisory board. We’re going to bring them together to help guide us in thinking about how we restart the life of faith in this city, but also the crucial role that faith-based communities can play in rebuilding our economy, making sure people are protected, making sure people have what they need in their lives even in this struggle.”

Today, on May 6, the Mayor would follow up on his previous mention of a Faith-Based Advisory Council. It would be headed by Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson.

Mr. Thompson (Deputy Mayor) would also be helping to lead the Small Business Council as well as the Labor Council. All are part of a group of Sector Advisor Councils created for the sake of guiding City Hall’s efforts in reopening the economy as well as returning NYC to its way of life.

The other councils are: Large Businesses; Public Health and Health Care; Arts, Culture, and Tourism; Labor; Nonprofits and Social Services, and Education and Vocational Training

The Mayor’s words today:

“We have seen faith leaders of every background say safety and health of our people first and they’ve had to do really tough things, shutting down worship services, but making sure that always it was about people’s safety, I commend them and thank them for that. The value has been on human beings and human lives and that’s been so powerful and commendable. Now, the practical question now comes into play. How are we going to restart worship services and what’s the right way to do it, when and with what conditions? This is something that like the other kinds of larger gatherings has to be approached very smartly, we’re going to be listening to the voices of our faith leaders as we develop those plans. And again, everything is going to start to move in the coming days and weeks as we put these pieces together, we can project step-by-step their voices will matter immensely, this group will be led by Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson.”

This evening, at the time of this writing, the Mayor’s office issued a press release concerning the appointed members for the first set of Sector Advisory Councils. Those to be involved with the Faith-Based Council are to come later this week as per the Mayor’s Office.

Concerning CORL, COREL & Clergy Advisory Council:

Yours truly is still looking into CORL as mentioned above. There is as well the following which have some sort of connection with City Hall in the past: the Commission of Religious Ecumenical Leaders (COREL) and the Clergy Advisory Council. There’s no clarity if any one, if not all, of these are the same organization merely being referred to wrongly, or if they’ve changed their name at one point or another. COREL’s website is declaring itself as being under construction with these words on its page:

Chairman: His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan
President: The Reverend Dr. A. R. Bernard, Sr.
Vice-President:  Rabbi Joseph Potasnik

We’ve reached out to the Mayor’s office and are still awaiting a response. Once we’ve clarity we’ll report it. We’ll also be following up on the subject as a whole.

Some worthy reads concerning NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Religion:

National Catholic Reporter article titled, ‘Bill de Blasio, New York’s new ‘spiritual but not religious’ mayor‘. A quick read worthy of being read.

Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse article titled, ‘New York City’s unlikely voice for religion: a secular mayor

NY Times article titled, ‘Mayor de Blasio Emerges as an Unexpected Champion of Religion

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