One of America’s oldest and largest African-American churches, Alfred Street Baptist Church, in Alexandria, Virginia, announced Tuesday that it has donated more than $1 million in surplus tithes to help a variety of community-based organizations since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
"A few years ago we were blessed to be able to donate $1 Million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That's why I'm so grateful to God that Alfred Street Baptist Church can continue to be a blessing to so many people in the community throughout our nation during this pandemic," the Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of the historic 10,000-member church, said in a statemement.
The donation was made as part of an initiative called Tithe-the-Tithe, that was started as a direct response to needs that emerged during the coronavirus pandemic for many organizations serving vulnerable communities.
“Clearly there was a lot of concern, dare I say even fear, some panic of what COVID would do. What would our numbers specifically, would our giving go down? People not being in the building and virtual space and online, would we be able to support ministry? Would we have to lay people off? Would we have to shut this down or stop that?” explained Wesley in a video published Friday.
“In the very first two weeks of worship online, our giving was up almost 25-30%. I really felt the Lord saying, ‘Now what are you going to do with this surplus?' That the surplus God gave was an opportunity not to build up bank reserves, not to build up our own accounts but we are demanded to give that away. And that’s when Tithe-the-Tithe came to my spirit,” Wesley said.
The church’s CFO, the Rev. Sedric Roberts, said when the idea of tithing 10% of the church’s tithes back to the community was pitched to him, he struggled because in his professional capacity, he felt like it was time to be frugal.
They pressed on with the idea anyway and Wesley said when they shared what they were doing with the tithes, people began to give more.
“What I’ve learned is when you open up your hands to God, God can bless you. He takes with an open hand and God gives into an open hand,” Roberts said.
So thanks to the church’s open hand several organizations like Hopkins House Preschool Academy, a daycare for essential workers which received $27,000 from the initiative, got critical assistance when they needed it most.
“This past March, we were lost at Hopkins House. With very little tuition coming in and federal help weeks away, our only choice would have been to lay our staff off. Abandoning them with no way to feed their own children or keep a roof over their heads. In its darkest hour loving members of Alfred Street Baptist Church extended your hands with an enormously generous gift and made it possible for Hopkins House to keep our staff paid until federal help arrived. For this we are enormously grateful,” said J. Glenn Hopkins, CEO of Hopkins House.
Other organizations that received help from the church were: Children's National Hospital, which got $50,000 for testing children; Simon Elementary School received $130,000, in a partnership with Microsoft for Go Tablets for every student; Unity Health Care received $25,000 for personal protective equipment, supplies and medicine; Polk Elementary School was given $10,000 for iPads for special-needs children to aid distance learning; D.C. Rape Crisis Center got $20,000 for a new database system to help meet emerging and transition needs of providing tele-health services to survivors of sexual violence and emergency crisis support sessions to survivors of sexual violence; Bright Beginnings received $25,000 for supplies for remote learning; Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington received $4,000 for safe space for childcare for first responders and frontline workers; and Union Baptist Church in Hartford, Connecticut, received $15,000 for providing hot community breakfasts.
Smaller churches that have had to shutter during the pandemic have benefited from Alfred Street Baptist Church’s largesse as well.
"There are smaller churches that minister to people in real and relevant ways that don't have resources [that ASBC has], and during this season of not being able to worship, some of them may struggle financially. So one of the things that we're going to do is take some of that 10% and identify a church and/or an organization every week and just give a donation to them. And this is because we are not competitors, we are brothers and sisters in the same work and we want to support everyone with no strings attached," Wesley said.