By J.J. McQueen,
Special to the AFRO

At the turn of each new year the world is always excited about the good things to come. It’s one of those things that gets celebrated no matter what’s happening around the globe. However, you can’t celebrate what’s ahead without first remembering the work of the previous year. 

Reflecting is something that Pastor John Watts and the Kingdom Life Church Apostolic  (KLCA) has done since the start of the new year. Why? The reminder of who they are, and what they’ve meant to Southwest Baltimore surrounds them daily. 

Two young boys carrying a basket of food given to them at a food drive hosted by Kingdom Life Apostolic Church. (Photo by J.J. McQueen)

Throughout the past two years, it has been smaller ministries like KLCA that have quietly served as hub to distribute important resources to the community, and a diffuser to conflict. 

During the pandemic, Pastor Watts and his congregation understood the sacrifices that were needed to help sustain his church’s community. In answering the call of meeting the needs of the people, KLCA wasn’t excluded from its own adversity. Like many churches around the country, the southwest Baltimore church went unoccupied outside of the occasional walk-thru by church leadership. 

Left in the blue coat, Pastor John Watts passing out masks to community.. (Photo by J.J. McQueen)

With giving down due to no in-person attendance, building maintenance and upkeep begin to fail. The unfortunate challenges came at a time when insurance and construction companies were understaffed because the impact of COVID. 

However, despite the challenges of the building’s physical needs, Pastor Watts and his congregation never wavered in their outreach efforts. By partnering with Safe Streets, We Our Us, Baltimore Police Department and the F.O.I., KLCA and its partners have been able to provide food and essential resources to Brooklyn and the surrounding community for 100 plus weeks since the start of the pandemic.  

Standing on and pointing is Maurice Blanding food delivery volunteer giving instructions on where food orders should be delivered. (Photo by J.J. McQueen)

How did the pandemic increase Pastor Watts’ community awareness?

After having being raised in neighboring Ann Arundel County, Pastor Watts was no stranger to the needs of South Baltimore and the Brooklyn Park areas. It wasn’t until he was called to take over the current KLCA location that he more completely understood the mission of the neighborhood. 

Brooklyn Park area families leaving Kingdom Life Church’s food drive. (Photo by J.J. McQueen)

Over the past two years the pandemic slowed he and others down long enough to gain clarity on their life assignments. With KLCA sitting in the heart of Brooklyn, a place that some deem as the ‘Forgotten Part of Baltimore City’, Pastor Watts sees it as something else. 

“The pandemic reminded me of the importance of the church within our community. We have a small church, but our relevance was found during the pandemic. Now when I’m walking up and down our street I hear people telling others that I’m their pastor. Many of whom have never been to my church.” -Pastor John Watts

Safe Streets Volunteer loading food for drop-offs. (Photo by J.J. McQueen)

Moments like those opened the eyes of Pastors all around the country. The hard stop of the pandemic gave residents all over the opportunity to get to know one another. It’s an idea that successful ministries through history have built their foundations one. 

What changed the most for Pastor Watts? 

As a man of the faith for over 40-years, one would think that he’d seen it all, but despite the years on the books, Pastor hadn’t seen it all. The time of hardship brought about a new perspective for him. 

“When time stood still, it changed where my revelation of who God is came from. My new revelation came from the streets. The pandemic made it necessary for me to see the ‘dope boys’ on the corners. I was able to see them as humans, because I got to spend time with them. I was able to see and hear their hearts.” -Pastor John Watts

The importance of relationships have been a common theme throughout days of COVID, and as the days ahead reveal the true impact of the pandemic. People like Pastor Watts and the Kingdom Life Church community continue the work and walk of faith.
For more information on the community efforts of Kingdom Life Church click here.

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