As you continue to seek God’s wisdom for next steps, know that I am praying for all of us to see God’s guidance displayed, his creativity poured out, and his sustaining peace and strength delivered to each of us.
First, please find attached a letter from me to our congregation members. It is offered as a possible resource for your use. In my experience, especially when addressing challenging issues, including giving, it helps to have a voice from outside the local congregation speak as well, so I send it along for you to forward to your congregation’s email list should you sense it would be of assistance.
Second, I expect that many of us are experiencing COVID-19 info overload, but I want to keep information flowing to you as I receive it. Some notes after yesterday’s MCUSA Leadership briefing and the Ohio governor’s briefing today:
- Information both from the denomination and from government entities is suggesting that this COVID-19 battle may be a long term fight. While we as Christians should have every confidence in God’s grace and provision, and while we can and should be praying for God to bring a swift end to the spread of this virus, evidence is suggesting that, in the absence of God’s direct intervention, the disruption caused by this virus both in health and in economic impact is likely to linger for a significant period of time. For instance, the Ohio governor’s briefing today suggested that we may not see the peak of this first wave of infections until mid-May, with the “worst case” models suggesting the possibility of as many as 10,000 new cases a day in Ohio at that peak time. Again, that is worst case, but it seems wise to me to recognize that we may be required to continue in a decentralized virtual contact situation for a period more likely measured in weeks and even months rather than days.
- Therefore, it remains a priority for each of us as leaders, working with our leadership teams, to develop long term pastoral care and ministry delivery systems. For help in setting up such systems, refer to mcusa.org and click on the “coronavirus resources” banner; you will find several forms of training there for decentralizing ministry, developing online tools, and even a seminar from Pastoral Leadership Institute on “self-care” in the midst of the stress. Also, contact us if you are in need of resources—we can provide contacts with others who may be able to assist.
- The stimulus package just passed by Congress includes an incentive for charitable giving—a new deduction of $300, available even if you don’t itemize (see https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-new-charitable-deduction-2020-3). Also, several non-profit experts are evaluating the small business “no interest loan” provisions of that package as to whether churches might be eligible to access those, particularly the provision that turns that loan into a grant if the loan is used to support specific payroll and utilities costs. The details are not yet clear enough to make that determination with confidence, but keep your eyes open for updates on this as the specific delivery programs come into focus in the weeks to come.
- Given the continuing virus impact, the Regional Conference originally scheduled for April 24th at Pleasant Grove will be replaced with a “ZOOM Conference” on that same date that will allow us to meet digitally to fulfill our bylaw requirement for an annual business meeting. Be watching for information coming soon.
- In general, keep communication lines open with us in the regional office; let us know how your church is addressing the COVID-19 challenges, ask questions, and we will seek to find answers.
May God pour out continuing blessing, direction, and power through your church as you keep pursuing His wisdom and provision. Thanks for your faithfulness!