Throughout these days of wandering through the COVID-19 experience, I’ve been using wilderness imagery. For me, the similarities between biblical accounts of wilderness wandering, and our experiences, are strikingly similar.
This past week, another aspect of Israel’s wilderness wanderings bubbled to the surface. When Israel left Egypt, one of the first places they stopped was Mt. Sinai (Exodus 16). Their way of life had changed and they were going to have to learn again, together, how to be the people of God. Things weren’t going to be the same as they were in Egypt. New skills would be learned and dependence upon God would be forged.
In the last several weeks, we have begun to talk more about re-engaging communal life. The relaxing of restrictions is being discussed. The re-opening of corporate worship is closer, but not quite here. Many, including me, believe that this experience will leave a firm imprint on our lives going forward. The exciting part to me is that God has once again been teaching us what it means to be the people of God through this experience.
As you begin to discuss meeting together again as a faith community, there are a lot of unknowns and precautions to consider. I’ve been a part of regular American Baptist meetings over the past few weeks as denominational and regional leaders have discussed what getting back together again might look like. As a result of our conversations, a Re-Opening Discussion Guide has been put together that may be helpful for your own local discussions. We are also continuing to post resources in our COVID-19 Basecamp Group and we’d be happy to let you have access to this information. Please know the ABCCR stands ready to assist you in whatever way we can.
God took the next forty years to form the wilderness community into the people of God before they entered the promised land. None of us knows how long this next season of formation might take, but we have to be patient, exercise trust in God, and resist the urge to let a complaining mindset settle within us. God has been doing some good things in us during our quarantine. Many churches have discovered exciting new possibilities that likely wouldn’t have taken place without this unique experience. Let’s not forget what we’re learning.
- ABCCR Open Forum – We’ll have one open forum this week to pray, share ideas, and ask questions. This week’s forum will be on Wednesday, April 29th at 12 pm. Click on the date for the zoom link.
- ABW Women’s Conference – (Notice) Dear Sisters in Christ, On behalf of the Summer Conference Committee for the American Baptist Women of the Central Region, we are announcing that we will be postponing our 2020 Summer Conference that was to be held on June 5-6, 2020. After much prayer, discernment, and intentional conversations of how to proceed with COVID-19 and all related activities, we feel as a committee that we would be safer to postpone until the summer of 2021. At that point, we will continue planned celebrations of our 100-years of being an ABW organization in the Central Region. Look for further information in the Central Connection, and our American Baptist Women of the Central Region Facebook page. AB Girls is at this point planning on continuing to host their Girls Weekend but will make an official decision around May 15, 2020. We pray you are all safe and healthy, and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Your sisters in Christ, Melissa Newberry (ABWCR President), Cosette Marsh (Conference Associate), and the 2020 Summer Conference Committee.
- Annual Reports – I know we’ve all had more important priorities but we’d love to get your church’s annual report. As of last week, we had received slightly over 10% of our annual reports. You can download a printable form or fill out a digital form from the Region’s website. It would be very helpful if your congregation would fill out your report.
- Carey Nieuwhof is one of those voices I have paid attention to for the last 10 years. He’s a Canadian pastor who has a lot of experience with churches in transition. Recently, he wrote an article about assessing the changes we’ve been going through over the past month. I believe it’s worth a few minutes of your time.
- PPP Additional Allocation – Last week, Congress allocated additional funding for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). If your congregation deems it appropriate to apply for the government stimulus available to churches or non-profit institutions and you’d like some help with the application, Rita Adams, our ABCCR Financial Administrator, is knowledgeable and willing to help. Email her and she’ll assist you.
- Prayer Focus – Pray for our elected officials and civic leaders who are often faced with impossible decisions. Pray for wisdom for your congregational leaders as they wrestle with the logistics and timing questions that will eventually come with re-opening aspects of congregational life.
- ABCCR Board of Directors / Executive Committee – These meetings will take place by zoom video conference on May 1-2, 2020.
- ABW Women’s Conference – POSTPONED until Summer 2021. See the full announcement above.
- Camping 2020 – No final decisions have been made at this point as to what camping will look like for summer 2020. A lot will depend on when stay-at-home orders are lifted.
- American Baptist Women in Ministry, June 16-19, 2020, at Green Lake Conference Center – CANCELED
- International Ministries Missions Conference, July 14-17, 2020, at Green Lake Conference Center – CANCELED
- Camp Christy Work Weekend, July 17-19, 2020
- ABCCR Board of Directors / Executive Committee, September 11-12, 2020
- Space For Grace, September 21-25, 2020 – CANCELED
- Annual Gathering 2020 – October 2-3, 2020 at Cross Wind Conference Center. Decisions will be made mid-May about any adjustments to our plans imposed upon us by COVID-19.
- ABC-USA Pastor Best Practices – The Regional Executive Ministers Council (REMC) of American Baptist Churches USA has released a new document, “REMC Recommended Best Practices for Pastors During the COVID-19 Crisis”. The best practices recommended by the REMC touch on worship services, memorial services, weddings, and pastoral care.
- ABCCR Disaster Relief – If you are encountering a new ministry opportunity that has arisen out of COVID-19 hardships for people in your community, and you don’t know how to fund this opportunity, email me and let’s talk about it.
- American Baptist Call to Prayer – American Baptist leaders invited us to make our default response one of prayer in these wilderness days.
- CARES / Paycheck Protection Program – If your congregation has decided to apply for the government stimulus available to churches or non-profit institutions and you’d like some help with the application, Rita Adams, our ABCCR Financial Administrator, is knowledgeable and willing to help. Email her and she’ll assist you.
- Central Region MailChimp List – If you’d like to be on our email list, Katherine Cunningham, our marketing and communications staff member will help get you on the list.
- Central Seminary / Pinnacle Leadership – FREE Emerging Church Practices webinar every Tuesday at 10:00 am CST. There are great ideas shared here! Join in!
- COVID-19 Basecamp Group – If you’d like to have access to our Basecamp group of COVID-19 resources for worship, ministry ideas, and other resources, let us know.
- David Elsbury Insights from Open Forum – Several of you took part in our open forums last week where David Elsbury offered insights on staying mentally healthy during these challenging times. David referenced an article that we’d encourage you to look at as a reference. Thank you, David, for your time and expertise! If any of you would like to contact David directly, he’s open to any of you contacting him directly.
- Festival of Homiletics Continuing Education Opportunity – The Festival of Homiletics is held each May in the Atlanta or Minneapolis area. It’s a chance to hear several preachers of note as well as guests who speak to the year’s keynote theme. Ordinarily, it’s a plane trip, hotel stays, expenses, etc., etc. Given the COVID 19 situation, they have reorganized the 2020 Conference as a virtual event. You can sign up to participate online. (Fees apply if you wish to have the content later “on demand.”) This year has a Creation and Preaching emphasis. If you are looking for continuing education, May 18-22, 2020, this may be a great opportunity while we’re still cooped up or wary of traveling in the coming weeks.
- Fuller Theological Seminary has produced a set of videos that provide introductions to different books of the Bible. This may be a helpful resource for you to incorporate into your discipleship strategy.
- Kansas ABCCR Churches – Many of you have likely read about Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s executive order to limit the size of groups (she set the size at 10 people) being overturned by the Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council. Then, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Governor Kelly’s executive order. I have been on several conference calls with city officials where this has resulted in confusion. If asked, my recommendation is that congregations not meet face-to-face until this crisis abates.
- Kansas Health Foundation Impact and Capacity Grants – The Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) is opening its annual Impact and Capacity Grant (ICG) Initiative to nonprofits across Kansas that work daily to improve health in our state as they respond to emergent needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonprofits are eligible to request a one-year grant of up to $25,000 for organizational recovery, to maintain operational stability or to bolster support to communities and populations most impacted.
- Ministry During Pandemic – FREE BOOK – Judson Press is offering a free book about ministry during a pandemic.
- MMBB Assistance – You may qualify for a one-time MMBB assistance grant. Call MMBB directly to apply (800-986-6222).
- One Great Hour of Sharing – As the United States and the globe deal with the death and devastation wrought by the coronavirus, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and International Ministries (IM), also known as the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society—on behalf of American Baptist Churches USA—seek One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS), COVID emergency support to help families, churches, and communities find relief and recovery across the United States, Puerto Rico and countries around the world.
- Online Giving additional info – Like so many nonprofits, many congregations will face significant financial struggles as a result of COVID-19. Congregations rely heavily on in-person contributions from individuals attending services that have been canceled (or moved online) as their communities shelter in place, and while there are a variety of ways to give, online and otherwise, all congregations were not prepared for a complete shift overnight. An NSCEP report discovered only 46% of congregations had some type of online giving set up before the COVID-19 crisis. There are some other interesting findings in this report if you’re interested. If we can assist you in setting up an online giving platform, please let me know.
- Online Worship – Joel Schroeder, an ABCCR pastor, is offering his experience and knowledge to help with your online worship. Feel free to email him for tips and advice.
- Video Message from Jeff Woods – Our Acting General Secretary, Jeff Woods, shared a video message with all American Baptists.