Re-Opening of Churches – Conversation for all Church Leaders
As things keep changing, we want to continue the conversation about reopening churches, developing safe and best practices. There is also the question about what churches might maintain into the future. We invite all Moderators, Church Leaders, and Clergy to be part of the conversation.
Suggested Phased Reopening Resources
There are many discussions occurring in various places about re-opening churches and what that means. Until there is a vaccine, there needs to be a focus on protecting people and not spreading the disease. Remember, many people are asymptomatic and not aware that they may be spreading the disease. Also, as people begin traveling more, the virus can easily spread across communities and state lines.
Re-opening churches means considering much more than Sunday worship. Creating a Phase-in Plan allows Church Leadership to anticipate and plan ahead while providing the entire congregation with an understanding as various decisions are made. Remember – it is about caring for the health and well-being of everyone, particularly those who are older or with compromised immune systems.
While making plans for how to Re-Open, we also encourage you to begin to assess what you have learned about new ways of being the church – ways that might continue into the future. What have been the joys you discovered by being forced to do things in different ways? How might they continue?
UCC launches “Recovering Hope,” emotional care in COVID-19
A multidisciplinary United Church of Christ team is launching “Recovering Hope,” which is rolling out resources for emotional and spiritual care to pastors, chaplains, and other church leaders, congregants, vulnerable communities, and beyond. “Recovering Hope” is offering resources, indexed at www.ucc.org/recovering_hope in a variety of formats, including virtual workshops, referrals to vetted providers, and other easily accessible resources from the UCC and beyond.
Zoom Meetings for Clergy
For All Clergy – A hour of Conversations and Prayer
- Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern (10:00 a.m. Central)
- Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/479440102
For Specialized Ministers
- Last Tuesday of the Month at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (8:30 a.m. Central)
- Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/354744689
Pandemic grants for churches added to UCC National Setting COVID-19 relief response
The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the novel coronavirus pandemic. As one, the national officers have collectively identified $2.6 million in COVID-19 relief, $1.5 million in loans that will be administered through the Cornerstone Fund and another $1.1 million in micro-grants. The grant application process opened June 1. Grant money will be available through the process detailed on the UCC website.
We want to highlight one type of grant provided through UCC Disaster Ministries and is disbursed through the Southeast Conference. It is called UCC COVID-19 Conference Recovery Grant. This is specifically designed to meet the needs created or worsened due to COVID-19 in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The grants aid churches in their efforts to provide assistance to individuals and families (not churches themselves). The Conference actually needs to apply for the funds from Disaster Ministries. So please let me know if your church could benefit from such a grant so that the Conference can make an application.
UCC Cornerstone Fund Pandemic Relief Loan
The United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund Pandemic Relief Loan program is available to churches in participating Conferences, including the Southeast Conference. While loan amounts and terms can vary by Conference, the Southeast Conference program is offering a limited number of 12-month, interest-only loans of up to $5,000 at a rate of 2.50%. Loan applications are required and are due by December 31, 2020. Visit cornerstonefund.org/sec to download the loan application.
Special Southeast Conference Webinar: Impact of the Pandemic on Church Finances
In times of uncertainty, it is natural to worry about church finances! Pastors, church treasurers, and other lay leaders were invited to participate in a Zoom virtual meeting specifically for the Southeast Conference to discuss stewardship and financial concerns in these times of challenge. They were joined by Andrew Warner, UCC Generosity Outreach Officer, and Patrick Duggan and Susan Mitchell of the UCC Building & Loan Fund.
The Pandemic and Mental Health – Recording
If you missed our very informative Zoom conversation Rev with Sarah Lund, Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice, you can view the recording here.
Tips and Tricks for Online Worship Webinar
For many of us, we have been worshiping online for a while. Some of us have found the platform that works best for our setting including Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube, while others are still trying to find the rhythm that fits best for us. Join Southeast Conference Communications Director Don Harris and Associate Conference Minister Heather Fosburgh as they share some of the tricks and tips they have discovered around online worship.
Have a “Virtual Visit” by the Conference Staff
Usually, Char Burch, Heather Fosburgh, and Carrole Moss would be visiting churches on Sundays, bringing greetings, preaching, etc. Since they are now unable to travel due to COVID-19, they have been amazed and appreciative of the creative virtual worship services of our local churches online. Even though we all are at home, the staff is willing to be with you virtually! They can join your church live via Zoom, or they can create a video that can be inserted within your worship. Just let them know! ([email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected])
Facebook Group for Clergy and Laity
We have a Facebook Group for our clergy and local church lay leadership: https://www.facebook.com/groups/654449305307321/. The group provides an asynchronous online forum to ask questions of each other, share experiences, make suggestions, offer support, etc.
Are Churches Liable if People Get Sick?
This is one of the questions being asked as churches consider re-opening for in-person worship. The UCC Insurance Board has created a webpage that may help answer those questions, along with many other topics related to the pandemic: insuranceboard.org/covid-19-resources/. They continually update and add new resources offering guidance on addressing the most significant issues and concerns facing houses of worship during COVID-19.
UCC’s “Daily Briefing” on COVID-19 provides facts to fight fear
The Humanitarian and Development Team of the Cleveland, Ohio-based United Church of Christ wants to ensure that members of the wider church and beyond get facts and not false information about the coronavirus pandemic. So it brought in a public health professional to act as the UCC “point person” for the church’s COVID-19 response.
Barbara Baylor (a member of First Congregational Church in Atlanta) began work Friday, March 20, as UCC Disaster Ministries’ Health Liaison. Her job: to help decipher all of the material available from a plethora of respected sources and create an online daily brief that simplifies the data and shares the latest information about the virus. The COVID-19 Daily Briefing (https://www.ucc.org/daily_covid_19_brief) will continue daily Monday through Friday throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Volunteers Needed for Telechaplaincy
The need for spiritual care in this unprecedented time is critical. We are beginning to receive calls from healthcare institutions that need additional spiritual care provider assistance. The Association of Professional Chaplains is seeking volunteers to meet these requests. If you would like to be considered for telechaplaincy support, please complete this form Names and information will only be shared with institutional leadership working to meet the needs of those whom they serve. If you have questions or need more information, please email [email protected].
Additional Resources as We Cope with COVID-19
- United Church of Christ Denominational Resources: The UCC has a wealth of information: https://www.ucc.org/coronavirus
- Insurance Board: There are also many resources on the UCC Insurance Board website: ww.insuranceboard.org
- Horizon Stewardship, an organization that partners with several United Methodist groups, has provided a variety of good resources for church leaders, including their series on “Resilient Leadership:” https://horizons.net/covid-19-resources/
- Mental Health Resources: As the pandemic continues issues of mental health are becoming more prevalent as people are dealing with anxiety, fear, lack of routines, etc. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a free resource created to assist during the COVID-19 crisis. Click to download.
- The UCC Mental Health Network has a helpful post about assisting others in dealing with isolation. Look for the article “Overcoming Isolation:” http://mhn-ucc.blogspot.com/
- Offer of Meditative, Therapeutic Music: Rev. Jean Norton is offering to provide therapeutic harp music to create quiet or mediation offerings for church worship and individual live debriefing/harp sessions for chaplains and health care professionals as they cope with stress. Jean is a Board Certified Chaplain, a Clinical Music Intern with Harp for the Healing Clinical Musician Certification Program. For more information, contact Jean at [email protected].