Tag Archives: coronavirus

A Note from Conrad Martin, Director of Finance

Many of us feel incredibly helpless as we watch the news. We want to help. We want to find medical supplies for the health workers who are caring for patients. We know of so many who are unemployed or struggling financially due to COVID-19. There are so many requests these days for financial assistance as charities across the nation face a decline in giving. Where to begin? Should we start with those with which we have a personal connection?  Some of the charities in need are just down the street; our congregations have a personal connection with many of these and have even already supported them financially.

One thing that has become very evident over the past two weeks is that our churches are more than bricks and mortar.  Our churches are people; they are us. As I read and watch what local congregations are doing during this “crisis”, it is apparent that the church staff are putting in overtime to serve isolated congregations. In many churches, staffing is the largest percentage of a church’s budget. Given that staff are working extra hard during this pandemic, we as an isolated community should put in a little extra effort to support our congregations financially, even if we aren’t meeting in a building. Not only will our church staff be supported financially, but the broader ministry of the church will be enabled to continue as many others need the church now, more than ever.

Through the Valley of Shadows

Give to the
Shalom Mutual Aid Fund*


Steve Kriss

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

My last article was about 10 days ago. We were beginning to glimpse the seriousness of the coronavirus.  We slowly began to reconsider and reschedule events.

To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the rapid change in the situation that would mean that nearly all our member congregations, from California to Vermont, wouldn’t physically gather. Then, I wrote that I’d still get tacos and pho and go to the gym.  For now, those of us who live in Philadelphia can still get take-out, but, with non-essential businesses closed, I’m doing my workouts in the basement at home.

Leadership is tested in changing situations.  We continue to prioritize localized decision-making across our Conference that is responsive to the needs of the community, emphasizing love of God and love of neighbor.  Pennsylvania Governor Wolf said that our commonwealth has not seen this kind of disruption since the Civil War.  Yet God is with us and the Spirit empowers us to be and share the Good News, even when the best thing we can do is to remain in our homes as much as possible.

In the meantime, nearly all our energy is going into bracing for what might come, honoring our government’s suggestions on best practices around gathering and distancing.  Financial needs have emerged quickly among vulnerable individuals and communities in our Conference.  We will need to act together to share our resources well in the weeks and months ahead.

Across our Conference, we are still meeting.  Many congregations are finding ways to use new technology (like Zoom and Facebook) as well as renewing older technology (like phone calls) to stay connected.  We really do need each other in this time, both to make it through and to maintain hope that there will be life after the crisis.  Conference staff are gathering pastors virtually to dialogue together in English, Spanish, and Indonesian.  We are gathering for prayer weekly and are offering online equipping as well.  We are in this struggle together.

Yet Asian American neighbors are experiencing acts of aggression and racism in this time.  We cannot be people of fear but rather people of love who speak and act in ways that don’t allow racism to flourish in our midst.  I am committed to ongoing accompaniment and advocacy for the Asian American members and communities across our Conference: the peace of our land is dependent on the recognition of God’s imprint on each person.    I encourage all of us to choose our words and actions wisely and sensitively so that we are people of healing and hope.

While many of our Conference Related Ministries have shut down, our human service providers are experiencing higher degrees of need.  Our retirement communities are especially vulnerable and operating at high levels of vigilance.  We will do well to remember Frederick Living, Living Branches, and the Community at Rockhill in prayer.   Ripple Community Inc in Allentown has committed to remaining open and accessible to those people who need food and accompaniment; they’re looking for partners to prepare sandwiches and to help supplement the sudden influx of needs in the community center there.  Crossroads Community Center in Philadelphia has also seen an increase in needs, particularly for food.  As a long-term ministry presence in the Fairhill neighborhood, Crossroads has credibility to provide resources during this time. Together as a conference community, we’ll look for ways to support both of these urban ministries in the coming weeks.

The familiar words of Psalm 23 have become a guide for me in these days: “Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil …. Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  We trust in God’s care, even in this overwhelming time, and we look for ways to express our trust in God while extending God’s love and care for our neighbors.

Watch the video of Executive Minister Steve Kriss on Facebook Live Tuesday, March 24, talking about living our formational, missional, and intercultural priorities in a time of crisis.

*The Shalom Fund supports pastors, congregations and ministries in direct response to the Coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis.   We will seek to respond to the most vulnerable within our membership and neighborhoods by empowering local ministries to meet real needs with Christ’s love and generosity in a time of fear and anxiety.

Tes Iman Disaat Krisis

Sebagai immigran yang tinggal di Amerika Serikat,Krisis Corona virus semakin menambah beban yang harus dipikul hari demi hari. Krisis ini adalah ujian iman untuk tetap menaruh harapan kepada Tuhan.
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Test of Faith in the Time of Crisis

As immigrants living in the United States, the Corona Virus Crisis adds to the burden that must be borne day after day. This crisis is a test of faith for us immigrants to keep putting hope and trust in God.

Resources for Ministry During Social Distancing

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Shalom Mutual Aid Fund*


(Updated: March 26, 9:30 am)
Technology:
Need some personal assistance?  Contact one of our staff persons below:
For children:
Worship and devotional resources from around MC USA:
Finances:

*The Shalom Fund supports pastors, congregations and ministries in direct response to the Coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis.   We will seek to respond to the most vulnerable within our membership and neighborhoods by empowering local ministries to meet real needs with Christ’s love and generosity in a time of fear and anxiety.

Online Support:

Alternative Worship Approaches During Social-Distancing

by Sue Conrad Howes, West Swamp congregation

Salford streams an abbreviated worship service. Photo by Steve Kriss

At the heart of congregational life is gathering for worship. In light of government warnings about the need for social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many Eastern District & Franconia Conference congregations had to decide whether they should gather together on Sunday, cancel worship, or find alternative avenues to lead congregants.

For many, this meant finding ways to use technology to enhance their community worship. Facebook Live was a popular platform for many congregations. Salford congregation (Harleysville, PA) live streamed an abbreviated version of their worship service.  One goal was to keep things as “normal” as possible; “The person who led the Children’s Time came in and read the story from the usual Children’s Time bench,” said Pastor Beth Yoder.

Pastor Jessica Miller (Perkasie) holds “Virtual Church” from her dining room using Facebook Live.

Meanwhile, Perkasie (PA) congregation had a casual, 30-minute service on Facebook Live. “We read Psalm 23 together, lit candles, and recited our peace lamp litany, had a scripture reading, and sermon,” reported Jessica Miller, associate pastor. She shared that the sermon response invited people to get a drink of water in their homes, an opportunity that would not have been realistic in the church pews.

One advantage to using Facebook Live as a platform was that participants had the opportunity to join the worship service live, watch it later on Facebook, or watch the service later via a video link posted on the church website, which gave those who do not have a Facebook account an opportunity to view the video link.

Many pastors noted that the services were shorter than a typical Sunday. Josh Meyer of Franconia congregation (Telford, PA) commented, “The service was simple and brief: a welcome, a pastoral prayer, some announcements, Scripture, a meditation, and a closing … 38 minutes.”

Ambler’s Zoom gathering. Photo credit: Andrew Huth

Not every church could live stream their worship experience, so alternative options were given. Methacton (Norristown, PA) sent out a group email that included a virtual worship service.   Rocky Ridge (Quakertown, PA) put together a “virtual worship service” and a blog post for interaction.  Ambler (PA) congregation used online conferencing. “Zoom worked well, with 40-plus persons participating, including two former congregants now in other states,” said interim pastor Dorcas Lehman. “It felt different, lively, meditative, and well-appreciated.”

A big surprise was the consistent report that participation was higher than expected. Deep Run East reported that about four times as many people watched the Facebook Live worship service than attend a typical Sunday morning in-person worship. “I was surprised by the breadth of people who joined the worship experience,” commented Pastor Ken Burkholder, “including people from numerous states, mission workers in Honduras, and others who would not typically worship in person at Deep Run East.” Likewise, Salford reported that by noon, their service had received over 1000 views.

Many pastors and congregants noted that each platform seemed to offer a valued sense of community to each other, especially during this time of social distancing and unknown. Methacton’s pastor Sandy Drescher-Lehman, reflected, “We often talk about wanting to be a ’church without walls’ and this time we really did it!”

Even though the response far exceeded the expectations, there were still problems. Franconia’s worship crew arrived at church to find their internet was down.  Plains congregation (Hatfield, PA) planned to post a worship service video on their website by 10:30 am but discovered it took hours for the video to finish processing and uploading.

Another challenge was the obvious strangeness of leading a service in an empty auditorium or knowing how or where to make eye contact. Meyer commented, “So much of what happens during corporate worship is exactly that: corporate.  Without a gathered body, a number of our regular worship practices needed to be adjusted.”

Despite the challenges, last minute implementations, and new approaches to worship, most every church reported very positive experiences from congregants.  “Many expressed that being able to ‘gather’ in this way helped social solidarity, in a time when we are practicing social distancing,” said Lehman.

Opportunities for Conversation and Brainstorming

Give to the
Shalom Mutual Aid Fund*


  • UPDATED: March 26, 9:30am EST

    We are in a very different time.   Join together with other leaders from across our Conference in Zoom conversations this week.  Feel free to pass this information on to youth leaders in your congregation.

    Are there other conversations that you would like to have?  Or like to lead?  Please let us know!


    Leading and Pastoring in a Time of Social Distancing

    Share, brainstorm, and support one another as we pastor during the Coronavirus epidemic.  Potential topics for discussion include worship (planning and formats), pastoral care, communication, connection in isolation, self-care, partnership with congregations in the conference and in your community, supporting one another.

    • March 26, 9:30-11:00am EST and ongoing, led by Mary Nitzsche and Josh Meyer (English)
      The Zoom link to join this conversation is: https://zoom.us/j/525749584
    • April 2, 9pm EST/6pm PST and ongoing, led by Aldo Siahaan and Hendy Matahelemual (Indonesian)
      The Zoom link to join this conversation is: https://zoom.us/j/262849343

    Spiritual Formation for Youth in a Time of Social Distancing

    All youth leaders are welcome, we will be connecting, sharing, and praying for our ministry settings as we work with the Holy Spirit for creative community engagement. We can share ideas and practices and resource one another. We can also all just enjoy some time together.

    Prayer

    We will continue to look for opportunities and conversation together in new ways and formats over the next weeks.

    *The Shalom Fund supports pastors, congregations and ministries in direct response to the Coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis.   We will seek to respond to the most vulnerable within our membership and neighborhoods by empowering local ministries to meet real needs with Christ’s love and generosity in a time of fear and anxiety.

  • Actualizado: Marzo 23, 10:30am EST

    Estamos en un tiempo bastante diferente. Únanse junto a otros líderes de toda nuestra Conferencia por medio de conversaciones en Zoom esta semana. Siéntanse libres de pasar esta información a los líderes de jóvenes en su congregación.

    ¿Hay otras conversaciones que les gustaría tener? ¿Cómo líderes? Por favor, ¡háganos saber!

    Liderando y pastoreando en un tiempo de distancia social

    Compartir, lluvia de ideas, y apoyarse unos a otros mientras pastoreamos durante la epidemia de coronavirus. Potenciales temas para adoración incluyen adoración (planeación y formatos), cuidado pastoral, comunicación, conexión y aislamiento, cuidado propio, apoyo con congregaciones en la conferencia y en su comunidad, soportándonos unos a otros.

    • April 2 y en curso, 4pm EST/1pm PST, liderado por Aldo Siahaan y Hendy Matahelemual (Indonesian)
      El link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es: https://zoom.us/j/803218849
    • Marzo 25, 7pm EST/4pm PST, liderado por Noel Santiago y Marco Güete (Español)
      El link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es:   https://zoom.us/j/557606813

    Formación Espiritual para jóvenes en Tiempos de distancia social

    • Marzo 23, 7pm EST/4pm PST, liderado por Brooke Martin y Danilo Sánchez
      El link de Zoom para unirnos a la conversación es:   https://zoom.us/j/805850881

    Oración de intercesión

    Continuaremos buscando oportunidades y conversaciones juntos en nuevos caminos y formatos sobre la siguiente semana.

 

Updates from Eastern District & Franconia Conference

Give to the
Shalom Mutual Aid Fund*



During this time of responding to the public health emergency of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Conference leadership has encouraged localized decision-making that prioritizes both love of God and love of neighbor. 

Many of our congregations have chosen to experiment with new technologies (and many have successfully been using these technologies for a while now!).  As you experience God in the challenges and inspiration of these creative worship spaces, please share your stories by emailing communication@franconiaconference.org or posting on our Facebook page!

***

(Updated as of March 26, 2020 at 10:00am EST)

Congregations:

  • Alpha (Alpha, NJ) – shared, at-home worship service
  • Ambler (Ambler, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship service by Zoom (or join by phone at
    312-626-6799)
  • Bally (Bally, PA; Berks Co.) – worship services canceled 
  • Bethany (Bridgewater Corners, VT) – worship services canceled  
  • Bethany Elevation (Queens, NYC) – online streaming
  • Blooming Glen (Blooming Glen, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship service recorded and posted on website;  4/4 Easter Egg Hunt is cancelled; 4/5 Pathways, Passion and Promise is cancelled
  • Boyertown (Boyertown, PA; Berks Co) – worship services canceled  
  • Centro de Alabanza (Philadelphia, PA) – live streaming worship service
  • Christ Fellowship (Allentown, PA; Lehigh Co.) – worship services canceled  
  • Church of the Good Samaritans (Holland, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship services canceled  
  • Covenant Community Fellowship (Lansdale, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled
  • Deep Run East (Perkasie, PA; Bucks Co.) – online worship service
  • Deep Run West (Perkasie, PA; Bucks Co.) – Facebook Live
  • Doylestown (Doylestown, PA; Bucks Co.) – March 29 service cancelled; 4/5 Sam Sandler presentation cancelled; 4/12 Easter breakfast cancelled
  • Ebenezer (Souderton, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled  
  • Fairfield (Fairfield, PA; Adams Co.) – worship services canceled 
  • Finland (Pennsburg, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled 
  • Franconia (Telford, PA: Montgomery Co.) – Scriptures, prayers, & sermon posted online
  • Frederick (Frederick, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled  
  • Garden Chapel (Dover, NJ) – worship service by Zoom
  • Indonesian Community Christian Fellowship (Colton, CA) – worship services canceled  
  • Indonesian Light Church (Philadelphia, Pa) – online streaming
  • International Worship Church (San Gabriel, CA) – worship services canceled  
  • Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (Sierra Madre, CA) – streaming sermon
  • Lakeview (Susquehanna, PA; Susquehanna Co.) – Zoom worship service
  • Line Lexington (Line Lexington, PA; Bucks Co.) – live streaming, via YouTube; all activities cancelled until further notice
  • Mennonite Bible Fellowship (Morris, PA; Tioga Co) – worship services canceled 
  • Methacton (Norristown, PA; Montgomery Co.) – shared, at-home devotionals
  • Nations Worship Center (Philadelphia, PA) – Facebook Live
  • Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Norristown, PA; Montgomery Co)
  • Perkasie (Perkasie, PA; Bucks Co.) – Zoom worship service
  • Perkiomenville (Perkiomenville, PA;  Montgomery Co.) will livestream services on Facebook at 10:15 am
  • Philadelphia Praise Center (Philadelphia, PA) – dispersed worship
  • Plains (Hatfield, PA; Montgomery Co.) – recording of worship service online, connecting through Zoom on Wednesday, March 25 at 2:00 pm
  • Providence (Collegeville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – Zoom worship service
  • Rocky Ridge (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – virtual worship with interactive blog
  • Salem (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship services canceled  
  • Salford (Harleysville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – simulcasting online with children’s activities
  • San Francisco Chinese (San Francisco, CA) – YouTube sermon
  • Souderton (Souderton, PA; Montgomery Co.) – live streaming
  • Spring Mount (Spring Mount, PA: Montgomery Co.) – Facebook Live
  • Swamp (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – all activities canceled through May 3
  • Taftsville Chapel (Taftsville, VT) – Zoom worship service
  • Towamencin (Kulpsville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – live streaming on website
  • Upper Milford (Old Zionsville, PA; Lehigh Co) – Zoom worship service
  • Vietnamese Gospel (Allentown, Pa; Lehigh Co.) – worship services canceled  
  • Vincent (Spring City, PA; Chester Co.) –  worship service on Facebook Live (10am)
  • Wellspring Church of Skippack (Skippack, PA; Montgomery Co.) – Zoom worship
  • West Swamp (Quakertown, PA; Bucks Co.) – worship services canceled 
  • Whitehall (Whitehall, PA; Lehigh Co.) – Facebook Live
  • Zion (Souderton, PA; Montgomery Co.) – live streaming (9am)

Partners in Ministry:

  • 7 Ways Home Fellowship (Bowie, MD) – Zoom gatherings
  • Arise (Harleysville, PA; Montgomery Co.) – worship services canceled 
  • Homestead Mennonite Church (Homestead, FL) – worship services canceled 
  • Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Shalom (Tampa, FL) – gathering in small prayer groups
  • Iglesia Menonita Luz y Verdad (Lakeland, FL) – worship services canceled 
  • Iglesia Menonita Seguidores de Cristo (Sarasota, FL) – YouTube worship service
  • Nueva Esperanza New Hope Fellowship (Alexandria, VA) – worship services canceled 

Conference Related Ministries:

  • Care & Share Thrift Shoppes (Souderton, PA) – closed through March 28
  • City School (Philadelphia, PA) – closed through March 30
  • Dock Mennonite Academy (Souderton & Lansdale, PA) – closed through March 30
  • MCC Material Resource Center (Harleysville, PA) – closed through March 30; MCC Meat Canning is cancelled
  • Mennonite Heritage Center – closed through March 30
  • Penn Foundation see info here
  • Quakertown Christian School – closed through March 30
  • Retirement Communities – Almost all retirement communities are restricting visitors and have cancelled any large group gatherings or services. If you plan to visit, please be sure to call ahead. Please call residents of the retirement communities to stay in contact with them rather than visiting during this time, if at all possible. 
  • Spruce Lake/Pinebrook – closed until April 1

Other Conference events that have been cancelled (rescheduled, TBA):

  • “Women of Remarkable Faith” Gathering (March 28)

We know that this list will continue to grow and change. We hope to keep you updated as much as possible–if you have updates or changes to this list, please send them to communication@franconiaconference.org.

*The Shalom Fund supports pastors, congregations and ministries in direct response to the Coronavirus and the ensuing economic crisis.   We will seek to respond to the most vulnerable within our membership and neighborhoods by empowering local ministries to meet real needs with Christ’s love and generosity in a time of fear and anxiety.

It’s Time to Plant a Garden

by Emily Ralph Servant, Leadership Minister & Director of Communication

Just this morning, the president of our Baltimore city neighborhood association posted in our local gardeners’ group on Facebook.  She encouraged us to take advantage of the early spring to start planting our container gardens with vegetables.

In the midst of the constant barrage of news about COVID-19 (coronavirus), I doubt she was aware of how much her words resonated with those of another prophet, thousands of years ago.

God’s people were in exile, in a world they no longer recognized, and they had been crying out to God to send them home.  God responded that rescue would come—eventually.  But, in the meantime, God’s people were to settle in … because it was gonna be a while.

Build homes, the prophet Jeremiah encouraged them, foster relationships, plant gardens.  Pray and work for the well-being of the cities where you live.

This cheerleading feels timely this week, as we face a growing awareness that the coronavirus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  In my association president’s words and in Jeremiah’s plea, I hear God’s invitation to settle in.  It’s gonna be a while.

The thing about working in the garden (or going for a walk around the block), is that we can encounter our neighbors in safe space and at a leisurely pace.  It’s amazing how many meaningful conversations can happen across fences or between the sidewalk and the stoop.

Those of us on the east coast have been experiencing an early spring—a gift from God for such a time as this.  The unusually warm weather allows us to get out of our houses and be the Church in our neighborhoods: checking in on neighbors and handing out our phone numbers to those who don’t already have them; extending and accepting help with yard work, trash cleanup, or grocery pickup; visiting with new and old friends as we commiserate together.

And if you haven’t already joined neighborhood groups on social media, now is a perfect time to do so.  Many of these groups—formed around shared geography, hobbies, the “gift economy,” and local advocacy—are increasing their connection to community right about now.  They are creating spreadsheets of vulnerable neighbors who need help, offering to pick up food on trips to the grocery store, sharing information about school lunches, medical care, and the latest in neighborhood closings.  This is community at its best.

Jeremiah reminds us that our well-being is tied up with the well-being of our neighborhoods.  We can pray and work and advocate for our government leaders to make wise and just decisions.  We can pray and work and advocate for neighbors who are at risk.  We are called to pray diligently, even as we build, plant, and make new friends.

[Join a Conference-wide online prayer meeting this Wednesday at 12pm EST/9am PST. RSVP by emailing Noel Santiago.]

Tomorrow morning, you are invited to login to your virtual church service, interact with your congregation on Facebook, read your email devotional (whatever ways of participating in corporate worship that your hardworking pastor has been creating for you!) … and then join your neighbors in the streets and on the sidewalks of your community.  Together we will pray for an end to this pandemic.  And, together, we will settle in for the long haul.