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How Are We Doing In The Midst Of The Pandemic?
by Dana Allin, ECO Synod Executive
At the first church I served, one of my favorite people was an older gentleman named Harold. I once saw him at church and asked the casual passing question, “How are you?” He said to me, “Dana, never ask an 80 year-old how he is doing, unless you really want to know the answer and have at least 5 minutes.” We laughed a bit, but his point was well taken that we often ask the question casually but we don’t really expect an honest or full answer.

In the last 6 months there have been lots of “How are you?” conversations. We find that these conversations hit surface issues but often will move quickly in the deeper joys and challenges that our leaders and churches experience. Several of us on the ECO staff have shared anecdotally about how our churches and leaders are doing in the midst of this season. We desired to go deeper however, and sent a survey to our pastors. There were some questions related to worship attendance and finances in the midst of this pandemic. There were also some deeper questions about the state of our souls and how congregations are seeing past simply physical and virtual worship attendance.

Here is some of the survey data starting with the more superficial in nature. We were pleasantly surprised to see that most of our churches found that giving was relatively consistent compared to last year at this time. 57% of churches were within 5% (plus or minus) of their giving last year. 5.4% had more than a 20% increase and 7.7% had more than a 20% decrease. While this is just “point in time” data, and certainly year-end giving could be affected with the economy, at this time in general, there doesn’t seem to be the massive financial impact that many had been concerned about at the beginning.
What’s going on with the 2021 National Gathering?
Q: Remember when we were all together at the Gaylord in Dallas last year? Or was that 50 or 100 years ago?

A: Yes, yes we do. Ah, the good times together under one roof! The hugging! The worship! The bandanas and metal straws!
Q: How much does it cost?

A: Free! But you have to promise to save all your pennies for 2022 when we’re back together again!
Q: Anything else new and interesting to expect that we should know about?

A: As a matter of fact, yes (thank you for asking)! There is much more to come your way in 2021 and the NG is just a springboard that will help plunge you into the deep pool of flourishing next steps. We simply can’t cram it all into one weekend (no one is getting Zoom fatigue on our watch, no sir!) so we will be onboarding pastors to help plan for some really good stuff to come after the NG.
Q: We’re simply dying to know more! How much longer must we wait? 

A: All the details are coming to a screen near you in November. Pastors, you will be getting further information next week! We will be having a Q&A webinar just for you on October 20 at 9am Pacific. Look for details in your inbox!
Q: When is the Virtual National Gathering this year? 
A: Friday through Sunday, January 29-31, 2021. Note that the dates have shifted to not include Thursday (sorry, Thursday, no offense). Sunday will be wrapping up the weekend with worship in your very own fabulous church context.
Q: What can we expect? Is this like a “normal” National Gathering? Just online? Do tell. 
A: It is not actually normal at all (moment of silence for LITERALLY ANYTHING normal). We will have some elements of a regular NG including some amazing speakers, great worship, vision casting, and fun stuff. But the schedule will be very different and there will be some deep diving in your own context! 
Q: Who should attend?

A: This is the great opportunity of the online NG. Anyone and everyone may attend on their own, or in small groups, or a whole church together. We really want it to be a retreat for you! Invite absolutely everyone in your congregation! Help them understand why you love being in ECO so darn much, even as we live and breathe in this post-denominational world (gosh, that’s so sweet of you). Get everyone on board to take their flourishing next step in life and ministry!
Thanks for being patient in this ever-changing COVID world!
We can’t wait for our time “together”! 
Serving and Blessing others in Pennsylvania during these “Unprecedented” Times

As many of us can relate when it comes to our worship spaces, Rome Presbyterian in Pennsylvania was in need of some upgrades.
Grace Ridge Church in neighboring Honesdale, PA partnered with them by sending their mission team to tear down and renovate. Then the covenant partners at RPC did the finishing touches to the patio in front, the welcome center and coffee bar (which will have seating after Covid!) and the sanctuary.
Pastor Karen Ballard said, It was an awesome way that one church in our presbytery served another. We are planning to take a group to Grace Ridge in the summer to return the favor.” What a gift to be in covenant community with one another! Pray for the congregation in Rome, as they use their new spaces to bring glory to God and serve the people in their community! www.romepres.com
Level Grounds

Grace Ridge Church
opens a coffee shop!
Grace Ridge Church in Honesdale, PA hasn’t let Covid slow them down - they just opened a coffee shop where they are serving their local community. All proceeds go to ministry endeavors and missions. Check them out at Level Grounds on Facebook and Instagram! 
Pastor Michael Lyle says, “We’ve been praying for a way to “build community in our community” so we opened Level Grounds...a coffee/cafe where people can come and just be. The name comes from the reality that it is level ground at the foot of the cross. All are welcome. We wanted to be creative in reaching our community with the Gospel and the fruit has been humbling, to say the least. Half of all proceeds go to feeding kids in our community. We have a program in our local school where some children receive bags of food on Friday to take home for the weekend (this might be the only food they get all weekend), Level Grounds will hopefully be able to fund the food for all the schools in our county. The other half of the profit goes to a program called EduKenya, where kids in the slums of Mathare are educated in a Christian School (the results of this program are phenomenal). 
Synergy for Mutual Transformation found in Communities of Global Engagement

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12
When we engage in outreach or evangelism, whether it is across the street or across an ocean, we often think in terms of what message or gift I have to offer. What testimony might I share? What food or tangible gift might I distribute? What service project might I complete? The hope is that what we offer might lead someone to fullness of life in Christ, that they might be drawn closer to the Kingdom of God.

But the New Testament church leaders discovered something remarkable about mission engagement in their early experiences especially among the Gentiles. They learned that mission is not just about what we give, but what we learn and receive. Think of Peter’s experience in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10-11) or Paul’s experience Thyatira being received in Lydia’s home (Acts 16)...

You’re invited to register for TPF’s new webinar, “Getting Your House in Order: A Guide to Mobilizing Your Mission and Ministry” on October 7th!

Is your church’s organizational stability and
financial health important to you? It’s important to us! 

In fact, it’s so important, we created a new series of webinars about it. Please join us on Wednesday, October 7, at 11 am CDT/12 pm EDT for “Pt. 1: Laying the Groundwork,” which focuses on critical organizational policies, key areas of oversight, and the importance of your mission statement, by-laws, incorporation, security, and document retention. We’re even providing a helpful checklist to make it easier to proactively manage the financial health of your church!
Many churches have reached out to the young people in their communities in new and creative ways during Covid-19. Several churches are just launching Alpha Youth online!

Check it out at www.alpha.org
“Several students have been touched by the life and death of Christ. Students are coming around to Christ because of the Person and work He did on earth. We're slowly discussing how He is one of the three persons of the Trinity, but they have a newfound respect and human love toward Jesus, the person right now. Some of our students even see Jesus as God and those students have become concerned about their friends and family who are either atheist, agnostic, or are a part of a different religion. This past week, we learned about who Jesus was and is and if we can trust the Word of God. Taking a systematic, objective, research-based approach to Christianity is appealing to students. An appeal to their logic and reason seems to be a good method of bringing them closer to Christ.We are looking forward to the next 9 weeks and are praying for a couple conversions by the end of this program.”

Tim Schlum, Director of Youth Ministries, Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church, Fountain Hills, AZ
Remember our Family of Faith in Beirut
- A Message from The Outreach Foundation
Dear friends at ECO:

Your early “broadcast” of our Beirut Compassion Fund yielded incredible results, with many generous gifts coming from ECO congregations. To date, we have disbursed $110,000 to our family-by-faith in Lebanon. While other partners have made promises, we have been able to quickly provide the desperately needed resources so that the recovery could begin. Yesterday, I received this message from Linda Macktaby, the Exec Dir of Blessed School ($20,000 sent): "We will start school next month, and only because of your help this will be possible…”. TOF had made it possible for this critical ministry with severely autistic children to reopen as they had sustained heavy damage to their aging structure—thanks be to God!

We have just completed a compelling video to share with our constituency to serve as both a “thanks” to those who have already given and an "encouragement to give" to others.

Marilyn Borst
Associate Director for Partnership Development
Luther Hays
Presbyterian Church

Mansfield, GA
Iglesia Presbiteriana Independiente
El Divino Salvador

Whittier, CA
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