For Our Times
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver

1 May 2020

Greetings in the name of the Risen Christ!
What is your way of dwelling in this new place? Do you read more? Puzzles? Board games? TV? Maybe you just “think” a little more. We seemed to have moved from emergency crisis mode, settling into the long haul of sheltering in place. What does that mean for our churches?

Catching up:

We had a fruitful discussion on ZOOM this Monday with the Board of Pensions. You should have received a summary of the important points, which is also posted on the HRP website. Call the BoP and have a conversation about your particular situation and how they might help. Even if it appears from “the numbers” that you do not qualify for some programs, it is worth your time to have a conversation. They are quite flexible. (How’s that Call to Health going? You know you want the $100 gift card. Check out Board University classes. They are excellent)
Thank you to all who join to share with colleagues and friends on our Wednesday Clergy Connection – Pastors in Pulpits. What a great way this has become to get to know each other better, share struggles and celebrate accomplishments!

Spiritual Practices continues on a Friday ZOOM. Take it from me, this is a beautiful sharing and respite time with Leslie Mott and various active and retired pastors. Take some time for you.

On Monday May 4 at 10 we will open the discussion “ What to think about before you think about opening….”  I sent you the document 24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return   While there are a lot of resources emerging around opening, this piece from the Wisconsin Council of Churches is the best I’ve seen, and it can be found here  While you’re there, browse this website. There are some phenomenal resources around coronavirus! Please bring both documents with you to the discussion. Remember, you are welcome to invite a representative (limit of 2 please), but have them change their ZOOM name to include the congregation name. We cannot let folks into the ZOOM that we cannot identify.

No doubt you are all aware of the massive demands on local food providers during this time. I am deeply grateful for the work of food pantries in this presbytery. We have requested Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Grants for nine congregations and have approved funding for five so far. On Monday May 11 our learning ZOOM will be around food pantries and feeding programs in Hudson River Presbytery. A ZOOM invite will be sent out that you can forward to appropriate interested people. This is also an opportunity where congregations who are not directly involved in these programs can hear about the current local situations of your sister congregations and ways your church might help feed hungry people. This is appropriate for pastors, mission chairs, food bank/soup kitchen/feeding program volunteers. 

Reminder from the Stated Clerk: Session Clerks/Pastors please notify Susan DeGeorge whether you can have your 2019 Session minutes read electronically.

I am reading Disaster Spiritual Care: Practical Clergy Responses to Community, Regional and National Tragedy by Ashley & Roberts. There is a regional book study going on around this that meets on May 7 th at noon. Contact me if you would like to join in and I will connect you with the organizer. Open to all – but requires registration.

I’m attaching the document How Do I Measure the Effectiveness of Virtual Church by Casey Carbone – also on the HRP website.

These are challenging times indeed. It is also a time to ponder positive change for our churches. We can, and should be, questioning some of the things that we do and why we do them. You have an opportunity here that probably will not happen again anytime soon. If we do not change, we do not grow, we do not become better. As we creep closer to thinking about the “aftertimes”, what can we build that is better than we had before?

If you’ve read Canoeing the Mountains by Tom Bolsinger, good for you! Reread it. I am. If you’ve not yet read it, the subtitle “Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory” tells you all you need to know. Learn to lead, not just during this crisis, but during the transformational fast-changing times in which we live.
“The great discovery in following Christ into his mission is that we find ourselves. And the beautiful paradox is that the more committed we are to our own transformation, the better leader we will be.”

Until we meet again – May God bring peace and grace into your life each and every day.

Deb Milcarek
General Presbyter