“It seems I must go forward to places I’ve never been….” Winnie the Poo

Dear Colleagues in ministry-

I offer you greetings in the name of Christ Jesus-

Wow! I hope that you have been able to take a breath. The world is spinning in a way that we could not have imagined even a month ago. It has been clear in the words you have used on your Clergy Connection ZOOM gatherings in which 58 of you participated last week: overwhelmed, discouraged, clueless, concerned, confused, inadequate. And yet.

What new roads are we traveling? What new skills are we learning that we would not have pursued, save for being closed in our homes and unable to leave? Some other words you used: revitalized, curious, excited, encouraged, hopeful, fascinated, grateful.

Your Council and Presbytery are on this journey with you. Your sisters and brothers in pulpits across the country are on this journey with you. It is the joy of the connectional church of which we have always been a part, yet rarely needed so very much.

This week’s updates include:

·        Your Board of Pension has acted! Please visit the BoP website to find information regarding the deferment or waiver of clergy pension dues. This is an outstanding response to the financial crunch that we may all experience.

·        We have received and funded 9 Congregational Connection grants. Do not let this opportunity to connect with your neighbors and members pass by. We have allocated $2000 for each congregation – the application is on the HRP website under “coronavirus resources”.

·        CARES ACT: There is a lot of confusion about this. One thing we do know; churches can qualify. HRP Clergy Connection on Monday at 10 will be focused on the CARES legislation. Susan DeGeorge will attempt to get a sense of your questions and where we all are in this. We cannot offer you official legal or accounting advice; you need to contact your own experts for that. What we can do is bring everyone together to hear what others are doing and to hear your questions. If you’ve been pursuing the CARES Payroll Protection feature, please join us and tell us what you’ve learned. Additionally, please watch the Church Law & Tax webinar at this link so we are all at the same starting point.    https://store.churchlawandtax.com/churches-and-the-cares-act-helping-congregations-and-employees-weather-the-cash-crunch/

·        The Clergy Connection ZOOM on Wednesday at 10 will be centered around Clergy Care. During this time of great anxiety combined with the normal Easter week chaos, take some time to come together with your colleagues to listen and share about how you are staying healthy.

·        In deference to your (and our) health and well-being we will be taking the week following Easter off from ZOOM Clergy Connection – and many other meetings. I encourage you to take some time away from the congregation and your other duties to meditate, read, participate in an online exercise or yoga class. Do some things for you. Your congregation and your colleagues need you to be healthy and whole as this journey continues. We will reconvene together on Monday April 20 th.

·        Our current situation is challenging us to do ministry in new ways. We are being bombarded these days by so many ideas, needs, and confusing messages that we can doubt our abilities and resources to handle the challenges. Coaching can help you make positive and creative changes – and to navigate these times with greater confidence in your own resources. HRP and the synod have set aside funds for coaching for you. We will provide six sessions with an IFC certified coach that you can choose from a list of professional and experienced coaches. If you’ve never tried coaching – now is the time. Having a coach for the last several years has been a great gift to me. Look for more information very soon!

·        Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has extended the period for which a presbytery can apply for emergency grants for its congregations. We sent in 3 applications for the first period, and we can now send in more. These funds are especially appropriate for supporting community ministries within your building that may not be able to function during this time. Daycare centers, food banks, thrift shops, etc. are particularly appropriate.

·        We are so proud of our leaders who are participating in the Holy Week events that Casey Carbone has been organizing. You should have received a separate mailing with information on accessing Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. What a blessing to so many…..
Finally, I would like to thank all the staff and leaders who have stepped up during these difficult times and moved beyond their own personal challenges to be of service to their colleagues. Jean, Susan, Emily, Christine and now Casey, who have been at your (and mine) beck and call day and night.   Your Council representatives; Connie Knapp, Dale Southorn, Lori Knight Whitehouse, Tom Albert, David Burpee, Martha Carlson, Abbie Huff, Paul Lent, John Miller, Jonah So and Cathy Surgenor who have met weekly to make some difficult and rapid decisions to support all the congregations of HRP. Hats off to Martin McGeachy and Yzette Swavy Lipton, co-chairs of the Committee on Ministry who have helped to facilitate Clergy Connection and will help to deploy the entire CoM membership on your behalf.

I leave you with a blessing by Thomas Merton. After all, is it not a time to read Merton?

“Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ.”