“Our doors may be closed, but our community is open!” – message from my local gym

Dear Colleagues;

Congratulations on making it through another Sunday in our “new normal”. I know it was challenging for some. It is amazing how very tired we can become, trying to manage our own learning curves, serving our people in new and unprecedented ways, and navigating our personal lives of either isolation or way too much family time. We hear you. We pray for you daily.

Yet signs of God abound! More pastors have reported increased “attendance” in their alternate worship services than a normal Sunday. We are seeing friends and neighbors join with us that we have not seen in a while. All of us are learning new skills, some with enthusiasm and some begrudgingly, that we will use well after the virus has passed us by.

So many reasons to praise God’s abundance, even in challenging times…..

I’d like to share with you some resources that could help you in your ministries:

·        The Council of Hudson River Presbytery, in concurrence with the Grants Team, is offering every congregation up to $2000 in a communications grant. This speaks to every congregation, regardless of where you are on the technology curve. What do you need to communicate better with your members or your neighbors? A smart phone? A large sign for your church (how about the above quote and your website?) Unlimited data streaming? A camera upgrade? A tripod? A microphone? A laptop? See the attached for application and instructions.

·        Call the Board of Pensions at 800-773-7752. They are offering relief to both you and your staff regarding benefits. Each congregational situation is different, so make that call.

·        It is critical that you and your family are healthy, both physically and mentally, during this time. Please utilize the Employee Assistance Program that is offered by the BoP through Cigna for anyone in a member’s household. Again – find information by speaking with the Board of Pensions.

·        I am so very grateful for the 48 pastors who have participated in our Clergy Connection ZOOM gatherings. Not only might you have gained assurance and connection with your colleagues, but you offered support to them by your presence. We will again offer three opportunities next week, one on Monday & Wednesday at 10 with sharing of communication, technology and connecting to members and neighbors with Casey Carbone joining. Additionally, Thursday’s ZOOM will concentrate on pastoral care to members who are “off-line”. Please join for one or any of these and share with your colleagues!  

·        Please “like” the Hudson River Presbytery Facebook page. Things change rapidly, webinars are announced quickly, and people reach out hourly. This makes it challenging to include all the available information in emails. Facebook is the best way to communicate this type of information.

·        Holy Week. It is on all of our hearts and minds. Hudson River Presbytery will be hosting a presbytery-wide Holy Week experience for those of you who would like to participate. Information regarding this was sent out earlier today. Reach out to me if you did not receive it.

·        Stay Connected! Whether through our ZOOM gatherings, ongoing meetings, Facebook or your own support groups. Do not weather this crisis alone. At our very core, we are connectional people and that connection will see us through. Make sure your congregants are connected – deacon phone trees, elder phone calls, “coffee hours” you host some mornings, kids connections, cards….the list goes on. This is a unique opportunity for us to develop a strong and caring community, amongst ourselves and amongst our members. Creativity abounds!

I close with a personal story. Most of you know that both my mother and stepfather died at the end of January. Your prayers and kind words were a great comfort to me. My siblings and I have been cleaning out their six bedroom house over the last weeks and the final area was my mother’s 20 x 20 sewing room. My mother lived her life to quilt and sew. Cabinets upon cabinets of material, thread, accessories – no less than four different sewing machines!  Our generation did not have a sewer among us, and with this virus closing in and a deadline looming, we were facing the fact that no group would collect these beloved things and we would need to toss them. It was unthinkable for us. Then Joanie appeared. 71 years old, donned in mask and gloves and carrying a box of Clorox wipes, in three separate trips she cleaned it all out. You see, Joanie teaches sewing to 20 low income women in rural Maryland. On her porch, she put out a simple pattern for a face mask, desperately needed by hospitals and first responders in Maryland, along with all the materials required. All 20 women are sewing face masks right now, with the sewing materials that belonged to my mother, that we were ready to discard.

God is with us, in love and abundance and joy. Where have you experienced God in these weeks?

Stay connected – In Christ –
Deb