April 17, 2020
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson announces the following appointments and assignments–   effective July 1, 2020,     unless otherwise noted:
West District

  • Rev. Robert Stippich (Full-Time Local Pastor) to Paradise: St. John’s, ½ time.
  • Rev. Michael Miller (Part-Time Local Pastor) to continue at Mount Hope, ¼ time.

See all appointments and retirements on our website.
Church Statistical Reports due today
Today is the deadline for churches to complete and submit their annual Statistical Reports that allows the conference to assess local churches’ activities, finances and ministry participation. The information is used by the conference statistician and by the UMC’s General Council on Finance and Administration.

The Conference Treasurer’s Office urges all churches that don’t complete their reports today to please complete and submit them as soon as possible. 
U.S. Payroll Protection Program fund closed
NEWS UPDATE: On April 16 at 12 noon–only 14 days after small businesses across America were first able to apply for loans through the $349 billion Payroll Protection Program, or PPP–the U.S. Small Business Administration announced it had exhausted its allotted funds. The agency, which administers the PPP, shut down its application and ceased enrolling new lenders into the program.

See future updates on our New Payroll Protection Program Application FAQ* and Federal CARES Act Guidelines for Churches page. Also visit our Coronavirus Ministry Response page for more news and resources for doing Ministry in the Midst of Coronavirus.

Despite calls to end pandemic shutdown, most leaders say wait
With Pennsylvania showing some small improvement in the growth of its COVID-19 pandemic infections and deaths ( PA Reports Fewest Coronavirus Cases Since April 1 ), some state officials are pushing to cautiously reopen many businesses closed by Gov. Tom Wolf a month ago.

A public protest supporting that view is scheduled for Monday, April 20, in Harrisburg. ( Harrisburg Protest: Thousands To Demonstrate Over PA Shutdowns ) And the State Assembly passed legislation this week calling for the reopening, but the governor is expected to veto it. ( PA Lawmakers Vote To Reopen Businesses, Veto Expected )

Yet, opinion polls show that a large majority of Americans oppose any reopening now, when there are reported risks of reversing the small drop in reported daily infections and deaths with increased social interaction. The amount of testing being done is still inadequate. So, many people may have the disease, without the typical symptoms, and not know it.  

Even with safety measures that will become mandatory on this Sunday—like face coverings, physical distancing and temperature checks ( PA Orders Coronavirus Safety Measures At Essential Businesses )—the risk in returning to more social interaction, even cautiously, is too dire in the view of many government and public health officials.

Eastern PA Conference Bishop Peggy Johnson and her Cabinet share that view. “There are no plans to reopen our churches on a specific date,” she said in response to a query. “Wait until you hear from the governor, and follow the mandates of the government. Exercise abundant caution, be flexible, and continue the wonderful creative ways we are doing ministry right now.” Learn more...
Visit Holy Week Worship page until Monday
If you notice that we’ve kept our Holy Week Worship Online page open all week, there are two good reasons for that. We recognize the importance of Eastertide in extending the Holy Week and Easter spirit (see the next article). And we so value the worship information and links churches have sent us that we want to give you a chance to experience the recorded sermons and services before they go away.

We’ll keep the page up through Monday, April 20. So take some free time--or devotional time--this weekend to click on a link or two, watch, listen, share and remember that Easter lives, and Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection deserves to be celebrated every day. Amen?

By the way, there are a few stories on that page about worship that is not done online but rather face-to face--while practicing physical distancing for safety, of course. Here is one such heartwarming story:
Chaplain offers seniors "Easter worship on wheels"
The Rev. Debra Neild writes:
I am a Deacon appointed to Chalfont UMC, and I serve as a chaplain at The Willows of Living Branches in Hatfield, PA. My residents are confined to their rooms. So I created this altar on a cart with wheels. 

Underneath the altar is a speaker and microphone that connects to my phone using Bluetooth. I was able to wheel my altar around the building sharing an Easter message and singing Resurrection hymns.  
By the end of the morning, I found my heart to be full while physically exhausted! All the Easter "extras" were removed, and all that was left was worship-focused on sharing the Good News.  

My residents could not be with their families, but we could worship "together" as a community, as a family of believers. They expressed gratitude that we were able to worship this way because they had feared that they would be completely alone on this day that typically includes large family and worship gatherings.  
Why is the Easter season 50 days long?
Easter for Christians is more than a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church is celebrated. Read story .
Unprecedented Easter?
The Rev. Alfred T. Day, III, a clergy member of our conference and head of the UMC’s General Commission on Archives and History, recalls the unprecedented appearance of an angel over Jesus’ empty tomb. He writes about the extraordinary missional possibilities of this week’s “unprecedented Easter” during our season of pandemic and mandatory social distancing.  

“How will you let the angel atop the rolled-away stone speak to your life?” he asks. “What life-giving compassion might you offer someone in these days of waiting, days when it is all too easy to play the victim? What extraordinary godly things might you imagine and bring to fruition in these days of sheltering in place? What new life and miraculous things may come from them when the times of quarantine end? How might you have a fresh start to becoming the change you long to see in the world?” 

The saying “once the toothpaste is squeezed out of the tube, you can’t put it back” comes to Day’s mind. He cites that axiom as a metaphor for something that has come out, as if from an open tomb, that won’t go back in.  Read more.
New ministry response to coronavirus articles
Check out ResourceUMC’s new “Helping your church respond to the coronavirus” web page with links to helpful articles like “ Pastoral care for kids in a socially distant world ,” and “Using phones to worship remotely. ”  Learn more...
Church leaders urge African Americans to stay healthy, survive
United Methodist black church leaders issued a call to action in the fight against COVID-19 in light of recent findings that African Americans are dying from the disease at disproportionate rates in the U.S. Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, a national racial ethnic plan of The United Methodist Church, in partnership with Discipleship Ministries, hosted a virtual summit April 9 to urge congregations to take social distancing and other safety guidelines seriously. The summit also celebrated ways black churches are staying connected with their communities. A recording of the 90-minute webinar may still be viewed,  Learn more...
Safe Sanctuaries in virtual ministry during COVID-19
The Eastern PA Conference Safe Sanctuaries Committee affirms that our current policies and procedures are still relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic that requires physical distancing and solely online communication. But members realize that best practices must modified to apply to ministry in virtual environments. “During times of swift change that are unprecedented it can be easy to forget standing policies and procedures when working with children and youth,” says a new resource document. 

“During times like these, it is even more important to be diligent and follow all of the screening policies as they may be overlooked when someone offers help in this time. Unfortunately, those who seek to abuse use times of confusion and change to their advantage. Again, these guidelines are not meant to prevent ministry from happening but to ensure ministry occurs in safe ways. And now we need to ensure ministry occurs in safe ways in the virtual world. Towards this end, Eastern PA Conference of the United Methodist Conference’s Safe Sanctuaries committee is offering the follow resources and guidance in applying safe sanctuaries policies to the virtual world.” Learn more...
Observe Native American events on next 2 Sundays
The Eastern PA Conference CoNAM (Committee on Native American Ministry) reminds us of two important upcoming dates:

Sunday, April 19: “Indian Country’s Hidden Figures: Outstanding Native American Women,” a gathering to worship and witness to Native American history and culture. This 4 PM event will happen not at Camp Innabah as usual but online, as a webinar on ZOOM. We invite all to join us to see and hear inspiring stories of Native American women, past and present, who are models of courage, persistence and hope.

Pre-registration is required. When you register to the email below you will receive an invitation to Zoom with a password to join the meeting. Send to: rev.s.duchesne@gmail.com

Event Name: Hidden Figures; Y our Name__; and Your Church’s Name:__
Sunday, April 26: Native American Ministries Sunday
At this time of social distancing with worship services going online or livestream, we have resources you can use to celebrate this Special Sunday and spread the message to support our Native American brothers and sisters, many of whom are experiencing great difficulty during this crisis. Go to umcgiving.org for the 2020 NAMS Pastor and Leader Resource Kit. You will find podcasts, blog copy, social media resources and videos to use in your communication.
Laity Academy cancelled
The Laity Academy scheduled for July 31 – August 2 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19-related pandemic and mandatory restrictions on public gatherings. A new academy will be planned for 2021.
Celebrating Native American Women
Our conference CoNAM presents Indian Country’s Hidden Figures: Outstanding Native American Women on Sunday, April 19, at 4 PM. You probably know about Pocahontas and Sacajawea. But what about Elizabeth Peratrovich, Ada Deer, Mary Golda Ross, Maria Tallchief and Gertrude Simmons? 

These and many others lived meaningful lives and accomplished much, but their invisibility is a loss to our cultural awareness and our historical knowledge. Their invisibility will be no more. Join us to learn their stories and be inspired by their tenacity, determination, and spirit. Join our Zoom video-conference event f0r online worship and visual stories about these remarkable Native American heroines.
Registration required! Please send your name and church name to rev.s.duchesne@gmail.com .
Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation
A dynamic workshop, titled Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation: Calling All People of Color--Clergy & Laym will take place, as rescheduled, in October 17, 8:30 AM to 3:00 PMm at Simpson House, 2102 Belmont Avenue, Philadelphia. Sponsored by the conference’s Commission on Religion & Race.

Our facilitator, The Rev. R. Dandridge Collins, Ph. D., a trauma expert, will teach and lead participants in frank discussions to explore emotional distress and trauma caused in part by racist mistreatment, conflict and reactions, past and present. Interested persons should register soon . The $25 registration fee includes: continental breakfast, lunch and a copy of Collins’ bestselling 2007 book The Trauma Zone: Trusting God for Emotional Healing. Register today.   Download and share the flyer.
Evangelism in a Changing Landscape, Nov. 14
Plan now to attend the Eastern PA Conference’s 2020 Faith-Sharing Event, “Evangelism in a Changing Landscape,” November 14, 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, at Wesley UMC in Bethlehem, PA. Cost: $10. $50 for groups of 6 or more! Teams are encouraged to attend. 0.6 CEUs are available. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Our featured speaker: The Rev. Lisa Greenwood, Vice-President for Leadership Ministry of TMF (the Texas Methodist Foundation), Dallas, Texas. This one-day event will stimulate reflections on the changing landscape of our mission field—both its challenges and opportunities—and invite us into conversations about the implications for our church leaders and ministries. Congregations are encouraged to send teams to learn, strategize and prepare to grow together.

Lisa Greenwood works with church leaders across the UMC connection to help them understand and foster “deep change” by facilitating purposeful conversations of courage, learning, generosity and innovation. She brings wisdom and experience from serving suburban, urban and rural churches as a pastor in the North Texas Annual Conference for 20 years. She also has served on the Board of Ordained Ministry, four General Conference delegations (2004-2019), and as ministry strategist for the Horizons Stewardship Company. Download the flyer!    Register online!
Modeling non-anxious leadership during pandemic
The statistics are grim, but United Methodists in the U.S. have engaged the COVID-19 pandemic by emphasizing good information, helping those in need and offering inspiration for a stressful time. Learn more…
Wellspring , Health & Healing Newsletter

The Conference’s Health and Healing Council has published its Spring 2020 newsletter, Wellspring , now available (with past issues) on their webpage . The issue’s timely theme “Abundant Health in a World Changed by Coronavirus” signifies its focus on the pandemic disease as a backdrop to mental and physical health concerns. Features include the 10,000 Church Challenge, with sections on: Diet & Nutrition (“Lentils are tops!”), Mental Health (“Dealing with Fear, Worry, and Anxiety”), Preventing Burnout and Domestic Violence. Learn more...
EarthKeepers curriculum for youth available
As we prepare to celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day on April 22 a four-week EarthKeepers curriculum for youth is available from the Minnesota Conference and Hopeful EarthKeepers. The free lesson plans explore how United Methodists relate to God's creation. A bonus lesson takes on the environment and COVID-19. Karla Hovde has the story. Read story
New webpage offers online Holy Week worship, sermons
On our new Holy Week Worship Online page watch our recording of the inspiring Holy Week worship service led April 8 by Bishop Peggy Johnson and her Cabinet. Also view videos of two more sermons preached by the Bishop for Good Friday and Easter:  The Other Seven Last Words – A Good Friday Sermon ; and Advice from an Angel – An Easter Sermon .  

We also provide links for you to access both live-streamed and recorded video of worship, sermons and other activities at some of our local churches celebrating this Holy Week online. Visit several of their various websites and Facebook pages. Learn more...
Doing ministry in the midst of coronavirus
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.    Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

Are you doing a new thing? Is your church making a way in the wilderness of our present pandemic? Do you have good news to share about how your church is creatively and flexibly doing “ministry in the midst of coronavirus?”

Then please share your good news with us! We’re receiving email messages from churches and hearing from pastors on district Zoom calls about how they are practicing social distancing while doing worship, prayer and ministry online and even on location. Some are still feeding hungry neighbors, educating children and connecting vitally with their members, young and old.
We plan to publish a new article next week featuring some of these “new things” we are learning about. Please add yours to our list by sending news of ministries that are springing forth in new ways and reaching thirsty people like rivers in the desert.

Write to us and send photos if you can to communications@epaumc.org. Or please use our Submit News webpage to report your news.

Please try to send us your information by Wednesday, April 22, so we can get it published next week on our website. But send it whenever you can. If we get more than enough good news, we may publish a follow-up story later this month. Thanks!
UM agencies resourcing pandemic-affected churches
In the spirit of connectionalism, United Methodist general agencies continue to try to help local churches connect with members and survive the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such connection is crucial for continuing worship, financial stewardship, church administration, Christian education and collective prayer.
Local churches of fewer than 100 members can now request free Zoom web conferencing January 28, 2021(a ~$142 value). The offer is provided by United Methodist Communications (UMCom) and the General Council on Finance and Administration. Meanwhile, UMCom offers a recorded series of Local Church Learning Sessions available on their website . Each training video supports the shift to digital ministry.

The United Methodist Publishing House UMPH) has granted temporary permission for churches to reproduce and livestream selected parts of the UM Book of Worship and UM Hymnal Ritual Resources for online worship experiences until August 30, 2020 And the Rev. Jacqui T. King, Director of US Connectional Relationships at the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries agency shares a bevy of links to helpful resources from various sources to benefit local churches especially during the pandemic   Learn more…  
Online prayer groups seek healing despite social distancing
Churches and church groups are busily using online videoconferencing services—especially Zoom—and also free conference call services during these social distancing days for worship, meetings, Bible study classes, and increasingly, for prayer. Now, even larger groups are engaging in Zoom prayer meetings to broaden their reach.
Clifton Hubbard, president of the Eastern PA Conference UM Men, invited other conference members to join him on a new, two-hour, online Power for Prayer meeting on Zoom, sponsored by UM Men of the Northeastern Jurisdiction. Men and women have participated, most of them to listen, some to talk, others to pray. It’s held on Sundays at 2 PM.
Meanwhile, the Rev. David Piltz, the conference’s Coordinator of Young People’s Ministries, will launch a new weekly, 30-minute prayer meeting on Zoom for all conference members on Tuesdays at 12 noon, starting April 14.“It will be a time for silent prayer, prayer requests and sharing spoken prayers and scriptures. It’s a time for our Eastern PA United Methodist community to gather and pray for healing during this unprecedented time of difficulty and distress for many.” Learn more...
Celebrate Native American Ministries Sunday April 26
Churches are urged to celebrate Native American Ministries Sunday on April 26 or a more convenient date, but also to consider celebrating and giving to the special offering online. Contributions should be sent to the conference treasurer. Use online resources and ideas to enhance your celebration: Download the Native American Ministries Sunday Pastor and Leader’s Kit (also available in Spanish and Korean ) to access worship, social media graphics, videos, offering talk, bulletin inserts and other resources. When we give to this important offering half of our gifts are returned to our conference to support the hard, bridge-building work of our own Committee on Native American Ministry (CoNAM). The remainder goes to support scholarships for Native American seminarians and develop ministries in Native American communities, Learn more...
Annual Conference 2020 will be October 13-14
The 2020 Eastern PA Annual Conference will happen October 13-14 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. Originally scheduled for June 18-20, the session was postponed because of restrictions against public gatherings due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The now two-day schedule means a reduced agenda from the usual three-day schedule. Included will be worship, holy conferencing, conference reports and legislative resolutions, ordination and commissioning of clergy, a memorial service, celebration of clergy retirees and a retiree luncheon, and other standard activities. The 2020-2021 conference budget will also be presented and voted on. The Adjourned Session initially planned for that purpose on October 24 is cancelled. 

The annual Clergy and Laity sessions will meet in the morning, October 13, just prior to the Annual Conference opening worship. Staff will begin event preparations onsite October 12.

The Commission on Annual Conference Sessions met March 30 to plan a modified agenda, while the final dates were being negotiated with the Expo Center. Fall dates are hard to acquire now, with so many spring events being rescheduled.

Annual Conference registration fees already paid for June will be refunded, although with conference staff working mostly from home, that process may require weeks to complete. A new fee and registration period for the fall session will be announced soon.

District conferences are now scheduled to convene on Sunday, October 4, at 3 PM. The postponed 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences are being rescheduled for 2021.
Disaster Distress Helpline can offer mental health assistance during pandemic
The Rev. Rick Rimert ( right) , the Eastern PA Conference Disaster Response Committee’s Spiritual and Emotional Care specialist, shares this information on mental health assistance available during times of disaster, including the current pandemic. “It is vitally important for churches to clearly proclaim that fear is not the only force that is at work in the world today,” said Rimert, a pastor. “We need to make use of every possible resource to make certain that message is being put out there.”
The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

For Pastors or other leaders there is also a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration) App that can be downloaded that provides helpful advice when interacting with persons who have experienced a disaster.
PA tax exemption extended until September 30
Due to delays in processing of sales tax exemptions as a result of COVID-19, the IRS is extending the Eastern PA Conference’s tax-exempt status and that of its subsidiary churches until September 30, 2020. The extension is intended to assist conferences and subsidiary churches in continuing daily operations without interruption of exempt status. 

Ministry in the Midst of Coronavirus
Be sure to visit our Coronavirsu Ministry Response page periodically (accessible from our home page just under the Resources tab). We add more content there throughout the week, including links to relevant writings by Bishop Peggy Johnson and others, news and views about the pandemic and related concerns, and accounts of churches and ministries that continue to reach, serve and inspire people, while making disciples and transforming lives. Also, feel free to use our new Ministry in the Midst of Coronavirus logo.
Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural ministry training, June 6  
Ministry in a Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural Context Annual Workshop

CR/CC Ministries Training & Resourcing Team will conduct the annual workshop.

June 6, 2019 from 8:30 AM - 3 PM. Registration . Location: Covenant UMC, 110 N. Mulberry St., Lancaster, PA 17603. Cost: $10.

  • Newly-appointed clergy and leadership team serving in CRCC Ministry
  • Clergy and leadership teams currently in CRCC ministry
  • Other persons interested in CRCC ministry

This training is intentionally designed for clergy and congregations serving in a cross-racial/cross-cultural ministry context. By increasing the level of intercultural competency, deepening the understanding of relationship dynamics, and being equipped with practical communication tools, clergy and congregations will become more intentional and effective in their ministry.
Education Society Grants provide college aid
The Eastern PA Conference Education Society will offer grants to assist worthy individuals with defraying the cost of higher education for the 2020-2021 school year. Church members who plan to attend school in fall 2020 should be informed now about these grants and their deadline: May 11 . See and complete the application.

If you have questions, contact Education Society Chairperson, Al Adey, at ahadey@verizon.net .
Conference Loan Fund open for CD investments
The EPA Conference Loan Fund is open for investment in certificates of deposit again, for the first time in about five years, according to Conference Treasurer James Brown. The effective interest rate is 2.25% per year.
Each investor receives a Certificate of Participation from the Loan Fund certifying that the named investor has made an investment of a specific amount in the Loan Fund. The minimum investment is $1,000.00. The Certificates of Participation are offered for cash, and there are no financing terms available. 
Interest rates are set by members of the Annual Conference, as recommended by the Loan Fund Board. The Loan Fund is a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, whose purpose is to make loans to churches and affiliated agencies for building projects.   Learn more…   Also, visit our Conference Loan Fund page to learn more. Click here to download the investor form.  
Visit our Local Church Resources webpage
Do you find yourself wondering where you can obtain a 501(c)3 letter? Clergy W-2s? Various other bits of information that is crucial for churches? Look no further than the Local Church Resources page under the Administration tab on the EPA website and you can answer these questions.
Let's stay connected. Send us your newsletters
Please add our  Communications Office  to your church newsletter's digital and/or print mailing lists. We find much of our news in church newsletters (when we find time to read them), and we try to report local church news and events as much as possible. (We also love seeing Conference news reported in your newsletters. Thanks!) However, we want to receive only your church newsletters please, not other e-mailed church announcements. Thanks!
Update your Find-A-Church profile
Developed by United Methodist Communications, Find-A-Church helps your church connect with people who may be looking online for a church to provide worship, fellowship, spiritual nurture and other needs. If your church has a Website, having a church page in Find-A-Church doubles your local visibility to reach people searching by city, town or zip code. It is the official online directory of United Methodist churches in the United States and one of the most visited sections of UMC.org, averaging more than 1,000 page views a day. You'll achieve the best results from your Find-A-Church profile when you  update your church's information . For video instructions on how, visit  Video Tutorial: Find-A-Church Overview
Missed any past issues of NEWSpirit Digest?
You can still read or share informative, colorful back issues of our weekly e-newsletter on the Eastern PA Conference Website at  www.epaumc.org/news-events/newspirit-digest . Share this link with others who might want to stay informed about our news, events, resources and concerns. And please encourage them to subscribe by e-mailing communications@epaumc.org. Thanks!
  • April 19: CONAM's Spring Program, Zoom video-conference. View the flyer for access information.
  • April 21: Connectional Table Meeting, 7 PM, via Zoom video-conference
  • May 16: UMW’s Spiritual Life Retreat
  • May 16: Basic Sexual Ethics Workshop, 9:30 AM – 3 PM, Faith UMC
  • May 30: Clergy Transition Workshop, 9:30 AM – 2 PM, West Lawn UMC
  • June 6: CRCC Training, 8:30 AM – 3 PM, at Covenant UMC in Lancaster, PA. Cost: $10. Download the flyer. Register online.
  • July 24 - 25: Mission U
  • July 28: Connectional Table Meeting, ZOOM
  • August 20: Advanced Sexual Ethics Workshop
  • August 21 - 22: "Camping at the Crossroads" Summer Youth Rally
  • September 12: Annual "Celebrating our Cultures" Picnic
  • September 26: Basic Sexual Ethics Workshop
  • October 3: Connectional Ministries Leadership Training Event
  • October 4: District Conferences (rescheduled)
  • October 10: Domestic Violence Seminar, Time TBA
  • October 13 - 14: Annual Conference (rescheduled)
  • October 17: ERT/VIM Training, 8 AM – 4 PM, Eastwick UMC
  • October 17: UMW Annual Celebration
  • October 17: "Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation"
  • October 23-25: Dismantling Racism Training, Friday 5 PM – Sunday 3 PM, Desmond Hotel
  • October 24: UMW Annual Celebration
  • November 11: Annual Faith-Sharing Event--Evangelism in a Changing Landscape

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
(800) 828-9093 |  communications@epaumc.org  |  www.epaumc.org
980 Madison Avenue, Norristown, PA 19403