April 3, 2020
NEWS & VIEWS
Join Conference in Holy Week Worship, April 8
Bishop Peggy Johnson and the Eastern PA Conference Cabinet will lead churches and members in a mid-Holy Week online worship service on Wednesday, April 8, at 11 AM . The service should last about 45 minutes. Cabinet members offer this invitation to everyone:

We will pray together and remember our connection as sisters and brothers in Christ. You can join us via computer, tablet, smartphone or landline with the Zoom video-conferencing link below. We can host up to 1,000 people for this mid-week service. We hope you will join us in celebrating the Christ, who is the balm in Gilead and will not leave or forsake us.

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Telephone participants in the Eastern PA region should use: +1 646 558 8656
Webinar ID: 786 016 706
A Letter of Support to Churches from Eastern PA Conference Leadership
Eastern PA Conference leaders sent a letter to churches March 31, commending them for how resiliently they are weathering the pandemic storm of coronavirus and offering to help them in significant ways. Churches are using online solutions to transform worship and other church gatherings and to continue their generous, connectional giving. The pastoral letter assured churches that Bishop Peggy Johnson, the Extended Cabinet and Conference Staff “are aware of many of the challenges that our churches are facing, although we confess that we may be unaware of particularly critical situations in some places.” 
 
“Please help us keep open the lines of communication so we can go through this crisis together with you,” the letter requested. “The Bishop, Cabinet and Conference staff are here to work with churches during this time…. Keep your District Superintendent informed of any especially challenging circumstances your church may be experiencing.”

The letter offered support in dealing with financial challenges, including preliminary information about the newly passed federal CARES Act. which may provide Small Business Administration (SBA) forgivable loans to eligible churches, and conference-sponsored Necessitous Grants to respond to hardships. 

“We give thanks for the resiliency we see in our churches, and we pray for God's continued blessings upon you, your families and your ministries,” read the letter. “Please know that key Conference leaders are meeting weekly and will continue to provide updates as we have new information.” Learn more: A Letter of Support to Churches from Eastern PA Conference Leadership
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.
New Payroll Protection Program Application FAQ* and Federal CARES Act Guidelines for Churches

(*Frequently Asked Questions)
More resources for Ministry in the Midst of Coronavirus:
How congregations can prepare for the potential disruption and gospel opportunities, from Outreach.

From Lutheran Disaster Response, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Peggy Johnson:
Recent letters, statements about Ministry in the Midst of COVID-19
The Eastern PA Conference is now opening the search for a District Resource Assistant. This is considered a full-time position and will be located at the Eastern PA Conference office in Valley Forge. The position reports directly to the District Superintendents, beginning primarily for South District. 
 
If you are interested in this position, please send resumes and cover letters to UMJobs@epaumc.org by April 6, 2020. Our hope is for a June 1 start date. The job description is attached. Coordinated District Resource Assistant – Job Description
Death Notice: Rev. Sherrie Dobbs Johnson
Rev. Sherrie Dobbs Johnson, spouse of Bishop Alfred Johnson, died on March 27, 2020. She was a retired pastor in New Jersey and former editor of Response magazine of United Methodist Women. Bishop Alfred Johnson (retired) was a member of the Eastern PA Conference before he was elected a bishop.He served three Eastern PA churches--Chester, Tioga and Leola UMCs--and was Superintendent of the Harry Hosier District.
Bishop’s Blog: A rock in a weary land
The gospel song lyrics “Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land. Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm” is singing in my head as I ponder the life of Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, who passed away March 27 at the age of 98 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Like our Lord, Dr. Lowery was a rock. He was a rock in the weary land of racism and discrimination for decades in this country. Among his many rock-hard accomplishments was heading up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during a time of deep financial stress. He helped birth and lead that pioneering civil rights organization with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and later led it again, back from the brink. Read more…
Bishop's Blog: Doing the Next Right Thing
By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

I watched the movie “Frozen 2” over the weekend because I ran out of things to do, as everything has been closed and canceled. The advice that came up frequently in this Disney film were the words, “When you don’t know what to do, do the next right thing.” 

I like this quote because it is practical and doable. Life is full of times when we don’t know what to do as we face an overwhelming problem or fear-inducing situation. Doing the “right” thing speaks of moral integrity during hardships and suffering. The “next” thing speaks of taking it slow, one step at a time, and seeing the good in every small effort. That step often leads to the knowledge of what to do next. Read more...
CCYM shares reflections, advice on surviving pandemic
The Eastern PA’s Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM) is working virtually, via Zoom videoconferencing, to plan its second annual collaborative “ Camping at the Crossroads” Youth Rally in August . The March 28 annual spring Youth Rally had to be cancelled due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and “stay at home” mandates.

The summer overnight rally will happen (hopefully) August 21- 22, from Friday at 3 PM through Saturday at 7 PM. Once again, Covenant UMC of Moore Township will host the rally at the church, located at 2715 Mountain View Drive, Bath, PA. It will be part festival, part tent rally and part retreat, all rolled into one event to reach youth and young adults for Christ.

The event theme is “2020 Vision: We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight” taken from 2 Corinthians 5:7. All Eastern PA Conference youth and young adults are invited to come enjoy fun activities, fellowship, worship, dialogue and music and spoken word from The Autumn , Tom Golly , Egypt Speaks , Dave Berkey and more. More details will be announced soon. Read more...

Numerous displaced congregations—unable to gather in their sanctuaries—are increasingly worshiping online during the coronavirus pandemic. But many see first Sundays as a sacramental challenge. April 5, for example, is not only Palm Sunday but also the first Sunday of the month, when most churches typically celebrate Holy Communion together.

The dilemma for many is how to celebrate Communion correctly: with elements consecrated by an elder or licensed local pastor and received by worshipers gathered together in one place. While churches like Royersford UMC plan to deliver packaged, consecrated, individual elements to members’ homes, in bags hung on doorknobs, other churches may allow members to come pick up their packaged bread and grape juice (in lieu of wine), as long as they maintain their physical distance from one another to avoid spreading the virus. Read more…
LEARNING EVENTS
CONAM's Spring Program to be online, April 19
The Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministry (CoNAM) will present Indian Country’s Hidden Figures: Outstanding Native American Women on Sunday, April 19, at 4 PM. But rather than host it at Innabah Camp & Retreat Center as usual, the group will offer this educational event as a webinar on the Zoom video-conferencing website. CONAM will be the first conference committee to host an event on Zoom. CONAM writes:
 
You may know Pocahontas or Sacajawea. But do you know Elizabeth Peratrovich? Ada Deer? Mary Golda Ross? Maria Tallchief? Gertrude Simmons? These and many other important Native women 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. An online worship liturgy and PowerPoint presentation: Join us on Zoom! View the flyer for access information.
AROUND THE UMC CONNECTION
Wrestling with budget after GC2020 postponed
The pandemic-forced postponement of General Conference has left United Methodist financial leaders with big questions about the denomination’s budget.

The General Council on Finance and Administration board spent much of a March 27 teleconference grappling with how to act within the bounds of church rules while recognizing the new economic realities caused by COVID-19. Read more...
RESOURCES
Churches taking ministry online in the midst of pandemic
Virtual church is taking off big-time across our conference and beyond. Congregations are self-exiled from their sanctuaries by the coronavirus pandemic, as they practice social distancing. But some now prefer the term “physical distancing,” as they try to maintain social ties online. 

What many say to God in their benedictions they are now saying to each other: “As we leave this place but never your presence…” Indeed, more pastors and church members are being present with and for one another online via free conference calls and affordable video-conferencing and livestreaming options. The menu of options include Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, YouTube, Vimeo and so on.  Read more…
Available and Needed Items
Available: Hymnals
About 140 copies of the “Songs for Praise and Worship” hymnal (this is the newer of the 2 with a copyright of 1992), and about 150 copies of “The Hymnal” (the more traditional one with a copyright of 1986.) If interested, please contact Roger Greenawalt at rogerg1313@verizon.net .

Available: 7-Light Floor Candelabras (2)
Free “Floor Candelabras” to a good home. In need of some repair & cleaning. Must be picked up at Fox Chase U.M.C., 201 Loney Street, Philadelphia, PA 19111. Please contact foxchaseumc@yahoo.com or 215-745-7416
REMINDERS
Domestic Violence Committee wants to help churches
Please respond to the Domestic Violence Committee Information Survey
The Eastern PA Conference Domestic Violence Committee wants to determine how it can best help leaders and churches address the serious problem of domestic and intimate-partner violence in their communities. "If you or members of your church are involved or want to be involved, please tell us and let us help. Thank you for completing and submitting this survey questionnaire online (preferably) or by mail by April 6, 2020 ." Send the survey or any questions to: Rev. Jacqueline Hines, Committee Chairperson, at pastorjacquelineumc@gmail.com . Click here to complete the survey online.
2019 Church Statistical Reports due April 17
The deadline for completing and submitting your church’s Statistical Report is  April 17. Please  call your District Office if you have questions. Both your District Resource Assistant (DRA) and I stand ready to assist you and your church in making this annual process as smooth and as accurate as possible.


Lawrence A. Lee, Comptroller, Conference STAT Report Coordinator
(484) 762-8209 or (610) 666-9090 Ext. 1007  llee@epaumc.org
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.
GC2020 delegates listening sessions postponed
The Eastern PA Conference delegation to the 2020 General & Jurisdiction conferences has postponed its remaining listening sessions, scheduled for April 2, 4, and 20, until further notice. The sessions will be rescheduled when the UMC’s postponed global legislative assembly is rescheduled. They will occur at least two months prior to the new General Conference starting date.  

The Eastern PA delegates agree with the General Conference leadership’s feeling that “a pause is needed at this unique time,” said delegation co-chair Judy Ehninger. “All are encouraged to continue in ministry, sharing God’s love and actualizing the church we are called to be.”  

Ehninger recommends several ways to prepare for General Conference while awaiting the rescheduled dates:

  1. Visit the Resourceumc.org website and read General Conference news and related articles. All proposed legislation should be posted there.   
  2. Visit the www.epaumc.org website and find the General Conference 2020 page in the News and Events pull-down menu.
  3. Subscribe to UM News Daily Digest and to our conference’s NEWSpirit Digestonline newsletter, at communications@epaumc.org  
  4. Pray for The United Methodist Church and our Eastern PA Conference delegation. A roster of delegates with email addresses is posted on our conference website . If you would like to send an individual note of encouragement or ask a question, please do so. We are available to answer your questions as best we can.
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.
Clergy discuss best practices for funerals, weddings, other ceremonies during pandemic
Listen to a recording of a Zoom online video-chat among South District clergy about how best to offer funerals, weddings, communion and other public services notwithstanding the requirement of social (physical) distancing during our current COVID-19 pandemic. It's “A 2nd Cup of Coffee with DS & Colleagues,” hosted on Thursday, March 26, by the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, South District Superintendent. Go to

Our other district superintendents are also connecting with their pastors to be a listening heart and source of advice and comfort. The Rev. Tracy Bass will converse via Zoom with East District pastors March 31 at 10 AM, as they share best practices and ways they are meeting needs of their members and vulnerable communities.

The Revs. Steve Morton and Jenny Fremoyer, Superintendent and Assisting Elder, respectively, had a second, voluntary Zoom chat today with North District pastors to offer "mutual support and encouragement." And the Rev. BK Chung, West District Superintendent, has reached out to pastors and churches there, especially to find out how they are extending their ministries in spite of the pandemic and social distancing orders.
How can we livestream worship services legally?
Livestreaming can be an effective way for church and community members to remain connected with worship. United Methodist Communications’ Ask The UMC has more on copyright considerations for livestreaming legally. Read story. Read more Ask The UMC
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.

Audience:
  • 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 .
2020 Eastern PA Conference Laity Academy
July 31 – August 2, at Eastern University

After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12
Life is NOISY. Life is MESSY. Life is OVERWHELMING.
Can you find God in all of this confusion? Are you even looking for God?
Elijah was looking. He was even told to stand on the mountain and the Lord would pass by… and he waited. He expected him in the torrential wind, he expected him in the earthquake, and then in the fire. But the Lord spoke after all of the confusion,  in a still small voice, a whisper.
We need to declutter our lives, our emotions, and our thoughts. We need to stop talking and start listening. Listen to our partners, our children, our friends, and listen for God.
Come join us at the 2020 EPA Laity Academy to learn about our Lord while exploring your personal ministry path. This weekend will be focused on serenity, prayer, and introspection. Come and enjoy the classes, fellowship, worship and entertainment.
Watch our website for further details: https://www.epaumc.org/ministry/lay
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!
SAVE THE DATES
  • April 8: Conference-Wide Holy Week Worship Service via Zoom webinar
  • 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
  • April 26 – 28: FAMLP Retreat, Camp Pecometh
  • May 16: UMW’s Spiritual Life Retreat
  • May 16: Basic Sexual Ethics Workshop, 9:30 AM – 3 PM, Faith UMC
  • May 17: District Conferences
  • 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.
  • June 18 – June 20: 2020 Annual Conference, Oaks Expo Center
  • July 24 - 25: Mission U
  • July 28: Connectional Table Meeting, ZOOM
  • July 31 - August 2: Laity Academy
  • 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 10: Domestic Violence Seminar, Time TBA
  • 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 Trainging, Friday 5 PM – Sunday 3 PM, Desmond Hotel
  • October 24: UMW Annual Celebration
  • October 24: Adjourned Session of Annual Conference
  • 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