July 16, 2020
NEWS & VIEWS
Gov. Wolf tightens social restrictions as COVID infections rise
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine imposed new mitigation measures for Pennsylvania as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The new orders took effect at midnight, Thursday, July 16.

The new restrictions reduce indoor dining from 50% capacity to 25%. Indoor gatherings are limited to 25 persons or less and outdoor gatherings up to 250 people or less. Where possible, businesses are required to conduct their operations remotely through teleworking or comply with all required safety protocols, including wearing of masks.

“That means no more than 25 people should gather indoors and no more than 250 outdoors at our churches, but always with social distancing and careful cleaning protocols,” said Bishop Peggy Johnson. “These are best practices; and while churches may be exempt from the governor’s rules, I still think we should follow these guidelines as best we can. This is a deadly virus. Our older people are the most vulnerable. I prefer to err on the side of caution always.”  

As of Wednesday, Pennsylvania recorded 994 additional positive cases of COVID-19 bringing the total confirmed cases statewide to 97,665. The state peaked in early April with nearly 2,000 new cases in a single day. Wolf said in a tweet, “If we don’t act now, medical experts are projecting that this new surge in cases could soon eclipse the peak in April.” Learn more...
Donated hand sanitizer ready for churches to come and get it
Six barrels with 50-gallons each of donated hand sanitizer are now ready and waiting for churches to “come and get it” at the Eastern PA Conference’s four Camp & Retreat Centers and at two local churches in Philadelphia and Allentown.

The 55-gallon total barrels, recently donated to FEMA and then to our conference’s Disaster Response Ministry, were picked up by Early Response Team volunteers Wednesday at Jubilee Ministries in Annville and delivered to six sites across the conference. Church representatives can come with empty, screw-top bottles and collect from the barrels up to 64 ounces of the sanitizer gel for each church.

Visitors to the camps should call or e-mail them in advance to arrange visits. All visitors must wear protective masks and practice social distancing. Learn more...
Conference office reopens gradually, cautiously
The Eastern PA Conference Office in Valley Forge (Audubon area) is gradually reawakening from a three-month repose, since mid-March, as the COVID-19 pandemic slightly eases in Montgomery County. With the county now in the PA governor’s green phase and office reconstruction nearly finished, conference staff have reoccupied offices in the regularly sanitized building.

Many are in newly assigned offices and are coming in two days a week, while working from home on intervening days to keep limits on building occupancy as protection against the still-spreading virus. That includes District Resource Assistants (DRA), who, as of July 1, now work together from the conference office, rather than separately in locations across the four districts.

The conference office is closed on Fridays through Labor Day, as staff work their usual summer schedule of longer hours on Monday through Thursday. Learn more...
Training will help youth leaders teach racial reconciliation
Youth ministry leaders across the Eastern PA Conference can learn how to teach their youth groups about racial reconciliation, using biblical and theological insights, during a timely Zoom video-conference training event on Saturday, July 25, from 10 AM to 1 PM. 

Leading Racial Reconciliation for Youth Leaders, an “experiential workshop” organized by the Rev. David Piltz, Conference Coordinator of Youth and Young Adults Ministry, should help youth ministers and other church leaders engage with young people in “intentional conversations” on this challenging topic. Skilled facilitators will explain biblical foundations of racial reconciliation and how to effectively implement it in youth and young adult groups and other churches settings. 

“During this experience, participants will examine their own biases while learning how to navigate tricky conversations with youth with sensitivity to parents' perspectives,” said Piltz. Three extraordinary, creative leaders who speak to Christian youth will lead the 3-hour, online session for youth ministers. Learn more…
Cabinet to lead Conference-wide prayer meetings
The Eastern PA Conference’s half-hour prayer meetings, held on Tuesdays at noon by video-chat on Zoom, will welcome a special cadre of prayer leaders in August and September. The conference Cabinet was invited to take the lead by the Rev. David Piltz, creator and host of the ministry, and they accepted. 
 
Piltz, who also leads Young People’s Ministries for the conference, as well as being a campus minister at Drexel University and the new pastor of Valley Forge UMC, started the weekly prayer sessions in April, as the current Coronavirus pandemic was growing. Bishop Peggy Johnson is a frequent attendee, as well as other conference leaders and local church laity and pastors.
 
Now the bishop and her appointive Cabinet, and new Connectional Ministries Director the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, will become guest-hosts over the next two months. Piltz hopes their spiritual leadership in this forum will draw more participants from their districts and beyond, and also add new, diverse voices and styles of prayer to the overall experience. It may even lead to inviting more guest hosts in the future. 
 
Here is the schedule of Cabinet Prayer Leaders:
Rev. Evelyn Kent Clark, South District Superintendent – Aug. 11
Rev. Bumkoo Chung, West District Superintendent – Aug. 18
Rev. Dr. Andrew L. Foster, East District Superintendent – Aug 25
Rev. Steve Morton, North District Superintendent – Sept. 1
Bishop Peggy Johnson – Sept. 8
Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Director of Connectional Ministries – Sept. 15
 
Here is the Zoom access information:
Join at: https://epaumc.zoom.us/j/591129374?pwd=dElpMUdVd09VTTBoRDZxTm9zejVqdz09
Meeting ID: 591 129 374
Or Call in: +1 646 558 8656
Urgent appeal to aid Peter D. Weaver Congo Partnership
You can make a difference!

We have all been impacted by the pandemic in the United States. During our own challenges, God calls us to care for others. Your Peter D. Weaver Congo Partnership continues to be a beacon of hope for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo that has been devastated by the pandemic and other challenges, especially economically.

We are seeing a growing rate of malnutrition and starvation because people in remote areas are unable to grow their own food. Our lifesaving Partnership projects are needed more than ever. We endeavor to provide for the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of our Congolese sisters and brothers. 

The Partnership, which is supported by the Eastern PA Conference, now faces serious financial challenges which will require us to cut some of our life-giving projects if urgently needed funds cannot be raised. If every person and every congregation provided some financial support, God would take those gifts and multiply them so that we can support our Congolese mission partners in this time of great need. Learn more....
Appeal for donated masks, hand sanitizer, etc
The Eastern PA Conference Disaster Response Ministry is seeking volunteers to sew and donate suitable protective masks for children and adults in vulnerable, urban communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many church members and residents in these communities are in great need of masks, hand sanitizer and other assistance to help them stay safe and survive the pandemic. The ministry needs and will gladly accept:

The needs include:
  • Donations of disposable and reusable masks,
  • Flip-top bottles (2-ounces) for use in dispensing hand sanitizer,
  • Gallon jugs of hand sanitizer to fill flip-top bottles, and
  • Monetary donations to help purchase and distribute supplies.

Please contact the Rev. Myra Maxwell, East District Disaster Response Coordinator, at myrajmax1@gmail.com, if you can help. Send or deliver donations to: Trinity United Methodist Church, 1814 Wharton Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146. Call: (215) 468-1999.

PA Council of Churches seeks new Executive Director 
The Pennsylvania Council of Churches continues its search for an executive director, with a deadline of August 31 for applications. They hope to find “a faithful and resourceful Christian disciple to lead the PCC in addressing the many issues and challenges facing the Christian community today and in the future.” The new director must have “experience in ecumenism with strong leadership and relationship-building skills.” Find the full job description on the PCC website at www.pachurches.org . Nominations may be sent to the Search Committee at searchcommittee@pachurches.org

Also see: 
Gammon Seminary seeks new President-Dean 
​Gammon Theological Seminary, founded in 1883 and located in Atlanta, Ga., is seeking to hire a new president-dean to lead “the institution now and into the future.” The only historically African American United Methodist Seminary and one of 13 seminaries related to the UMC in the U.S., it is part of the Atlanta University Center and the Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of six historically African American Theological schools. Learn more...
NCC laments Turkish aim to convert Hagia Sophia museum into mosque
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA decries the decision of the Turkish Government to convert the Hagia Sophia from its long-term status as a museum into a mosque. It was a political decision made July 10 by Turkey’s President that was fueled by nationalist zeal and a “disregard for religious tolerance, and his cynicism in manipulating the Muslim majority in his country to support him.” Learn more...   
NEJ Deaf Ministry Virtual Summit, August 8
Grace UMC in Philadelphia will host the Northeastern Jurisdiction Deaf Ministry Virtual Summit via Zoom on Saturday, August 8, from 3 to 5 PM. The theme is “I Am Redeemed.” Included are a brief worship service with a message by Bishop Peggy Johnson, plus guest speakers, breakout sessions, ministry recognitions, and a business meeting. Voice interpretation will be provided.

For questions about the virtual event, contact Rosalind McKelvey roz.mckelvey@gmail.com .
For registration questions, contact Rev. Leo Yates at RevYates@eumclaurel.org .

AROUND THE UM CONNECTION
The Methodist movement first grew through small groups where people met to talk about their faith. An informal group of 15 current and former General Conference delegates hopes a similar approach will help foster a less contentious and more fruitful legislative gathering next year.

The group is urging fellow delegates and other United Methodists to use the unprecedented pandemic-caused postponement of the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly to hold prayerful conversations in their churches about the denomination’s future. Read more...
Asian Americans stand in solidarity with Blacks
ATLANTA — The United Methodist Asian American Language Ministry, part of the denomination's Board of Global Ministries, has released a statement condemning the loss of Black lives to racist violence. "This is a pivotal moment for Asian Americans to rise up and acknowledge our indebtedness to the struggle and contributions of African Americans," says the statement.  Read press release and download statement .
Churches mark end of 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak
BENI, Congo (UM News) — The deadly Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that killed 2,277 people is over, the Congolese health minister and the World Health Organization announced. United Methodist churches played a part in helping to share health and prevention information, and worked to prevent the stigma Ebola survivors often face. Philippe Kituka Lolonga and Chadrack Londe Tambwe have the story. Read story .
Young United Methodist activist uses her voice
INDIANAPOLIS — Taylor Hall, a United Methodist and granddaughter of United Theological Seminary President Kent Millard, has drawn media attention for her activism in the wake of the George Floyd killing. Hall, 19, helped lead peaceful demonstrations in Indianapolis, recorded a song titled "I Can't Breathe" and met with local leaders as part of a group called Black Women in Charge. Lauren Kostiuk has the story.   Read story
LEARNING EVENTS
Online school to train local church historians

MADISON, N.J. — The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History is offering a free online course that will cover a range of skills needed to become a church historian. The 12-week course will begin Sept. 14 and people can take it at their own pace. Read press release .   To register .
Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation event moves online to Zoom
The Eastern PA Conference’s twice-postponed  Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress and Transformation workshop will happen online on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 9 AM to 2 PM , using Zoom video-conferencing. The unusual workshop will address a timely topic that concerns many people of color in today’s highly charged racial climate: race-based traumatic stress.

The Rev. Dr. R. Dandridge Collins , a pastoral psychologist, author, lecturer, minister and trauma expert, will teach and lead participants in frank discussions to explore solutions to emotional distress and trauma caused in part by racist mistreatment, conflict and reactions, past and present. People of color, clergy and lay, should register soon. Space may fill up quickly. 

The original $25 registration fee has been reduced to $15 and still includes a copy of Collins’ bestselling 2007 book The Trauma Zone: Trusting God for Emotional Healing . Also included is a copy of Romal Tune’s book, Love is an Inside Job . Scholarships are available. Please contact: dtaylorstorm@epaumc.org . Register Online Download and share the flyer!
Orientation to Ministry, Sept. 12
There are various ways one can enter into professional ministry in the UMC. Attend this orientation Sept. 12 to learn the process of answering God’s call. Presenter: Rev. Michael Roberts. Learn more and Register.
RESOURCES
An essential guide to re-opening your church
Vanco is offering a new Returning to Church During COVID-19 Playbook that provides actionable guidance for churches that are reopening. Yes, another set of guidelines among many, but can you ever have too many? Vanco’s new resource deals with: health and safety tips; best practices for social distancing: advice for accommodating contact-free Communion and online group discussions; communicating with staff, volunteers and your congregation; and maintaining a sense of community when members are attending both in-person and virtual services. Learn more...
Anxiety is an understandable byproduct in a world living with the coronavirus pandemic.“Worry is constantly deconstructing us, fragmenting us. We are distracted and scattered,” says one pastor. But some say it’s possible to limit or eliminate the fear and worry that threaten many.
REMINDERS
Licensing School Dean sought
The Board of Ordained Ministry is searching for a Dean of the Eastern PA Conference Licensing School. This position relates to the Board of Ordained Ministry and is a part-time, stipend position. If you are interested in this position, please send a letter of interest and a resume by July 25 to   UMJobs@epaumc.org . Read more. Click here to download the full job description.
Bishop to attend District Conferences online in September
Because of ongoing large-gathering restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern PA Conference’s four District Conferences will meet not in person but online as video conferences, in mid-September. They will convene about a month before the rescheduled Annual Conference session, which will also be held on Zoom, with a reduced agenda, October 13-14. All conferences will use a Zoom webinar format, with voting and comments made by participants online. (Look for a new article on our website next week about changes in the 2020 Annual Conference session.)  

The District Conferences will occur on separate days--not simultaneously as usual--allowing Bishop Peggy Johnson to visit each virtual gathering. She will explain necessary adjustments planned for Annual Conference and also discuss the denomination’s new Dismantling Racism initiative and the importance of Discipleship. The District Conference schedule is:  

South District: Tuesday, Sept. 15, 6:30 PM
East District: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 6:30 PM
West District: Thursday Sept. 17, 6:30 PM
North District: Monday, Sept. 21, 6:30 PM

Each District Conference must vote for any needed replacement equalizing members for the 2020 Annual Conference. (Equalizing members for the next quadrennium will be voted on at next spring’s Annual Conference.) Districts will also vote on nominees for annual conference leadership, celebrate leadership transitions and thank churches that have paid 100% apportionments. 
Connectional Ministries Good News
Check out these two short Connectional Ministries Good News video reports by the Rev. Lucky Cotto and the Rev. Will Brawner about Latino Ministries and Urban Ministries, respectively. Each shares good news about serving Christ by serving communities through these two vital work areas in our conference. 


Bishop's Blog: Celebrating 30 Years of the ADA
I was serving as a pastor for an all-Deaf congregation when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) law was signed July 26, 1990.

For my congregation it meant there would be a free relay service for telecommunications. What an incredible thing! A Deaf person could now call a relay operator using their TTY. This was part of the Americans with Disabilities Act: “Telecommunications.” It meant that Deaf people could then make confidential calls to whomever they wanted without having to go through a hearing volunteer (like me) or a hearing family member.

The other benefits I could see from the ADA included more access to paid sign language interpreters in many places, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, and state and local museums. Many Deaf people began to have sign language interpreters at their places of work for the first time.

Through the years, progress continues to be made. More buildings are accessible, employers are making needed accommodations in the workplace, and people with all kinds of disabilities are able to live more independently and contribute to society. Employment is still one of the most difficult areas with the national average of full-time employment for people with disabilities at 36%. 

The United Methodist Church affirms the sacred worth of people with disabilities, and in our Social Principles we state that our churches should be accessible and welcoming. We encourage our churches to do Accessibility Audits each year, as well as observe a Disability Awareness Sunday in January. Learn more. Also, use the Litany to Celebrate the Americans With Disabilities Act.” 

Bishop Johnson, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities (or people who are differently abled) will be featured at An Interfaith Reflection on the ADA: 30 Years Later , sponsored online by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative (IDAC), o n Wednesday, July 22nd, 12pm – 1pm EST . She will participate in a panel discussion with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders. The General Board of Church and Society, on which she serves, is a member of the IDAC. To register and receive participant instructions, use this form: https://bit.ly/ADA30years .
‘Love one another’…enough to wear a mask
When it comes to caring for the safety of others during the COVID-19 pandemic, we wear masks not to hide but to reveal our love for one another. That’s the message the Rev. Candy LaBar, pastor of Wesley UMC Bethlehem, artistically conveys to her members and others through the use of a themed photo collage.
 
Citing scriptures in Philippians and John’s Gospel, she appeals to all to show loving consideration for others by wearing masks or face coverings that can protect others from infection. “Love one another enough to wear a mask,” she wrote to members. “What you are doing is just what Jesus told you to do.” 
 
LaBar recruited church members to participate in this second online photo collage. The first one, which LaBar made in May, offered thanks to health care and service personnel working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more...
Unsnarling U.S. and church racial histor y:
View recording of historic UMC dialogue
The United Methodist Church sponsored a denominational town hall discussion about its racial past today, July 1.

Following a 3-minute historical video, UMC historians and leaders led a livestreamed denominational town hall to explore their church’s complicated and sometimes suppressed record on race. Their aim: To help United Methodists turn away from past transgressions and join the denomination’s renewed push against the sin of racism.

“A historical perspective gives us a glimpse into how the church chose to respond at critical inflection points in our history,” Erin Hawkins, the town hall’s moderator, told UM News ahead of the gathering. “I think it’s important to look at the times when we have risen to the challenge and when we have fallen very short.”

The recorded video and discussion is now available for viewing. Learn more and Watch now (Video begins at 9:53)
Congolese pastors need clergy shirts, blouses 
Bishop Peggy Johnson asks for donations of "gently used clergy shirts and blouses" for our clergy sisters and brothers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Please send them to the Conference Office in care of the Bishop's Office: P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0820. Phone: 610-666-1442. Thanks!
Intercultural Competency Workshop, Aug. 15
Saturday, August 15, 9:00 AM- 12:30 PM

This training on Zoom is designed for clergy and congregations serving in a cross-racial/cross-cultural ministry context or wanting to engage the racially and ethnically diverse community around them more effectively. 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.

The Zoom invitation for the day will be sent several days prior to the date of the workshop. Registration closes August 10. Register online now!   Download the flyer!   
Free Vanco app aims to connect with worshippers
Vanco, a UMC General Council on Finance and Administration partner, has introduced a free app to help church leaders and churches stay connected in this time of separation and transition. Through Vanco Mobile , members can connect, donate, plan and share in new ways. A leading provider of technology and payment solutions to churches, Vanco has experienced rapid growth this year as more faith-based organizations seek online giving solutions. Read press release
New PA program offers rental, mortgage aid 
Persons who have experienced a job or substantial income loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can now get assistance with their rent or mortgage through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The agency opened applications for a new rental and mortgage assistance program on Monday, June 29. This new program is funded through the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund allocated by the Governor and the Legislature and totals $175 million.
 
Re-opening Best Practices for Churches Updated 6/24/2020
Our Conference Guidelines are updated for churches to use as they plan their reopenings. Learn more... 
Conference offers churches online giving page

The conference has created a giving page on its website to allow congregations to easily receive online gifts from church members, visitors and donors, who can select from a menu of participating churches. The online giving portal is now operational.  It is available to all churches, but it should be especially helpful to churches that do not currently offer online giving but want to. The service is provided through the conference’s relationship with Vanco Payment Services.   

Simple electronic funds transfer process
To participate in the program, a local church must simply complete the electronic funds transfer form and return it to the conference accounting office. The conference Treasurer’s office will process and deposit gifts into the church’s designated bank account weekly. A contribution report will then be sent to the church. Learn more...
REMINDER: PA tax exemption extended until September 30
Due to delays in processing of sales tax exemptions as a result of COVID-19, the PA state revenue department  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.
Clergy, pastors, deacons asked to submit photos for directory
The Eastern PA Conference is creating a Clergy Photo Directory to be used by the new appointive Cabinet and to help future transitions in Annual Conference leadership. For convenience, the Cabinet created an online EPAUMC Clergy Photo Portal to allow for easy photo submissions. 
 
Each appointed or assigned pastor (clergy or lay) and deacon is asked to submit one photo. You will be asked for your email address to access the portal. Once you access the portal, you will be asked for your name and a photo to upload.. The portal will only accept image files (.jpg, .png, etc.). The Clergy Photo Portal will guide you through completing these steps. Questions? Contact the Rev. Kevin Babcock, ( above), Coordinator of Church Support Services, at kbabcock@epaumc.org .
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
  • July 25: Connectional Table Meeting, Zoom online meeting.
  • August 21 - 22: "Camping at the Crossroads" Summer Youth Rally
  • September 26: Basic Sexual Ethics Workshop
  • October 3: Connectional Ministries Leadership Training Event. Cedarville UMC.
  • October 4: District Conferences (rescheduled)
  • October 9-10: Domestic Violence Seminar, on Zoom
  • October 13 - 14: Annual Conference (rescheduled)
  • October 17: ERT/VIM Training, 8 AM – 4 PM, Eastwick UMC
  • October 17: UMW Annual Celebration. Download the flyer!
  • October 17: "Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation"
  • October 23-25: Dismantling Racism Training, Friday 5 PM – Sunday 3 PM, Desmond Hotel
  • November 14: Annual Faith-Sharing Event--Evangelism in a Changing Landscape
  • December 13: Annual "Celebrating our Cultures" Event, Zoom online event

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