We are about to make it to the end of a most unusual year. I have heard it said several times, “we need to put 2020 in the rearview mirror”! The pandemic has lasted long enough that we have developed a “Covid-19” routine. All the presbytery staff except for me have been working from home during the pandemic. When we hired our final two staff members, I was looking forward to having more than two people in the office during the week. But just as Carol Clark and Julie Price got their offices set up and arranged, things began to shut down in March and the staff began working from home.
I have been coming to the office daily. I am there by myself, so I feel safe knowing that I am not potentially exposing others or picking up the virus from others. One reason I do so is that the internet speed is much better than what I have at home. Like so many others, I spend a lot of time on Zoom and I rarely have an “unstable connection” message at the office. The other reason I do so is to collect the mail that allows bills to be paid and deposits made on a timely basis. I have settled into a somewhat lonely routine where my only daily contact with a person on most days is the mailman.
As the one who receives the mail this year, I have been amazed at the steady and regular contributions that come in from our congregations. Your faithfulness has been a source of weekly gratitude for me and a regular reminder that the work of the church is continuing even during a deadly pandemic. I cannot commend or thank our pastors enough for their resiliency and faithfulness as they have learned how to do worship and ministry in this chaotic time. And I also commend the faithfulness and patience of our members as they have adjusted to this new reality but have also faithfully supported their congregations with their contributions and that most congregations have passed along a portion of that to support the work of the presbytery.
All of us were very concerned in March about budgets. The presbytery responded by offering zero interest loans to congregations in anticipation of reduced income. We have made loans to two congregations and one of those had reached out for assistance before the pandemic hit. With assistance from our government through the Cares Act, most of our congregations are reporting that they are making it through 2020 in fairly good shape. Thanks to your contributions, the presbytery’s budget is in good shape as well. Our contributions will probably be slightly under budget, but the spend rate on our investments has made up for the shortfall. Our expenses will be below budget in several areas due to events and travel being cancelled due to Covid-19.
As we approach the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I find myself so thankful for the faithfulness, resiliency, and cooperation I have witnessed from our pastors and church leaders in the presbytery. Our new staff members quickly adapted to different needs and expectations in their jobs and performed extremely well. We have learned how to conduct business in ways we would not have thought possible this time last year. So, on behalf of all of the presbytery staff, we say “thank you” to all of you.
As I ponder moving into 2021, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the coming vaccine will help us get past this serious pandemic. I look forward to being able to visit congregations and worship in person across this presbytery. I can’t wait to have colleagues in the office again and enjoy the conversations with others at presbytery meetings. As to when that time comes, we don’t know just yet. But I am hopeful that it will happen in the 2021 calendar year.
In the meantime, my prayers are with all our congregations during this holy season of the church year. I pray that all of us will be able to experience the gifts of the season – the love, hope, joy and peace that Jesus Christ brings to the world. May each of you have a blessed, joyful, safe and “distanced” celebration of Christmas and the New Year!!
I continue to be thankful to be partnered with you in ministry and I look forward to seeing you “in person” in 2021!!!