March 26, 2020
Just a few minutes ago two students from Jane’s neighborhood knocked on her door and talked with her through her storm door. They were walking around the community, checking on neighbors, and distributing a list of neighbors’ phone numbers in case anyone needed to call for help. We’ve been delighted and surprised to see the compassion and care that is being expressed during this time of crisis in our country and the world.
A lot has transpired since we wrote our last letter to you two weeks ago. The Coronavirus has become a reality in Ohio and throughout most of the country. The number of cases has been multiplying exponentially and is expected to do that for a while. Additional deaths are being reported daily. Ohio’s Governor has ordered all non-essential personnel to stay at home, and all non-essential businesses to close in order to limit the spread of the virus and to help to flatten the curve so that our hospitals, which are already being taxed, are not overwhelmed by the numbers needing treatment for the disease. The Centers for Disease control and our President have directed people not to gather in groups of larger than 10 people, and social distancing – staying at least 6 feet from other people - has become the norm. Closer to home, a leader from one of our ABC Ohio congregations has been hospitalized at Cleveland Clinic with the virus.
Of course, because of Separation of Church and State, the governmental orders are not binding on the church. But the Governor has specifically asked pastors to model safe practices at this time, and we have been pleased with the responsible and creative responses to the pandemic that we have seen throughout ABC Ohio. Nearly all our congregations have made the decision to stop all in-person meetings and worship services as a means of protecting congregants and limiting the spread of the virus in the community. The church may not be meeting in traditional form, but it has by no means stopped meeting, nor has it stopped being the church. Let us share some of the things we have seen that may inspire your congregations to do a new thing in response to the pandemic…
· In the past two weeks, we have gotten to hear dozens of ABC Ohio pastors preach and lead in worship through electronic channels. Congregations have been recording or livestreaming their worship services and sharing them through Facebook and other platforms. This has allowed people to participate in worship who cannot leave their homes. Some of the worship services are simple one-person devotional times, while others include full-length sermons and either live or pre-recorded worship music. Pastor Stephan Bloomfield of FBC Mt. Gilead shared that his congregation normally has 50-60 people in Sunday worship, but more than 550 people had viewed their on-line worship service this week. While nothing replaces the fellowship of believers, this is certainly an indication that new people are being reached who were not participating in the more traditional form of worship. It may also indicate that people are hungry for God’s presence and for what the church may have to offer.
· Many pastors have continued midweek prayer services, Bible Studies, and weekly small group meetings using Facebook or Skype. Last evening, we viewed at least a dozen Wednesday night Bible Studies on-line led by ABC Ohio pastors. Several pastors are doing a daily devotions or check-ins from their home offices, living rooms, or outdoor spaces.
· Based on comments from the director of the Ohio Department of Health, some churches have already anticipated that they will still need to practice social distancing through Easter. Rev. Mike Cole of FBC Perry has shared with his congregation that they will have a drive-in service on Easter Sunday in their church parking lot. They will set up a sound system and have a worship service reminiscent of the old drive-in theaters.
· Of course, Pastoral Care is a great need during this time. We’ve heard of pastors, deacons, and others making hundreds of phone calls, sending dozens of e-mails and writing many cards and notes to help people stay connected and to be sure the older saints are getting the help and support they need. And of course, telephone or on-line prayer groups are playing an important role in pastoral care.
· Rev. Katie Oskin of First Baptist Church of Hubbard has invited American Baptist Women of ABC/Ohio and others who sew to join in making masks at the request of University Hospital in Cleveland. They are hoping to generate 1 million masks to offset the shortage anticipated in two Cleveland hospitals. If you’d like more information about this project, please email Jane and she will connect you with Pastor Katie Oskin.
· Two Association pastors’ groups in Southern Ohio have held their monthly meetings through Go To Meeting. If your Association pastors’ group would like to arrange this kind of meeting to replace your regularly scheduled meeting, please contact Mark in the South or Jane in the North and we will help you set this up.
Both of us are working from home and are available to help you as needed. Please call, text, personal message on Facebook, or email us if we can be helpful.
Finally, we want to request that you share what you are doing. This letter will be posted on the ABC Ohio website and Facebook. If you are sharing your worship service electronically, please post the link to your service on the ABC Ohio Facebook page so that other people may view what you are doing.
We continue to pray for God’s care, direction, and safekeeping for ABC Ohio congregations and pastors.
Rev. Jane Gibbons, Executive Minister for Program and Ministry Development
Rev. Mark Click, Executive Minister for Administration and Denominational Relations
American Baptist Churches of Ohio
ABC Ohio announces that the Baptist History and Polity Workshop, has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 9 from 10 am to 5 pm, hosted at the ABC Ohio Office at 136 N. Galway Drive, Granville, OH 43023. Rev. Timothy Mohon, an American Baptist pastor and noted Baptist historian, has been recruited as the Associate Regional Minister for American Baptist History and Polity. He is the instructor for the workshop.
All are welcome to attend! The cost is $25 for one individual attending from a congregation. If two or more attend from the congregation, the cost is $20 per person. The fee includes the cost of lunch and instructional materials. In addition, the workshop is an approved way for ordination candidates to meet the American Baptist History and Polity requirement for American Baptist Track 1 or Track 2 Ordination. Ordination Candidates will have additional reading and writing assignments. The cost for Ordination Candidates is $100 to cover additional instructional costs.
An informational flyer and registration form can be downloaded HERE. Please submit registrations by Monday, March 9. I hope that the workshop might be useful to you and your congregation as you help newer members of your church family explore and embrace their Baptist identity.
Since 2009, the "Buckeye Mission and Ministry Offering" (BMMO) has become a significant avenue for churches in the Region to support the ministries of American Baptist Churches of Ohio (ABC Ohio). BMMO helps make it possible for ABC Ohio to serve your church.
Every dollar given to the BMMO goes to support the various ministries that benefit your church (see the list of ministries below). The most significant region ministry is that of the two Executive Ministers, Rev. Jane Gibbons and Rev. Mark Click, who serve faithfully to help in whatever way needed to equip you and your church for ministry.
Our Region's theme is "Sharing God's Hope for All Generations: Transforming Churches through Intergenerational Ministries" from Joel 2:28. “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions."
BMMO gifts help develop, coach, and assist servant leaders. It provides new ministry resources for local churches and helps provide quality ministry gatherings to challenge and grow healthy churches.
Please consider giving to the BMMO in 2020. This is one way your church can partner with ABC Ohio to fulfill God’s mission in your community and beyond. Your faithful giving is appreciated and is needed to serve its member churches. Again, remember that every dollar given goes to ABC Ohio ministries that "help build healthy churches that impact the world for Christ."
American Baptist Churches of Ohio
People, Churches, Ministries
Impacting the World for Christ
Region Ministry Team: The ABC/Ohio staff are experienced and prepared ministry leaders who serve clergy and churches as coaches and consultants in a variety of ministries including congregational transformation, placement, and ministry resources.
Leadership Development: The Ohio Leadership Academy provides a three-year structured learning opportunity to increase and sharpen leadership and ministry skills for the local church.
Student-Youth Ministries: With determination to raise up new generations of disciples and church leaders, ABC/Ohio provides a variety of opportunities including an annual youth convention, youth ministry leader training, and mutual support.
Congregational Development – Transformation: With a commitment to congregational health, ABC/Ohio provides a number of resources to transform churches into ministries that will impact the world for Christ.
Pastoral Placement: The ABC/Ohio staff uses proven and effective resources as they consult with church search committees to discern new ministry direction and call new pastors.
Ministry Gatherings: Several times each year, ABC/Ohio offers ministry gatherings that provide fellowship, inspiration, learning from nationally-known experts, and opportunities to increase ministry capacity.
Ministry Resources: ABC/Ohio manages and awards ministry grants and scholarships for new ministries and outdoor ministries. The staff connects churches with cutting-edge ministry resources.
ARMS: ABC/Ohio commissioned a team of highly qualified Associate Regional Ministers who have agreed to make monthly contacts with solo and senior pastors throughout the region, offering encouragement and providing prayer support. A Youth Ministry ARM is also working with staff to coordinate student ministries in the region. Additional ARMs will be added to the ABC/Ohio team as needed.
“Celebrating Ministering Women: Radical. Redeemed. Ready.” Conference June 16-19 at Green Lake Conference Center
We encourage you to promote and participate in this summer’s “Celebrating Ministering Women: Radical. Redeemed. Ready.” at Green Lake from Tuesday, June 16, through Thursday, June 19. This historic conference will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Women in Ministry project of American Baptists as well as recognize and encourage the thousands of women who have served our churches in lay and clergy roles through the years.
The registration site is radicalredeemedready.com. Registration is $199. Register by March 15 and save $50!
American Baptist Churches USA and American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM) are partnering to present this unique conference at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
From the pioneering women of long ago to the trailblazing leaders of today, the movement of women into ministry has involved the whole family of faith from all across ABCUSA. With women serving in a multitude of ways and a variety of roles nationally and internationally, American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM) and ABWM are joining together to celebrate ministering women across the Unites States, Puerto Rico, and around the world.
Held at Green Lake Conference Center where the first Women In Ministry conference took place in 1980, out of which the Women in Ministry Project was birthed, and where American Baptist women have gathered for many years, the conference will feature inspiring speakers, creative worship, engaging workshops, and opportunities to converse and connect.
“As a young seminarian, I attended the 1980 Green Lake gathering for Women in Ministry. While it seems impossible to imagine that forty years have passed, I look forward to the opportunity to gather in June to celebrate the leadership ministry of so many women within our American Baptist family across the years,” said Rev. Soozi Whitten Ford, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky and co-chair of the Planning Team along with Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles.
The conference will celebrate women leaders, past and present, their myriad journeys into ministry and their many ways of ministering. The 40th Anniversary of the birth of the Women in Ministry Project will also be a part of the celebration.
“I’m thankful to partner in planning this unique event with Rev. Gina Jacobs-Strain, Executive Director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries as together we celebrate the 40 Anniversary of American Baptist Women in Ministry and the rich legacy of ministering women throughout our American Baptist family. This will be an historic gathering you won’t want to miss!” said Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez, associate general secretary for American Baptist Women in Ministry and Transition Ministries.
Radical – ABCUSA has carried out a radical witness and radical witness is still needed.
Redeemed – When all God’s gifts in all God’s people are fully accessed, embraced and utilized, churches flourish and our world is transformed. We are all redeemed.
READY! We are READY. Are you?
All are welcome: Women and men, young and seasoned, clergy and lay leaders. That means YOU! Join Us!
“We Are American Baptist Churches of Ohio – Our Heritage & Mission,” was produced to provide a reminder of our rich heritage, mission, and covenant. The question for our congregations, leaders and pastors is: “What does it mean for you and your congregation to be a member of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio?”