The latest news from many resources for American Baptist Churches.

Reaching out as the Coronavirus Invades Ohio

March 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

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. 

Blessings!

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 

Coronavirus Response ~ American Baptist Churches of Ohio

Dear Friends,

As the Coronavirus has become a reality in Ohio, a number of pastors and church leaders have begun seeking our guidance to help congregations take steps to keep their church families safe.  The following recommendations or ideas may help you as you plan for the next few weeks.

• Protect senior adults and people with other health issues. They are probably the group that is most at-risk at this time.  As much as they love being with the church family, it is important to give them your blessing to stay home and be safe during the danger period.  If they are not among you in person, please organize a process to check on them regularly (that doesn’t involve in-person visits) to offer encouragement, to be sure they have the supplies they need, to check on their health, and to make certain they are eating each day.  The church is a good safety net in times of trouble.

• Protect everyone by limiting personal/physical contact.  Most obviously, avoid shaking hands, holding hands during prayer, hugging, etc.  Waving may be a better means of greeting each other or passing the peace in worship.  Avoid home visits, nursing home visits, and hospital visits except for urgent situations.  A number of congregations that have decided to continue worship have cancelled activities such as Sunday School, youth and children’s ministry activities, church dinners, conferences, etc. so that people actually have less physical contact.  Ask people who don’t feel well to stay home for their own protection and for the protection of others.

• Make changes in the way you serve the Lord’s Supper.  Many churches have decided to wait until after the most threatening period has passed to serve Communion again.  This is a disappointment to the family, but it is better than being exposed to the virus as the plates and trays are prepared or passed.  Some have chosen to use the sealed communion cups that contain both the juice and bread in a single sealed unit.  These are challenging to use, but they are safer than open cups and bread trays.  Of course, this is not a time for using a common cup, a single loaf of bread, or homemade communion bread, as is the custom in many congregations.

• Keep facilities clean.  Use disinfectants that specify they will kill the Coronavirus.  Provide cleaning supplies in easily accessible places at the church so that they may be used on tables, light switches, door handles, restrooms, and other places in the church building that people touch with their hands.  Of course, all cleaning supplies should be kept out of the reach of children.  Make hand sanitizer available in public areas and encourage its use.  Disable or put up signs on drinking fountains so they will not be used.

• Be aware of the information and directives coming from our state’s Governor.  He is being recognized nationally and commended across political party lines for seeking good counsel from medical personnel and taking a proactive approach to address the Coronavirus concerns in Ohio. The available information is changing quickly, so keeping abreast of the public information is helpful. While the Governor is issuing orders for nursing homes, hospitals, schools, universities, etc., he has been careful only to make recommendations to churches, honoring the separation of church and state.  He has ordered that groups of more that 100 should not assemble.  This order isn’t binding on churches, which have the right to make their own decisions about meeting.  But you may want to consider the concern that the assembly of large groups increases the possibility that the virus could be shared more readily and widely, even when their purpose is worship.  Some larger (and smaller) congregations across denominations in Ohio have cancelled worship and other church activities for two to three weeks.  Others have decided to continue to meet for worship, but have cancelled other activities and meetings.  Still others are utilizing electronic means to bring people together in spirit but not in person.
   
You and your church leaders are the ones who best know your congregation’s needs.  We encourage you to prayerfully consider the best answers for your church’s care, safety, and assembly during the next few weeks.  The two of us would be happy to help you if you have more specific questions you’d like to discuss.  We are in prayer for the people of ABC/Ohio as you go through this challenging and uneven time in life and ministry.

Blessings!

Rev. Mark Click, Executive Minister for Administration and Denominational Relations

Rev. Jane Gibbons, Executive Minister for Program and Ministry Development
American Baptist Churches of Ohio 

“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!

Baptist History and Polity Workshop RESCHEDULED

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.