The latest news specifically for American Baptist Churches of Ohio.
April 27, 2020
We have been so blessed and encouraged by the creative and meaningful ways that pastors and congregations have responded to the challenges of ministry through this time of pandemic and quarantine. About 85 percent of ABC Ohio congregations have shared weekly electronic worship services that have included good preaching, prayer, and music. A number of churches have developed prayer and communication groups online, by phone or by email to be sure that their church families are cared for personally and spiritually. Pastors and others have made thousands of telephone calls to check on, reassure, pray with, and stay connected to their congregations. Since Easter, many of our congregations have begun to ask the question, “What comes next?”
Our Governor has announced in the past week that he would like to see the state begin to open up SLOWLY. We believe SLOWLY is an important word as the church prepares for what comes next. As much as we want to be together, the rush to make a hasty return to our previous ways could be disastrous for our congregations. Ken Braddy, Jr., a Sunday School specialist, has developed a series of questions church leaders should answer before they begin to set a date for the church to gather again in person. We recommend that your church consider some similar questions…
As we continue to grapple with the continuing effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the pace of change is rapid and ongoing. It can be challenging to keep up with the volume of information whether it concerns the rising number of people stricken with the disease and its rapid spread, the shifting market and investment environment, or understanding the details of the recent stimulus legislation passed by Congress and its impact on pastoral leaders, churches and faith-based organizations.
We take seriously MMBB’s fiduciary responsibility and ongoing commitment to serve our members. Therefore, we strive to ensure that the information presented about the CARES Act is accurate and reflects the clearest understanding of the specific provisions available to non-profits, clergy, churches and other religious entities. We appreciate your patience as we exercise our due diligence to examine multiple legal, financial, and legislative resources.
The following are recommendations from the Regional Executive Ministers Council for American Baptist Pastors during this time of the COVID-19 crisis and restrictions.
Traditional pastoral ministry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and government Stay at Home directives. It has changed dthe way we worship, fellowship and provide pastoral care. In general, there are to be no groups of ten or more people.
1. Worship services should not be held in person. Services should be held by Facebook, streaming, and video conference.
2. Memorial services should be restricted to immediate family members of ten or less people. Larger services should be planned for after social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
3. Wedding services should be restricted to immediate family members of ten or less people. Larger celebrations and/or receptions should be planned for after social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
4. Pastoral calls to those in the hospital, nursing homes, and shut-ins should be postponed until after social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
5. People in hospitals, nursing homes, and shut-ins are considered at high risk of being infected with the virus.
6. Pastoral care must take on other expressions: greeting cards, phone calls, email, texting, Face Timing, and other creative ways to be present.
7. The ministry of prayer has been become even more important.
Best Practices for Funerals During the COVID-19 Crisis:
ABC USA Resources:
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.
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.
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