Dear GNJ Clergy and Lay Leadership,
Christ the Lord is Risen! Neither the grave nor COVID-19 can stop the resurrection power of God. Thank you for leading your congregation forward during this time.
This following is the essential actions and information for this week.
Essential Actions and Updates for the Week of April 14
- Action Recommended: Spiritual and Mental Health – Pastors, Lay Servants, Certified Lay Ministers and Congregational Leadership
This is a very challenging time for people’s spiritual and mental health. We are in the height of COVID-19 pandemic and expect the measures in place to social distance and stay at home will continue for weeks and even months. The first step for spiritual and mental health is for leaders to take care of themselves and model for others best practices. You will not be able to care for others unless you are caring for yourself. We have a team working on spiritual and emotional care during COVID-19 and we will share their resources and actions next week. Until then, here are a few best practices.
- Take prayer and meditation breaks throughout the day. Pray for family, friends, your neighbors and the church. Read a Bible verse and meditate on it during the day. Breathe deeply and slowly for five minutes throughout the day. If you have prayer requests, send them to BishopJohnPrays@gnjumc.org
- Take exercise breaks during the day. Go for a walk, a run if you can, Google at home exercises and try doing a few several times a day.
- Have virtual lunches, dinners and hors d’oeuvres with family and friends.
- Avoid too much alcohol.
- Talk with somebody each day and share with them what life is like for you.
- Action Required: Survey – Lead Pastors The survey is necessary for all lead pastors to complete by Wednesday noon each week. It only takes five minutes or less and serves as a guide for our actions and follow-up with pastors and congregations about their needs and resourcing. This week’s survey will close on Wednesday, April 15 at 1:30 p.m. This week’s survey may be found here.3. Action Required: If Your Church Cannot Pay Salary or Bills – Pastors, Treasurers, Finance Chairs and Church Council Chairpersons
We recognize the financial difficulty that many of our congregations are having and we will support as many of our congregations as we can. If your church experiences the inability to pay clergy salary and benefits or bills, take the following steps.
- Assess your income and expenses. Identify which income may still be expected and which is lost income (lost income may include loss of rental income, loss of donations because people have lost their job, are sick or have died). Assess the items to eliminate. Prioritize bills.
- Share with the congregation the financial challenge and invite people to increase their generosity during this time.
- If you haven’t already broadened your opportunities for giving, communicate that you are still receiving checks by mail and online donations. More information about online giving here.
- Apply for CARES Act funding. More information here.
- Notify the superintendent within three days if the clergy salary and/or benefits is not paid.
We will do everything we can to assist our congregations with financial challenges. We encourage churches to take the April and May shared ministry holiday as needed. We have heard from several churches that they are doing okay financially, and they are continuing to give shared ministry. We understand this will not be the case for all our churches. Please follow the steps above so that we can best understand how to assist you.
4. Information: GNJ Appointments/Status Change, Elected Leader Terms and Ordination – Clergy and GNJ Elected Leaders
Annual conference will most likely be held October 4, 5 and 6. All presently elected leaders will continue through the next annual conference session. Clergy statuses are being reviewed to determine if there is any vote needed prior to the next annual conference session. Ordination, commissioning and consecrations will occur at the next annual conference session. The cabinet has completed work on all but two full time appointments and several part time appointments. With COVID-19, there is a team assessing when appointment changes should occur. The feedback provided on last week’s survey concerning the date for appointment changes was very helpful. Thank you.
5. Information and Action – Pastors, Worship Team Leaders and Church Council and Worship Chairpersons
The Executive Orders from the Governors of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are clear: There is to be no in-person worship until further notice. GNJ’s role is also clear: Spread the Good News of Jesus Christ while stamping out COVID-19 and ensure zero infection is spread by United Methodist activity. The governor and our goal work hand in hand. There should be no United Methodist worship or gathering during the virus. We recognize how hard this has been, especially during Holy Week but GNJ leadership commends you for your faithful adherence to these restrictions.
Congregations have done amazingly well in moving to online worship. Thank you. We recognize that you want to improve the online experience for people. We have a team working on this and will share more next week. You can learn more about technology information here and about online worship resources here. Also, the Breakthrough Worship series, What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do, has been released and is appropriate for facing uncertain times. It may be found here.
We have learned that the church is nimbler and more innovative than we ever realized. Our clergy, congregational leadership and laity have been adaptive. Question to ponder: How is this season shaping your future ministry?
Have a blessed week. Be safe, stay strong and continue to carry out our goal to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ while stamping out COVID-19 without zero transmissions of the virus because of United Methodist activity.
The GNJ Leadership Team