Dear GNJ Church Leaders,
Thank you for your leadership over the past few weeks and particularly these past few days. In a very challenging season, pastors and congregational leadership have been taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of people. I am particularly grateful for the creative use of online worship and Facebook live worship by many of our congregations. We will continue to update you about the resources, measures and best practices congregations are using to ensure healthy safety while ministering to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of their people and the community.
I wanted you to know that the MRC (Mission and Resources Center) will be closed Monday and Tuesday and staff will be working from home. This is to allow staff to assess their personal needs, one-third of our staff have young children whose schools are closed, and six other staff have vulnerable family members at home. We anticipate that the Coronavirus will continue for weeks and months.
The events at the MRC are being postponed this week unless you hear otherwise from your group leader. Some activities will be accomplished online. You may see conference activities updates here. New appointment work and announcement has been paused for this week and will resume next week.
The staff executive leadership team will be meeting tomorrow at the MRC to assess how we will support staff, our pastors and congregations in the weeks ahead. We will be receiving mail and phone calls at the MRC during this period. You may call 732-359-1000 for information or to connect with a staff person. If the phone is not answered it will be checked regularly so please leave a message. One of the best ways to connect during this period is to use email. You may find each staff person’s name, role and email address here.
Our Future With Hope Ministry is taking the lead in coordinating response efforts. A Future With Hope was created to respond to disaster relief during Superstorm Sandy. Most recently, the Director of Emergency Response for the State of New Jersey was added to the AFWH board. We are also grateful for Rev. George Morris who is responding to the needs and questions of pastors concerning the Coronavirus during this time. You can contact Rev. Morris here. We in GNJ are grateful for AFWH and the people with wisdom and commitment to help during times of tragedy.
You will receive regular updates about how GNJ is responding and resources for your congregation. You may find resources and what other congregations are doing during this time on our home page, www.gnjumc.org. We are updating these pages regularly.
We want you to report to your District Superintendent any needs or reports of the Coronavirus affecting your congregation. This information will remain confidential and we will ensure that appropriate reporting occurs. We do not have any reports of any of our pastors or laity contracting the Coronavirus, but we are aware of one situation in which a child of one of our pastors was in contact with another child whose father was diagnosed with the Coronavirus. The staff and congregation was made aware of the situation. The pastoral family has self-quarantined along with people who came in contact with the child or pastor. We have a strict protocol when this occurs which requires notifying the congregation, ministry participants that may be at risk, state officials and any others that need to be aware of the situation.
Following the executive staff team’s meeting tomorrow, we will update you with further information.
We will move through this time and become stronger in faith and practices because of this challenge. I want each of you to identify how you will do your part in combating this pandemic – social distancing, prayers, identifying ways to be in ministry with vulnerable people in your community including those who need food and supplies and those who need companionship during a time of isolation. Your prayers for GNJ leaders is needed and appreciated at this time as well.
Thank you for being United Methodist. Our connectional system works during seasons of deep challenge.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
United Methodists of Greater New Jersey