Message from Bishop Schol | Leading in a Defining Moment for the Church

March 23, 2020 | Messages from the Bishop

Dear GNJ Clergy and Lay Leadership,

Bless the Lord O my soul, AND thank you for your thoughtful, creative and prayerful leadership. It is heartwarming and makes me proud to see how each of you are giving your best to lead our congregations in this time of uncertainty, isolation and concern. Our extension ministers are navigating in new ways with the people you serve in your communities, nation, world and denomination. Our clergy retirees are stepping in to lead with ministries, prayers and engagement with worship services online. Together, we are leading the church forward and our world forward. Thank you.

In the book of Romans we read:

…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:3-5 (CEV)

Paul’s words inspire key principles for leading during this time.

  • Have faith
  • Face current realities
  • Realize this is a defining moment for the church
  • Recognize that these times call for endurance
  • Know that God is pouring love and hope into our hearts

Regretfully, the pandemic, along with the restrictions required to combat it, are going to be longer than we would like. It will be months and possibly longer, and it will be hard spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. Our gift as United Methodists will be to find ways to encourage and support one another and continue in faith knowing God will see us through. I am convinced we will come through this virus. God has brought us this far by faith. I invite all of us into healthy hope and realism.

I want to share with you several important ministries and actions for this week:

  1. Mission opportunity
  2. Promoting your congregation’s online worship
  3. Promoting giving to your congregation
  4. Supporting you in the midst of challenges
  5. GNJ’s goal
  6. Governor Murphy’s Executive Order

Mission Opportunity
United Methodist Communities, our partners in ministry who serve seniors and vulnerable populations through 11 housing communities and home visits, is in dire need of face masks for seniors and the people who care for them. You can make them at home. Follow this link and share this information with your congregation so together we can help those who need it most.

Promoting Your Congregation’s Online Worship
Starting this week and every week during the pandemic, we will promote your online worship through Facebook, the Digest and our webpage. Select this link to list your church. Our communications team is ready to support you for your online worship and has tools and training scheduled. Click here to find resources, training and ask questions.

Promoting Giving to Your Congregation
We have set up a place on our website for online giving specifically for your congregation. Through this morning, we have received 57 gifts for $8,385, which will be sent directly to your congregations. We have also extended our Miracles Everywhere Campaign to include relief and recovery resources from the coronavirus pandemic to assist individuals and families impacted by the virus and to support congregational ministries that will assist people in the community. You can find the online giving for Miracles Everywhere here. Please share these with your congregation.

Supporting You in the Midst of Challenges 
There will be new challenges for you and your congregation week by week. Each week, I and other conference leaders will review these and identify how we will support our congregations and pastors.

Our Goal
During this time, our goal is to spread the love of Jesus Christ while stamping out the coronavirus. The United Methodists of GNJ’s part in stamping out the coronavirus is ensuring that zero cases of infection occur through our ministries and activities. Stay at home, practice social distancing, worship online and ensure the health and safety of people while serving their spiritual and emotional needs. Find the resources you need for worship, mission, connecting, giving and technology as well as links to the current information from state and federal government on our website.

The Governor’s Executive Order
On Saturday, Governor Murphy mandated a new directive for a Statewide Stay at Home Order and Closure for Non-Essential Businesses.You may find the order here. It is long, but it clearly spells out the directive: stay at home. You should accompany this order with our goal to stamp out the coronavirus. The link is also listed on our webpages. Although some of you live and worship in New York and Pennsylvania and have different state directives, they all echo the same instructions: stay at home, practice social distancing and ensure the health and safety of the people while you serve their emotional and spiritual needs.

God is seeing us through this most difficult season. It may be longer than we would like, but today we can claim that this is a defining moment. Our character will be shaped by it, and God will see us through as we serve together.

I thank you for all the sacrifices you are making. Your spirit and leadership are a gift to the world.

Thank you.

John

John Schol, Bishop
United Methodists of Greater New Jersey