Region Notes – American Baptist Churches of New York State

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Region Notes – American Baptist Churches of New York State

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This post is shared as a COVID-19 resource on our resource page at www.abc-usa.org/coronavirus. Visit this page to find helpful resources and information, and see regular updates from American Baptist regions and national partners.

April 23, 2020

When I was at the Ministers Council Retreat this year – it was just before the caveat against 10 or more persons meeting in one place – I took several books from my library for the book swap. The challenge for me is always to come home with fewer books from someone else’s library than I take from my own. Such is the quandary of a book-junkie. But I succeeded in my efforts, I only came home with one: The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris. Whoever the pastor was who brought that book to swap – thank you thank you thank you. I have always been intrigued and curious about those who choose a cloistered lifestyle. This book is true to the review from the Boston Globe, “A remarkable piece of writing. If read with humility and attention, Kathleen Norris’s book becomes lectio divina, or holy reading.”

In one of her chapters Norris discusses Simon Tugwell. She describes him as a “contemporary theologian with a lively prose style.” She is a poet and so appreciates the concise way that Tugwell expresses profound ideas. (p. 206). During “the fourth week of Easter” Norris finds herself, late at night, in a booth in a hotel bar, absorbed by his work: Early Dominicans: Selected Writings. It is close enough to our own Eastertide that I took careful notice of her reference from this work – especially in relation to our current efforts to live and worship through the extreme circumstances under which the Corona Virus has placed us.

In citing “Tugwell’s quotation from Humbert of Romans’ “On the Formation of Preachers” she says, “Humbert describes the contemplative preacher as one who has ‘eyes to the rear, to see whether they are being enticed back to the things they have abandoned; and eyes in front, to see if they are, like the apostle, surpassing themselves in what lies ahead of them, namely spiritual things; and eyes to the left, to see that they do not lose heart when things are difficult; and eyes to the right, to see that they do not become proud when things are going well.” (p. 209)

Seems to me that is the challenge of every preacher and pastor in these troubled times. As I remind myself that God is in control I remember a quote helpful to me in even more chaotic times: “Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes he lets the storms rage, and he calms the child. May you be safe and well, comforted and calm, even as the waves of uncertainly rise around us. Amen.

Faithfully submitted,

Rev. Wendy Depew Partelow
Vice-President, ABC/NYS Board of Mission


Pastoral Support

The Region is concerned for our pastors moving forward through difficult times.  For pastors who may experience financial hardship due to church budget shortfalls, ABCNYS will offer a one-time grant, up to $500, to pastors serving ABCNYS churches.  Beginning now through October 31, 2020, please contact Rev. Jerrod Hugenot (jhugenot@abc-nys.org) for an application.  This ministry support is made possible by the ABCNYS Psalm Fund.  If churches or individuals wish to support this effort, please send a donation (payable to ABCNYS) noting: PSALM FUND COVID19 RELIEF to ABCNYS, 3218 James Street, Syracuse, NY 13206.

NOTE:  As we shared in our April 1, 2020, Region email, MMBB is offering assistance to its members enrolled in the comprehensive pension plan. We encourage MMBB participants to inquire about these assistance opportunities. 1.800.986.6222. Further, MMBB staff Gradia McKinney welcomes you to contact her for assistance.  Please note your ABCNYS affiliation when leaving a voice mail or email when you contact Gradia via: Gradia.mckinney@mmbb.org or 347.703.1582.

To read more about MMBB’s recent COVID19 support for its plan participants, revisit our April 1 advisory:

Webinar for ABCNYS Pastors:  Taking Care of Others, Taking Care of Ourselves

We are living in unprecedented and difficult days.  You, as spiritual leaders in your congregations and communities, are managing the fears, anxieties, and grief of many. You are managing your own as well.

On Wednesday, May 5, at either 10am or 7pm, Maggie Lewis and Meg Hess will lead the region in conversation about how we can navigate these times caring for others while also caring for ourselves.   Free individual coaching is available on request after this teleconference, which is offered by The Center for Career Development and Ministry (CCDM) staff.  Maggie is the CCDM Executive Director.  Meg is a Licensed Pastoral Psychotherapist and a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.

Technology:  What are we learning?

In May, we will offer online conversations for church leaders (pastors and any lay person who wishes to join us) to talk about tech.  Dealing with COVID19 social distancing provisions, many churches sought out tech solutions to support worship services, e-giving and keeping congregants connected for Bible study, meetings and even “virtual coffee hours”.

As we move forward, what did we learn along the way?  We will offer sessions for ABCNYS churches to learn more about how these tools can help now and into the future. Topics under consideration:

Audio:     Skills for voice and video alike

Worship:  Focus on streaming and pre-recording services

E-Giving:  E-giving platforms and field experience of our churches

Futuring:   How does technology facilitate our ministry moving forward

We welcome pastors and any lay person who is involved with the digital ministry initiatives.  We’ll invite some presenters to offer key insights as a formal presentation then Q&A time.  We’ll announce a schedule soon!  (If you have interest in this series of online learning opportunities, please send a brief note to jhugenot@abc-nys.org to help us assess the level of interest and if you have other topics or questions you’d like to explore with your sister churches and ministry colleagues!)

Lay Study Program Courses

These days you’re finding yourself inside your home more than usual, right? If you’ve ever considered taking a lay study course, now could be the time to do it. Spring courses are starting soon (Ministry Through the Small Church – April 20, Christian Education – April 22, Preaching – April 30) All three will be online only  Check out this link: http://www.abc-nys.org/ls-courses.html.

Open to any person who wishes to expand their knowledge or prepare for local church ministry.

Continuing Education Opportunity

The Festival of Homiletics is held each May in the Atlanta or Minneapolis area.  It’s a chance to hear several preachers of note as well as guests who speak to the year’s keynote theme.  Ordinarily, it’s a plane trip, hotel stays, expenses, etc., etc.  Given the COVID 19 situation, they have reorganized the 2020 Conference as a virtual event.  You can sign up to participate online.  (Fees apply if you wish to have the content later “on demand.”)  This year has a Creation and Preaching emphasis.  Timely considering the world is thinking more globally right now than we tend to do!

If you are looking for continuing education, this may be a great opportunity while we’re still cooped up or wary of traveling in the coming weeks. LINK:  https://www.festivalofhomiletics.com/

Jeff Woods
ABCUSA General Secretary

Dates to Remember (Updated)

June 7: Adirondack Association
September 19: Niagara Area Baptist Association
October 16&17: ABCNYS Biennial

November 6-8: ABY Convention

November 20&21: Embracing God’s Future Without Forgetting the Past

If you have an upcoming event, it’s a good idea to check with the contact person for said event to see if it’s still happening.