At the End of April – ABC of Maine

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At the End of April – ABC of Maine

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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.

May 1, 2020

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.” 
T. S. Eliot

For other reasons, I am in agreement this year with T.S. Eliot; “April is the cruelest month”.  It has been a month of cruel physical separation.  I am thankful for the technology that allows folks to gather, to see each other, to hear laughter, to engage in concerns and prayer.  I deeply appreciate the times of gathering that we’ve shared, especially the great privilege of sharing Holy Thursday service with many of you.  Thank you for that bridging gift.  However good that experience was, it is not the same as being physical present; one among.

I find myself in conversation with God about this pandemic.  I so want the restoration of what was, the familiar.  So, I argue my points carefully. One never should be brash when speaking with God.  Boldly, I plead for restoration and the silence that ensues is deafening.  I don’t want Job’s answer.  I know and trust that God is in control and that He will work all things to the good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.  I thankfully know my place.  I’m a friend waiting on a Friend to act; knowing that Jesus is fully able to do more that I can ask or think.  I know the script.  He can calm the storm whenever He wants. I know how all of this will end.  It is good news.

One thing has come out of my conversations with God is a deeper awareness of HIs presence in my life. Because of this, I will give thanks each day for what I have, and will attribute to God my appreciation for the privilege of living in this world so intricately, masterfully created.  I will look to find in each day His touch upon this world and my life and stand amazed at how resilient is His creation and how delicately we must hold on to it.  It doesn’t take much to turn the world’s order on its head.  All it takes is a microscopic bug that someone hosted somewhere on the other side of the world to relegate me to my home for who knows how long.

Yet, I will give thanks. God is good!  I am grateful for being able to spend time with Norma.  We’ve had time to cry together, to laugh together, to enjoy walks, movies, books, articles, life.  I didn’t make time to do much of that before COVID-19.  It is a gift for which I am grateful.  I’ve the privilege of living with my Dad or should I say, of Dad living with me.  It doesn’t matter much the order.  We have talked shop, politics, faith and the world.  HIs walk with God continues to deepen my own.  It is a gift for which I am grateful.  I’ve a TIllie.  She’s fast approaching 10 months and never lacks energy.  I’ve been told that about Australian Shepherds.  She is my early morning ritual.  She is brushed every morning.  It is something that she endures in order to play fetch.  In between throws of frisbee or ball, I am made aware of the beauty of God’s creation right in my backyard.  Turkeys have indeed started gobbling.  Osprey’s are back.  Bluebirds have begun to refurbish last year’s nests and the grass is greening.  All of this is happening daily which diverts my attention away from COVID-19 news to the Creator who fearfully and wonderfully brought it all into being of which I now am more deeply appreciative with each passing day. I’ll continue to enjoy what God has given and give thanks after COVID-19 passes.

I am also aware that after every storm’s passing, there is work to be done. Storms rage and throw people’s lives into disorder. Physical things, emotional things, spiritual things are strewn about after the storm.  Who picks up after the storm? Who sees opportunity in messy things? Who heals, binds, restores and makes new?  The Church of Jesus Christ, His hands and feet, must be at work before, during, and after the storm. When everyone else is worn out from battling the storm, the church renews its strength, it runs and does not grow weary, it walks and do not faint because our hope is in the Lord. Wait upon the Lord now because the storm will pass by and the aftermath of the storm will need the hands and feet Christ to recover.

 Like a river, glorious
Is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious
In its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth
Fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth

  Deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Christ Jesus,
hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow
Of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow,
Never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry,
Not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry
Touch the spirit there.

Stayed upon Christ Jesus,
Hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

Every joy or trial
Falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial
By the Sun of Love.
We may trust Him fully
All for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly
Find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Christ Jesus,
Hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

Frances Ridley Havergal

ABCOM is keeping our churches updated through regular COVID-19 news briefs.  Please keep your eyes open for these briefs.  There is helpful information for you and your church.  Remember to pray for each other and to keep in touch.    Resources for Local Churches – Coronavirus COVID – 19

As the country begins to think about reopening, here are several important resources for your local church.

ABCUSA Reopening Conversation Guide,   A Three-fold Prayer and  Return to Work Checklist

Today is the time to have these important conversations with your church leadership.  While we are still shuttered at home, make the time to do the hard work of planning and preparing your congregation for ministry and mission in a post COVID – 19 world.

During the pandemic, remember to keep your local church and pastor in your prayers. Remember the churches of your association and those within the American Baptist Churches of Maine. Your continued financial support of your local church and its mission is needed and very much appreciated.  Remember, we give not because of services we receive from our church and pastor.  It is part of our worship and devotion to Christ.  We give because our church and pastor are critical to the mission and witness of Christ that needs to be furthered in our community and throughout the world. This is even more true in times like these.

Finally for the foreseeable future, The American Baptist Churches of Maine will host a Zoom meetings.  These meetings will  address current needs and opportunities presented during this pandemic. Zoom meetings will provide up-to-date information, address current COVID-19 issues, and provide an opportunity to maintain some sense of community.  These meetings are open to all church leaders and are meant to provide helpful information.

Recorded Zoom Meetings, Jeff Woods, ABCUSA Acting General Secretary, April 23, 2020 https://ministrelife.zoom.us/rec/share/y9cpdbH-yF1ObIXhyFDHf4QmJqvseaa8gXVN__oKnx1WiT_PmbDGi7flOCIbVMAb (Access Password: 9R$s+3Ur)

Continue to check our website, abcom.org.  On the front page of our website there is a link to a resource page that will help your congregation address needs associated with this pandemic.

Miles to go …..

Al Fletcher
Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Maine

Celebrating 216 years of mission, the American Baptist Churches of Maine exists by the grace of God, the covenant of our local churches, and the gifts and offerings of God’s people.  Make a difference for Christ in Maine by giving generously through United Mission or our Region Offering!

American Baptist Churches of Maine
Maine Mission Offering

This is a financially trying time for our congregations and for our region. Your financial support is very much appreciated by your local church and by the American Baptist Churches of Maine.  The Maine Mission Offering (Regional Offering) is our American Baptist Churches of Maine’s main offering. The Maine Mission Offering supports the American Baptist Churches of Maine exclusively.  100% of your offering works to accomplish our Maine Mission which supports, affirms, and challenges our local Maine churches in their mission.  The Maine Mission Offering helps your church accomplish your God-given mission!  When you financially support the Maine Mission Offering, you are investing in the mission of local Maine churches.  Without your financial support, our local Maine churches would not have resources, expertise, counsel, and support.  Where would our local Maine churches find the resources and support  they need to accomplish their mission?

There are many financial needs that present themselves to your local church on any given day of the year.  Thank you for your prayerful consideration and financial support of the mission of the American Baptist Churches of Maine.  It is one offering that directly impacts the health and well-being of our Maine churches. Together, we can continue to make a difference for Christ in Maine and throughout the world.

Pastoral Relations Committee

Does your church have a Pastoral Relations Committee?   Over the next several  months, I’ll be outlining the work of a Pastoral Relations Committee and why I believe a well-functioning committee is beneficial to the mission of the local church.
What does a Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) do?
• The Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC)
– Facilitates communication between the ministerial staff and the congregation
– Provides a middle ground to discuss and resolve concerns
. – Facilitates conflict
– Enhances a constructive relationship between clergy and congregation .
The PRC helps the church achieve its mission and ensures a vital and healthy church.

If you would like to know more about Pastoral Relations Committees and their work, I’d be happy to sit with your church and help.
Handling Conflict and Our Witness
As the Body of Christ, our public witness needs to reflect the Christ we serve.  A Pastoral Relations Committee serves their local church by keeping their witness for Christ always in mind.  Because the Pastor – Congregation relationship is a primary relationship within the congregation and often the most public relationship in a local church’s community, attention must be paid to keeping this primary relationship vibrant and affirmed.

The primary relationship of Pastor – Congregation is ever on display. The pastor and church members share joys, heartaches, personal crises, and important decisions in ways that model and reflect the love of God in Christ.  Because of God’s love for us, we are bound to Him and to each other through faith in Christ.  Other motivating factors, i.e.; money, power, prestige, control, have no place in this relationship.  Manipulation and coercion rapidly deteriorate any relationship.

In a primary relationship, the relationship that is fostered and maintained encourages other relationships within the body to be emulated.  This does not mean that there will never be conflict between pastor and congregation.  Conflict is a certainty whenever people are present.  How a local church handles conflict can strengthen relationships or damage relationships within the body.  The Pastoral Relations Committee serves a vital role in managing conflict and maintaining healthy relationships within the congregation.

Transparency is always the best practice.  Conflict is a human characteristic.  Conflict also carries with it seeds of distrust, division, and suspicion.  Conflict that positively transforms relationships is marked by openness, willingness to listen, reliance upon the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and mutual trust.  There is a choice to be made by a congregation as to how it will handle conflict when it arises.  Conflict that is mishandled will negatively affect a local church’s witness for Christ and limit their influence in their local community.  Handled rightly, the church bears strong witness to the gospel of reconciliation, transformation, and renewal.

The work of the Pastoral Relations Committee is becoming adept at handling conflict within a local congregation.  The primary responsibility of the PRC is to insure the health of the Pastor – Congregation relationship through transparency within the congregation.  Conflict rightly handled will foster mutuality of ministry and respect for various ministry callings within the body, a deeper understanding of forgiveness, and redemption, and a vivid expression of unity in Christ. In consciously attempting to improve relationships, the church is demonstrating how the gospel influences interpersonal relationships. It also is building a solid base for an effective witness and mission in the congregation, the community and the world.

 * Adapted from The Pastoral Relations Committee adopted by the Ministerial Leadership Commission of ABCUSA.

ABCUSA Annual Report

Pastors and Clerks Extension – May 15th

Time to update your annual report! Download the brochure here to find out how this helps your congregation and region do ministry better.

Annual Report Form Brochure
Download here

Annual Report forms were sent to ABCOM churches in March.  Please complete and return forms in the self-addressed envelope that was provided.  If you have any questions, contact sylvia.brown@abcom.org

United Mission is the best way for American Baptists to support the whole American Baptist Family.  Click on the logo to watch the video.

Stay connected with the latest ABCUSA news: ABCUSA Enewsletter

Acting General Secretary, Jeff Woods, Reopening Conversation Guide COVID – 19,  Jeff’s article contains helpful information on COVID -19 related assistance for pastors and local churches.

Also, ABCUSA-Insurance and Church Mutual Coronavirus Resources

Thank you again for your generous support of our American Baptist mission.  In anticipation of your generosity, thank you for your financial and prayer support.

“In some associations, in their earlier history, it was the custom of the churches, as has already been indicated, to bring their difficult problems to the association meeting for solutions.  The following inquiry belongs to this period. The church in Winthrop at the meeting of the Bowdoinham Association in 1832, having called attention to the fact that the church members covenant to bear cheerfully their equal proportion of the expenses of the church “for the relief of the poor, the support of the ministry and other necessary charges of the church,” proposed this question:  “Is it agreeable to the word of God to execute the above obligation by making an assessment or tax upon the male members of the church according to their polls and property?”  To their inquiry the following answer was given:  “That it is in agreement with the revealed mind of the Lord Jesus that when any part of his property, which is in the possession of any one of his churches, is called for to promote his cause in any such church, then it is right and fit that the sum wanted should be apportioned upon all the polls and property within such church, unless the church may agree upon some other method, more pleasing to them, by which to affect the desire object.”
Burrage 193

Lessons

1. Baptists have always seen the Scriptures as the sole rule for faith and practice.  Wrestling Scriptures together is a meaningful practice for any local church or association.  In order to wrestle the word, there must be a willingness for all present to come under the word and not the interpretation of a few.

2. Associations were a natural extension of the local church and as such, a natural place to place difficult problems.  Prayer, the study of God’s word, and common sense were used to solve difficult problems.  Sometimes the problem could be answered in one meeting.  Often, the wrestling took place over many months, even years.

3. Baptists have historically worked out difficult problems within a public forum.  Whether it was at the church’s annual meeting, or at a meeting of the association, the body present worked together to determine the mind of Christ and the will of God.  It takes a lot of humility and determination to seek God’s answer especially when there are those for whom the answer seems obvious.

4. Although associations were often involved in the discernment process of a local church, the local church remained the deciding body.  The local church is the basic unit of mission and, therefore, in and of itself sufficient to carry out its mission.  It is a valuable commodity to have the input of like-minded believers and ought to be made use of in our gatherings today.  However, as always, the decision rests in the hands of the local church.  Each body is accountable to God for their actions,even for the act of turning away wise counsel.  Therefore, the local church is responsible for their faith and practice.

5. Often the answer to a local church question presented to the association was valuable not only as an exercise in discernment, but often, because, the given answer provided insight to other churches in the association, so helping them to think Biblically about their own situation and circumstance.  Discernment processes are always discipleship training opportunities.

American Baptist Women of Maine

Please check our website ABWMaine.org for details about our meetings, projects and conferences in 2020.  It is updated as more information becomes available.

Quick reminders:

 1) ABWMaine has a newsletter that is published three times per year – Potential.  You can get it for free by email, or have it mailed to you for $5.00 per year (the most recent one has information and forms for Summer Conference). 

2) White Cross is now online.  https://www.internationalministries.org/white-cross/
          
Click for a copy of the ABW of Maine Newsletter:  The Potential 

American Baptist Churches of Maine
Institute for Ministry

The mission of AIM is to provide ongoing theological, ministry, and discipleship education to pastoral leadership and laity in Maine. AIM is committed to providing excellence in learning, instruction, research, and equipping for ministry.

Please check our website, abcominstitute.net, for details about our courses and their locations in 2020.  Our website is updated as more information becomes available.

In light of the Coronavirus COVID – 19 pandemic, any questions regarding AIM class attendance may be directed to the course instructor or the director of AIM, Sheila Heneise at ssheneise@gmail.com  or call (207) 812-2221.

Keeping in Touch with Your Church During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Rev. Stan LeQuire has put together an informational video that will help you understand ZOOM and how to hold meetings with your church.  Staying in touch is so important.  Recently, folks have moved away from “social distancing” terminology and now talk about physical distancing.  The purpose is to underscore that human beings need to be incontact with each other.  We don’t need to distance socially, only physically.  ZOOM is one way to keep the connection during these days of uncertainty and to provide spiritual direction and nurture.

Your Institute for Ministry, “AIM,” has some resources to suggest so that your congregation can maintain contact and even grow through the challenges which face us. For a basic introduction, you may go to the AIM YouTube channel and watch that video at  https://youtu.be/Oz-I5hfh1hQ    For the full collection of resources, please visit abcominstitute.net/resources/abcominstitute.net/resources/

Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board

April 7, 2020

Dear MMBB Family:

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.

To that end, below is a list of frequently asked questions about the CARES Act. We hope this offers a clear explanation of what is available to members (individuals) and employers, and the procedures you need to follow to apply for assistance and various benefits.

Our Service Center is available to answer questions that apply to your individual needs. Please call us at 800.986.6222 or email us at service@mmbb.org.

May you, your families and your congregations remain healthy and safe and continue to find hope in the knowledge that God is our refuge and strength.

Grace and Peace,

Louis P. Barbarin, CPA
Chief Executive Officer

Clergy and Church Tax Guides are Now Available

The 2020 Clergy Tax Preparation Guide for 2019 Returns and Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches are Now available on the MMBB Financial Services website.

These reports by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA, the senior editor of Church Law and Tax Report, are intended to provide a timely, accurate and authoritative discussion of tax reporting, compliance and the impact of recent changes in the tax laws.

Important COVID – 19 Update from MMBB concerning retirement accounts.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the CARES ACT

If you have questions about your MMBB account, please call 800.986.6222. If you are interested in joining MMBB, please contact our local Retirement Benefits Consultant, Gradia McKinney at 347.703.1582.