May 13, 2020
On May 15, 2020, the State of New York will begin the “NY Forward” initiative, slowly opening different parts of the State by geographic “regions” as they meet the criteria for lessening COVID19 infection rates and easing us back into different parts of social and economic life. Updates will be available via: https://forward.ny.gov . Please keep checking this State website for updates.
As each geographic region meets the State’s seven criteria for re-opening, they begin a four-phase re-opening process (see above Forward NY link). As of this writing (5/13), churches have not been specifically added to the four phases. However, it is likely that churches and other houses of worship will be in the latter third or fourth stage, and even then, it may depend on the given house of worship’s attendance and ability to provide safe and sanitary facilities meeting the CDC’s protocols. A smaller church MAY be able to start more “easily”. However, the major work of cleaning up consistently and accountably must be assured!
Further, even if a church can re-open, it is strongly recommended that your church make plans to offer worship online or via other means to allow persons who are in high risk vulnerability categories (due to age or health conditions or personal choice not to be in-person). The creativity many churches are undertaking to ensure weekly worship and programming through electronic/virtual means is needed to help our church members reconnect, especially out of sensitivity for their health and wellbeing and the prevention of further COVID19 conditions. (NOTE: The “carrot and stick” element of these four phases is that we must keep up the intentional work of keeping clean and safe. An area, or worse, the nation, could see a second wave of disease, so it literally depends on each of us and every community doing our best to keep the protocols for social distancing and cleanliness at the forefront!)
Church Mutual (see below) offered a webinar on how to begin re-opening processes (see below for information.) Further, ABCUSA provided a guide for churches as you consider what is needed for reopening. You can download this document via: https://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Reopening-Conversation-Guide-COVID-19.pdf. (NOTE: Last week, we sent out a copy via US Mail to every ABCNYS church.) Additional national ABCUSA resources: http://www.abc-usa.org/coronavirus/.
In our reading of various articles about COVID19 spread and prevention, Jim Kelsey recommends this article: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them. Jerrod Hugenot notes the concern being raised about the effect congregational singing may have in spreading the disease right now, as described by the Wisconsin Council of Churches’ article available here.
Rev. Jerrod Hugenot, Associate Executive Minister
COVID19 TESTING FOR CLERGY
In late April, the NYS Health Department released information on COVID19 testing for essential workers, which includes CLERGY, as they screen persons who have high interaction rates with the public for COVID19 or the antibodies. To receive a test, you must have an appointment, which can be arranged through a health care provider. More info here.
ABCNYS offers assistance to pastors in need through the Psalm Fund. The Region’s Executive Committee designated up to $25,000 of the Psalm Fund to provide for pastors who are experiencing budget cuts to pay and benefits. To receive an application form, please contact Rev. Jerrod Hugenot (email@example.com). We also welcome donations to support our pastors during COVID19. You can donate to the Psalm Fund (noting “COVID19”) by sending a check (payable to ABCNYS) via: ABCNYS, 3218 James Street, Syracuse, NY 13206.
MMBB offers assistance to ABCUSA pastors who are members of the Comprehensive Benefits plan (the most common plan MMBB offers). They will consider applications up to $3,500 in one-time grants. Please contact MMBB directly for this application form: 1-800-986-6222 or contact Grace.Cruz@mmbb.org. Rev. Gradia McKinney is also glad to work with ABCNYS pastors (Gradia.firstname.lastname@example.org or 347-703-1582).
ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING
Each summer, American Baptist congregations collect gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing Fund. The monies are then used for domestic and global humanitarian needs, administered by American Baptist Home Mission Societies and International Ministries. The 2020 OGHS offering materials were sent out late this year, due to COVID19 disruptions, so please check your church office mailbox. Need further information? Check out the website: www.abc-oghs.org for downloadable materials, videos, etc. Questions? Contact Jhugenot@abc-nys.org.
Church Mutual provided a helpful webinar and supplementary resources. You can view the webinar and access the materials via this link to aid in your church’s planning for safely reopening and maintaining protocols that promote health and infection control: https://www.abcusa-insurance.com/reopeningsafely.
Further, on May 13, 2020, Church Mutual announced a donation program to help eligible non-profits meet the needs of local communities. To learn more and apply, please go to this Church Mutual website here.
These forums (and this gathering of information above) is made possible by your church’s support of the ABCNYS Region Offering!
To donate now via PayPal, please click here.
SURVEY REQUEST FROM ABCUSA
The members of the National Executive Council and Regional Executive Ministers Council are conducting a survey of American Baptist congregations to assess the impact of COVID-19. Your answers will enhance our national response to the needs and opportunities created by this global health crisis. Only one person in the congregation needs to complete the survey. The best person to complete this survey would be the pastor or other knowledgeable person in the congregation. The survey should take approximately 7-9 minutes to complete. We appreciate you and we appreciate the time taken to fill out this survey. The deadline for responses is June 1, 2020.
Survey Link here.