A message from Conference Minister Rev. Bill Worley, as printed in the March 10, 2020 eNews email:
In response to the Coronavirus, I have received numerous guidance-offering emails. I suspect you have too. Some of that information is included with this e-blast. There is no shortage of direction from the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, our own National Church and many others, in addition to the very good work of our Disaster Ministries Coordinator Rev. Karl Jones who is in constant contact with both the Pennsylvania and Federal Emergency Management Agencies. Let me say these three things.
First, we are people of faith, not of fear. God needs us, I expect us, to be sources of non-anxious presence in a very anxious time. That is the most certain path to witness to the very powerful presence of the resurrected Spirit of Jesus Christ and God’s dominion over this world and our lives.
Second, use common sense. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the volume of information presented by countless media and government outlets. It is important to gather as much factual information as possible to inform your own capacity to react to this crisis with thoughtful reasonableness. Trust your instincts working in conjunction with those with whom you minster. Make safe-guarding your own wellness and that of the people closest to you your first priority.
And finally, do not make decisions alone. The collective discernment capacity of lay leaders is significant and life-giving and can be trusted to find the best way forward for each community, congregation and ministry setting. That discernment may lead some congregations to halt worshiping. It may lead others to continue worshiping with enhanced sensitivity to the virus. We will get through this uncertain time together.
I, and our Conference staff, will continue with all planned events including Conference/Association and Committee meetings, preaching engagements, and training events, until such time as their planners or Conference Consistory and our Association Executive Committees determine that a different course of action is required. We will regularly communicate about that via this e-blast, email, and our Conference webpage.
You remain, as ever, in my prayers.
Rev. Bill Worley
PSEC Virtual Church List:
- If your church isn’t currently worshipping or you are not able or comfortable attending services, we have compiled a list of churches in PSEC that are holding digital/ virtual worship experiences. Share this with others that might not have another option for worship. Streaming Churches List
- Rev. Leslie Mamas thoughtfully framed some of the issues to consider before writing letters of religious exemption to getting vaccinated: COVID-19 Religious Exemption.
- Join the COVID Community Corps and sign up for the National Vaccine Month of Action at https://wecandothis.hhs.gov/
- Tell your community about vaccine resources including vaccines.gov (where they can choose the vaccine they want to get and book an appointment near them), the text code GETVAX (which they can text their zip code to and find vaccine sites near them), and the national vaccine hotline 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489) – and utilize this website to answer frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine
- Help spread the word by promoting the Month of Action events hub and using the hashtags #WeCanDoThis and #MadeToSave
- Tell us about your events using this reporting form
- Host an onsite vaccination clinic with a pharmacy partner using this toolkit
- Check in with your state or local health department or state Association of Immunization Manager (AIM) about grant opportunities
- Utilize these additional resources to encourage your community to get vaccinated
- Flyer for Vaccine Outreach (Spanish version)
- Rev. Walter Kim “Trusted Voices” video
- Guide for Faith Based Organizations
- We Can Do This Toolkit (Spanish version)
- We Can Do This Social Media Graphic
- Here is a video from VP Harris for Black church leaders encouraging vaccinations, and here is a similar video from President Obama
Guidelines for re-opening:
- Guidelines for Religious Institutions — The City of Philadelphia has released this reopening guidance for religious institutions document.
- Guide to Returning to Church Ministry During COVID-19 — The Wisconsin Council of Churches has created this guide for churches to return to ministry during COVID-19 stages of recovery. This resource can be used to follow Pennsylvania’s recovery plan and also provides a guidance for churches to follow in planning next steps.
- Guidelines for Groups Meeting in Church Building
- Your Ministry During COVID-19: Re-Opening Your Church Office — The Insurance Board has created this document with suggestions on preparing to reopen your office and guidelines for daily operations.
- Reopening guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes (from the CDC) — Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces that will require careful planning.
- World Health Organization: Religious Services Flowchart
- National Association of Teachers of Singing: Conversation: What do science and data say about the near term future of singing
- Singing, the Church, and COVID-19: A Caution for Moving Forward in Our Current Pandemic: here
- From the PCUSA: Beginning Conversations for Re-Entry
- From the PCUSA: Returning to Public Worship Theological and Practical Considerations
- COVID-19 Liability FAQ: created by the Insurance Board to answer questions about if someone alleges they got sick at a church.
- As Congregations Consider Re-opening Their Buildings for Worship: The Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization team of the UCC created this evolving resource for congregations.
- Religious Institutions Guidelines for safer operations: The Philadelphia mayor’s office released these guidelines for religious communities as part of the city’s “Safer at Home” plan.
- Scholars from several universities and organizations collaborated on a study from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maryland released last week: Measurements and Simulations of Aerosol Released While Singing and Playing Wind Instruments. This study specifically looks at the risk of COVID-19 spreading due to singing and musical performances. You can read that complete article here or view a summary here from the Center for Congregational Song.
Helpful Virus Facts:
- CDC COVID-19 updates — Situation summaries and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- COVID-19 from PA Department of Health — frequent updates on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, FAQs, fact sheets, and information for travelers, businesses, and children.
- COVID-19 facts without falsehoods or fears — The United Church of Christ started a new website with daily updates on the COVID-19 pandemic with “facts, not falsehoods or fears.”
- COVID-19 Financial Resources for Churches — The UCC Financial Ministries has comiled a list of loans, grants, and resources around finances and the pandemic.
- Pennsylvania COVID-19 Philanthropic Recovery Funds — This document lists regional, national, and international funds available for COVID-19 recovery.
- Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook — A tool to help you build resilience during difficult times created by The Wellness Society.
- Congregational Planning Checklist for a Pandemic — Resource from Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCA.
- Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 — CDC Resource
- Faith-Based Response to Epidemics — Resource from Episcopal Relief & Development highlighting the role of churches, liturgical guidelines, and general guidelines for churches.
- PPP Tracking Worksheet — If your church received Payroll Protection Program funds, this worksheet can help track them. The calculation of utilizing 75% for payroll and the other 25% for utilities, rent, etc., isn’t as clear cut as it seems. This worksheet helps so that you will not be surprised when you report back to the bank at the end of this 8 week period.
- Print Resources — Printable/shareable flyers, handouts, and posters from the CDC on COVID-19, germs, and hand-washing.
- Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 — a resource from the World Health Organization
- Preparing for the Spread of COVID-19 — an infographic from the Pennsylvania Department of Health on preparing for and learning about COVID-19.
- Online and Virtual Recovery Support Resource List — The Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance released this list for online recovery meetings to support those who cannot gather for regular recovery meetings.
- Ideas to help in Philadelphia — POWER has sent a list of suggestions for how to support those in need now. Some ideas include donations to help displaced hospitality workers, signing a petition to get justice for stadium workers, or support for the Philadelphia Bail Fund. For more info, read the letter from POWER here.
- Needs and Offers — United Church of Christ at Valley Forge created this Google Form to ask members of their community what their needs are and what they are able to help with.
- COVID-19 Resource Guide — As houses of worship give thoughtful and prayerful consideration to next steps, this guide provides links to valuable resources all in one location from the Insurance Board.
- Ministry Care and Support Resources — These UCC resources help provide health and wholeness in the midst of COVID-19.
- Recovering Hope — The UCC launched these resources for emotional and spiritual care to pastors, chaplains, other church leaders, congregants, vulnerable communities and beyond.
- Coronavirus resources from the UCC — The UCC webpage for coronavirus response includes help for churches in responding immediately, guides for offering worship online, lessons on ministry in disaster times, disaster updates, suggestions for talking to children, legislative updates, and more.
- Guidelines for Worship in the Green Phase
- A Faithful Response, with Worship, to the Coronavirus — Justice and Local Church Ministries of the UCC compiled a guide to hold digital worship.
- Gov. Wolf, Religious Leaders Encourage Alternate Forms of Religious Gatherings — The Pennsylvania governor is encouraging all churches to cease live worship in favor of alternatives until the stay-at-home order has been lifted.
- Guide for Christian Funerals During COVID19 — Resource from the Massachusetts Council of Church on funerals while social distancing.
- Worship Resources: Worship in Times of Public Health Concerns — Resource from Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
- Copyright and the Church — a FAQ webpage on copyright laws for churches regarding music, images, and writings. If your church is going to livestream parts or all of worship, make sure you’re following these guidelines.
- COVID-19/Coronavirus — Resources for Congregations, Other information — This webpage has been organized by the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.
- Help with online worship — Get help from PSEC leaders who have experience with online streaming technology. Volunteers from each association who have worked with digital church before are available to answer your questions if you get stuck:
- Thoughts and Hope on Our Mental Health During COVID-19 — Dr. Andy Johanson (North Penn Association), a licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote this article.
- Ministry During Pandemic: Awareness to Implementation — Free book by Naomi Paget.
- The Ultimate Coronavirus Guide for Churches — Thorough resource on streaming guides, music licensing, ideas for holidays and children and youth ministries, online giving, outreach, and more.
- Shepherding Through a Pandemic — Rev. Dr. Jeanita W. Richardson, Professor and Director of Community Education, Research and Practice in the Department of Public Health Science (PHS) in the University of Virginia, School of Medicine presented this for a PSEC Zoom call.
- Affirming Faith Confirmation Slides — Pastor Ken McDowell, St. Paul’s (Summer Hill) UCC, created these PowerPoint slides to accompany the UCC Affirming Faith book when teaching confirmation virtually.
- For Congregations in Between Pastors During the Time of Coronavirus — This list of questions to consider for churches without a pastor during the pandemic was written by Rev. Jane Kropa.
- Sample Prayer for Prayer Concerns
- Sources of Prayers and Resources for Praying — This list of resources include suggestions for prayer, washing hands and prayer, prayer ministry on social media, and more.
- Suggestions and Guidelines for Virtual Worship During the Pandemic — The Mercersburg Society has shared this resource for online worship during the pandemic. Also, click here to watch a Zoom call where Rev. Dr. Deborah Rahn Clemens and Dr. Lee Barrett discuss this resource and virtual communion.
- Virtually Present – Combining Virtual and In-Person Worship — Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Development Rev. Cean James led this workshop at the end of August.
- Friedens UCC (Pastor Rev. Tyson Frey) used the services of this company to produce their Christmas Eve service. They highly recommend: Hal Wounderly, Creative Services Department (firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-334-9411)
The Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the UCC hosted a two-session YouTube presentation about preparing for hybrid worship. If, like so many churches, you are trying to figure out who you’ll need to push the buttons, what tech to buy and build, and how to do both in-person and live-on-screen worship at the same time, this is the series for you.