Stop and Take a Deep Breath
by Rev. Char Burch, Transitional Conference Minister
I don't know about you, but I have had to say that to myself more than once in recent days. There is so much information about COVID-19; changing situations; decisions need to be made based on speculation of what might be; and so much anxiety in the air. I find that when I stop and take a deep breath, my stomach muscles relax and I can more easily move forward.
Several of our churches have suspended worship - at least for a few weeks - in order to protect individuals and help contain the virus. This is often the most responsible thing to do and you have my full support in doing this!!! Other churches are modifying schedules, meetings, etc. These are meant to both encourage those who are vulnerable to stay home (sometimes we think we are invincible) and to protect those about whom we care.
I find myself asking the question "how are we to "be church" in these times? Obviously, for some churches, technology can help as worship services are streamed online. There are some specific suggestions and worship ideas on the UCC website at www.ucc.org/worship_worship-ways. Also, please know that Rev. Susan Blain, National UCC Minister for Worship & Gospel Art, has informed us that OneLicense is offering free licenses to churches in light of the coronavirus so that they can legally stream their music.
For some churches, being the church means using old technology and the telephone to actually make phone calls to those who are isolated and mailing copies of sermons and prayers to those who do not have email or computer. This is an important connection!
I also want to lift up our, chaplains and pastoral counselors who have a special role in addressing the anxiety, not just of patients/clients, but of staff within offices and hospitals. Thank you for this special ministry!
And of course, Holy Week and Easter are not far away. Perhaps the situation will improve by then - or maybe not. So I know that clergy and church leaders have this on their minds. Be sure to see the information below on opportunities for clergy/church leaders to join together for conversation via Zoom.
In the midst of all of this, I would encourage us to be kind to each other and those we meet. Fear and anxiety takes over our emotions which easily lead to anger, frustration, over-reactions, and exhaustion. We cannot control some things. But we can respond with kindness and assurance of God's presence and love. We also need to be kind to ourselves! We try our best to be responsible and caring, but we are not perfect.
As we continue through the season of Lent, a season that invites reflection on the spirit and power of Jesus, let us take extra time to be grounded in our faith. We read the words "do not be afraid" many times in the Bible. It is the reminder of God's constant presence no matter what! May you feel that presence and God's peace through this challenging time.
Blessings! - Char
As you know, our society is inundated with email scams. I was recently were informed that there is one that supposedly comes from me requesting that gift cards be bought. I and other Conference staff will never request that someone purchase gift cards! Be alert to such scams. If an email does not sound like "a normal" email message, it is probably a scam. - Char Burch
From the Moderator: "Thank You!"
by Rev. J.R. Finney, Moderator
Let me begin with "Thank You." Thanks for your faithfulness in your financial support of the Conference through OCWM giving. Your support has made it possible for the Conference staff to continue providing support to our churches during this very difficult time of transition. As a result of your faithful support, the state of our Southeast Conference is improving; and for the first time in many years, the Conference ended with a modest surplus instead of a deficit. We invite every church in our Conference to join us in ministry to the wider church through your financial support.
It is our desire to build upon that recent improvement. Therefore, after much prayer and deliberation, and considering both the financial realities and the needs of the Conference going forward, the SEC Board of Directors will be presenting a proposal to the Annual Meeting that calls for the calling of a full-time settled Conference Minister with part-time administrative support. We believe this proposal presents the best option for our Conference at this critical time. There will be opportunities to discuss this proposal at the Annual Meeting prior to voting on it.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our incredible Conference staff: Associate Conference Minister Rev. Heather Fosburgh; Generosity Coordinator Min. Carrole Moss; and Communications Director Don Harris Also, a huge thanks to our Transitional Conference Minister Rev. Char Burch for her much needed leadership and ministry in our Conference at a critical time during our transition. I'm thankful that she has agreed to continue in her capacity until this transition is complete.
On a personal note, as my tenure as Conference Moderator comes to a close at the Annual Meeting, even with the tremendous changes and huge challenges our Conference has experienced in the last 4 years, it is has been my great honor to serve as Moderator. I look forward to serving our Conference in other ways.
Blessings … J.R. Finney
From the Generosity Coordinator
by Min. Carrole Moss, Generosity Coordinator
I Pray that this finds all of you well and healthy. Psalm 91:1-2 teaches: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty, I will say to the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: My God; in him will I trust."
My prayer is that we are heeding the advice of the CDC and not the person down the street or on the internet. Our conference has been vigilant with dispensing the information that we really need. I am so grateful to have caring Denomination and a Conference who is concerned about our needs and is willing to put the needs of its people first and foremost in their thoughts and actions.
To all of you who expressed an interest in, or applied for a Transforming Churches Transforming Lives grant for Spring 2020, we say: THANK YOU. The Committee will be meeting soon and you will be notified of the decisions. We are here to help!
Thank you for all the ways you continue to support this Southeast Conference United Church of Christ. Without your support, we would NOT be able to continue to do this work. We are so grateful to all of you for all that YOU do to ensure that we continue to be that beacon of light in dark places. "AND THEY WILL KNOW THAT WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE".
In times such as these, let us continue to let our light shine and our love continue to flow...heart to heart!
Continued blessings, as we Journey TOGETHER.
Southeast Conference Annual Meeting
Mark your calendar and join us for our Southeast Conference Annual Meeting. June 19-20, Montgomery, Alabama.
Expect to be motivated and challenged by our keynote and opening preacher - The Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC Associate General Minister for Local Church and Justice Ministries. Anticipate being inspired by special music and workshops. We are also excited to include a youth program for all ages.
Check the Conference website for more details as things evolve!
Just to let you know - if COVID-19 continues to be a concern into the month of June, plans are in process to hold the meeting virtually. If so, registration fees that have been paid will be refunded.
More information available via the SEC UCC Website... visit them here!