Holy Week blessings to you who celebrate this week. What a strange time it is to pastor, lead, and guide folks spiritually. No one was trained for this in seminary, no one had a pandemic plan ready to put into action. For weeks now we have been responding to the crisis, becoming in turn epidemiological experts, livestream and online meeting techs, small business loan consultants, and here we are, approaching Easter, trying to remember once again how to come to the cross. As Rev. Laura wrote for Religion News Service this week, we are heading into an Easter that stares straight into the eyes of death and empire and still declares love stronger than the grave.
We see you: your hard work, your flexible pivots, your deep pain at the loss of in-person community. We grieve with you all that is lost. You are doing unbelievable ministry with very real and painful constrains. As you face this holy time, we pray that you might feel some peace. Even though the disciples were afraid, huddled in a locked room, Jesus rose. God does the work of resurrection. We do the work of bearing witness. Life and love triumphed over sin and death. God’s life and love will continue to have the last word.
In this unprecedented time, we aim to have the Massachusetts Council of Churches provide big picture vision and practical resources so you can be freed and equipped to do the work in your community that only you can do. We hope to provide some sense of stability as we continue to provide regular opportunities for connecting each week—all of which are outlined in this email. Here are some resources we want to highlight:
Common Witness to Resurrection
From our counterparts at the National Council of Churches and locally with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, we share this invitation to ring your church bells on Easter Sunday at noon and partake with Christians around the globe in these suggested common witnesses, including the suggestion of "visiting" an additional online service of a church of another racial or ethnic background and offer your prayers for that community. Our unity in Christ is not just for our own sake, but so that the world may believe.
Prioritizing the Care of Minoritized and Vulnerable Communities
Everywhere we turn in this pandemic, we see a revealing of old and persistent injustice, especially as nationally communities of color are being hit harder by the pandemic, with less resources for healing and relief. In Massachusetts, we are missing much COVID19 data along racial lines. As Christians who hold to the conviction that every person is made in the image and likeness of God, we ask for your prayers and efforts that prioritize care for the communities hardest hit with the least resources. This is also why Mass. Council of Churches is creating a pastoral relief fund to support churches serving vulnerable communities. We commend to you this essay featuring Adrianne Gladden-Young, an infectious disease researcher and Rev. Kenneth's wife.
Working against Scapegoating and Antisemitism
As religious and ethnic minorities have been increasingly and unfairly blamed for the pandemic, we are aware of the long tendency to scapegoat during a time of trial. Read this essay on the history of scapegoating during plagues and be vigilant in your speech. We recall our own history of Christian anti-Semitism, and invite you to consider how our Holy Week texts are heard and sung. Here is A Note on Holy Week Scriptural References to “The Jews” available for you download and use.
The Payroll Protection Program is a part of the federal legislation known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to support non-profits during COVID19. You can apply for financial support. Here is an overview of the CARES Act from the Center for Public Justice.
There is no restriction with respect to religious organizations. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has created a guide to Frequently Asked Questions for Faith Based Organizations here. Should you bank question your eligibility, please refer them to this document.
We suggest that you apply now, through your bank, if you are concerned that a loss of revenue because of the pandemic may result in closure of your church or an inability to pay employees. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides funding for 2.5 months of an organization’s average monthly payroll (full-time and part-time), including benefits, as a forgivable loan.
There is more information about applying on our website. You can now watch our April 7 Webinar, co-hosted with the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, the Emmanuel Gospel Center and the Massachusetts Council of Churches, with Rachel Anderson, Resident Fellow of the Center for Public Justice .
Please join us on Tuesday, April 7, 12 noon for the second of our CARES Act Webinars for Churches. We will answer your questions, and would especially like to hear from you about your experience applying for PPP funding so we can advocate better for churches in Massachusetts with our legislators.
Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/449576971?pwd=Ynd3aGVjT2dNd0FCREJVSUM3ZGh4dz09
Phone number: (646)558-8656
Meeting ID: 449 576 971
Let Rev. Laura preach the Sunday after Easter for you!
Rev. Laura will be offering a pre-recorded message for the Sunday after Easter (April 19) on John 20:19-31 and "Doubting Thomas," to help give all you hardworking pastors a preaching break. We know some pastors in the past have taken the week after Easter off, but may not feel like that is possible right now because of the concerns of the community. We can at least provide you with a week of homiletical rest! Look for the sermon on our website by April 15. We will link to it in our next newsletter as well.
Supporting Children, Youth & Families during Covid 19
Join Rev. Dr. Anton Vrame, Christian Educators and Parents across Massachusetts on Tuesday April 14th at 6pm as we share best practices on how to support children and Youth during Covid-19. Rev. Carrington will host this meeting with Rev. Vrame, Director of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. If you can't make it, the meeting will be recorded and posted to our Covid-19 page.
Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/4382346652?pwd=M3pzMkMxcTF3N0FOeFdHYmhEYit3dz09
Phone Number: 312-626-6799
Meeting ID: 438 234 6652
Rev. Laura’s Weekly Briefing
Rev. Laura will be on facebook live each Wednesday at 3 with a briefing on what we’re learning and a time to ask questions and share resources. You can watch this week's briefing here.
Church, please remember that none of us has to go this alone—and that none of us can. We are grateful for your partnership and ministry in this time. Please continue to connect with us, and let us know how we can help support your ministry.
Revs. Laura, Meagan, Kenneth, and Carrington