Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dear Reader,

Linked below is a new document titled Reimagining Life Together. It aspires to provide guidance on the requirements and recommendations for local churches and ministry settings to reopen buildings and return to in-person ministry activities during the COVID-19 crisis.

For some, these guidelines are restrictive, to others a relief, but know these decisions were not made lightly. Even as Greater Northwest leaders were discussing some of the details around singing on Tuesday, they considered all the pros and cons, weighing both risk and the disappointment it would engender. News stories like this one affirm the wisdom in moving slowly and safely through any process of reopening.

Since its release, we’ve received a number of requests for an editable copy of Reimagining Life Together. We are not releasing a copy of Reimagining Life Together that way because this isn’t intended to be the adopted as a local church’s plan for reopening. It is intended to support and guide planning each local church needs to do in this season. As District Superintendents review local church plans, they will be looking to see that a church has asked the hard questions necessary to reopen safely in ways that make sense for them while aligning to the values and expectations in these guidelines.

An overview of the guiding principles behind this document and its intent was shared by Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky during the Wednesday, May 20 webinar.

Church leaders are encouraged by the Bishop to start working on their plans now, even though in-person worship is still suspended through June 15.

Reimagining Life Together guidelines →

With God’s grace and humility,

Kristen Caldwell, Patrick Scriven, Rev. Jim Doepken
Greater Northwest Area communications team


Get registered for Wednesday Webinar (May 27) 

Ministry in the New Normal: Our church life beyond the COVID-19 crisis, part IV

Join us as we continue to explore "Ministry in the New Normal: Our church life beyond the COVID-19 Crisis, part IV."

For the fourth installment of this webinar series, we will continue conversations about the guidelines for reopening entitled, “Reimagining Life Together”.

As per usual, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky and Alaska Superintendent, Rev. Carlo Rapanut, will help to guide our time of prayer and discussion.

The webinar is anticipated to last up to 90 minutes. It begins at 8 am AKDT, 9 am PST, 10 am MST.

Webinar registration →


Bishop calls on individuals to make masks for local churches (with video)

As churches begin “Reimagining Life Together” in the Greater Northwest Area there are a lot of decisions to be made. But one thing Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is hoping individuals can do is start sewing – cloth face masks, that is.

As part of the “Reimagining Life Together” guidelines released this week by the Bishop, face masks are going to be a critical component of being in worship spaces together for quite some time.

“I encourage you to get out your sewing machines and make up a bunch of face masks to have ready to welcome people back to worship when the time is right and it’s safe to do so,” she said in a video recording while covered in a mask she had just made on her sewing machine.

In the Oregon-Idaho Conference, the United Methodist Women are willing to work with their local churches to ensure they have access to face masks for worship. This may mean connecting churches with an existing sewing ministry or others stepping up to their sewing machine. Churches without a local UMW are encouraged to get in touch with their district UMW representative.

A pattern is available on the Greater NW coronavirus resource page from Kaiser Permanente. Find directions here from the CDC on proper cloth mask cleaning.


from the Pacific Northwest Conference

Prosser UMC adapts ministry to community needs

Prosser is a small town nestled on the Yakima River in south-central Washington. Among the region’s sprawling vineyards and lush valleys is a community pillar: ?Prosser United Methodist Church?.

Faced with an ever-changing landscape for community needs, the church has rallied to help in new ways. Prosser UMC’s Rev. Bo Bryan shared that he “[has] been impressed by the creativity and compassion of the people in this congregation. Rather than just hunkering down and focusing on themselves, they have been looking around and observing the needs of people in their communities, and then looking for ways they can respond to those needs.”

Read more of this story on the GNW News site.

from the Oregon-Idaho Conference

Houseless youth find support and safety at Eugene UMC

Being a houseless youth is dangerous. For the approximately 500 without stable housing in Eugene/Springfield, it can mean long days with exposure to the streets that come with hunger, drug use, fear of assault and sexual assault.  Some feel the need to carry and sleep with a weapon like a knife or machete to protect themselves. Though young in years, they make adult decisions every day about how to survive. Day shelters around town and the public library used to offer relief from the long days but they have been closed since mid-March due to state orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, Eugene’s First United Methodist Church opened a 30-day emergency shelter for youth to try and help alleviate some of their worries.

Read more of this story on the GNW News site.

Pastor in La Grande challenges other churches to give to Grocery Gift Cards effort

In La Grande 100 percent of the school district children receive free or reduced lunch.

That meant when school closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district became the food lifeline for these families.

As word went out that partners were needed to provide funds, La Grande United Methodist Church requested $1,000 through the Grocery Gifts Cards for Families program. That $1,000 was quickly matched through church funds. The local UMC challenged other denominations in town to raise another $1,000 and soon the fund grew to $4,000. Two grocery stores donated $100 each in grocery gift cards and were happy to be part of the project. People shared the challenge on Facebook and it quickly rose to $5,500 as of early May.

Read more of this story on the GNW News site.

Inspiring Generosity: Through a Pandemic, Your Leadership Inspires Generosity

In this week's blog, Cesie Delve Scheuermann offers words of encouragement to local pastors as they begin what may seem like a Herculean task of continuing to minister to the people of their congregation during a pandemic, while also implementing the GNW Reimagining Life Together guidelines.

"Your leadership can inspire generosity. Over the past two months you have reimagined ministry in ways no one thought was possible. If you’ve done it well, people will trust in the continued work of the church and will support your congregation with their tithes and offerings."

Read more of Cesie's blog on the UMOI website.

The Rush to Re-open: A theological reflection

In this guest blog post, Rev. Tim Overton-Harris, Cascadia District Superintendent, reflects on what worship really means while gently questioning the eagerness some people have to return to worship as it once was.

"My theological reflection, my Bible study, my core values, my heart and soul and mind tell me that to re-open is to do more harm than good. We have ways to worship together that don’t rely on physical proximity. We have ways to care for the lonely and mentally ill that do not require us to re-open and gather in numbers."

Read more of Tim's blog on the UMOI website.


Tackling food insecurity caused by pandemic

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a three-part series about food security.

The staff and volunteers at a United Methodist-related food program in Paterson, New Jersey, have spent the past couple of years preparing for the coronavirus pandemic.

They just didn’t know it at the time.

When Mark Dinglasan arrived in 2017 as executive director of the CUMAC food program, his background in juvenile justice and diversity work helped him recognize that the longtime ministry started in a borrowed church closet had the potential, he said, to become “a trauma-informed one-stop access point for services” in that community.

Read more of this story from UM News Service.

African churches ease pandemic's hunger blow

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a three-part series about food security.

United Methodist congregations in Africa are rallying together to offer support to church members and communities facing the double whammy of hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to sweeping lockdowns across the continent.

David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Program, told the United Nations Security Council on April 21 that, while the world is dealing with the global pandemic, it also is on the brink of a hunger pandemic.

Read more of this story from UM News Service.

Clergywoman also is nurse on COVID-19 front line

Editor's note: This story from UM News Service also features Rev. Danna Drum, a deacon in the Oregon-Idaho Conference currently serving with the Oregon Health Authority.

The Rev. Diane Dyson doesn’t wear a clergy collar. If she did, no one would see it these days because of everything else she has on.

Her work garb for 12-hour-plus shifts includes an N95 mask, face shield, protective cap, gloves and floor-length gown.

Read more of this story from UM News Service.


Faith and Values: Pandemic drives home need for stronger local economy

by Rev. Deb Conklin | Spokesman-Review | May 11, 2020

   “... This pandemic has brought home for me a commitment I made after Wall Street created an economic crash in 2008 – a commitment to work to create local economies that support healthy communities instead of multinational corporations ..."                                   

The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area provides leadership for the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest Conferences of The United Methodist Church. |
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