Archive of Church Council Communications on Covid
June 26, 2020
MESSAGE FROM THE CHURCH COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Messiah’s Church Council is meeting via Zoom next Monday night, June 29. On the agenda is a discussion about whether to reopen, with the safeguards recommended by our Reopening Task Force, sometime in July. The necessary safeguards have been determined and would be communicated to you in advance of reopening.
Some local churches are again doing in-person services. On the other hand, a few days ago the Savannah Morning News reported that 75 churches downtown plan to continue online services for the foreseeable future as Chatham County COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
We appreciate your support of Messiah these past few months, as well as the support of all who have participated in making these services happen, both in front of and behind the camera. We will advise next week on Council’s decision on reopening.
Church Council President
Communication # 8 April 22, 2020- Council President
April 22, 2020
Dear Messiah Family:
Yesterday our Church Council Executive Committee met again, as we have been doing weekly. We continue to talk about church finances, our online services – and, now, when and how to plan for a reopening of the church. Some key decisions will be put before the full Church Council when we meet next Monday.
Re-opening for In-Person Services
The Messiah Minute this week includes a letter from Bishop Strickland of our Southeastern Synod. You will see that the Synod, out of concern for the continued health and safety of congregants, is recommending that we not have in-person church services through May. This is one of the decisions we will be asking Church Council to make on Monday.
Regardless of when we open, we will want to carefully consider how to modify worship services and other church activities to operate safely. We decided to form a task force to do this planning. Terri Breyman, who heads our Education & Discipleship Ministry, has agreed to chair this group. A few other Council members also agreed to serve: Jill Poole, the Parish Life Ministry chair, and Tim Andrews, the Property Ministry chair. Pastor Jason also will be on the team. We are in the process of asking a few others to join this group. So, stay tuned: We’ll advise after Church Council meets when we plan to open the sanctuary back up for services.
In last week’s letter, I mentioned changes to our mortgage payments and term from the Mission Investment Fund (MIF), which holds our mortgage. We will be discussing on Monday the positive variance on our budget as a result of our mortgage being re-amortized, and whether to approach other mortgage lenders for better terms. MIF increased our interest rate on our mortgage payments from 3.75% to 4.25% effective May 1.
I also mentioned in last week’s letter about applying for a loan through the federal CARES program as part of its Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP). This could be an interest-free loan. There is no pre-payment penalty. The Small Business Administration has run out of money for this stimulus program. So, for now, our application is not going anywhere with our bank, Synovus. In case our application eventually is approved, we will be asking the Council if they would accept the loan. It could be for upwards of $40,000. The loan amount would depend on Synovus’ review of our PPP submission.
Know that we take seriously our fiduciary responsibility to you. We deeply appreciate your ongoing financial support of Messiah.
God’s blessings to you.
Church Council President
Communication #7 April 20, 2020- Bishop Kevin Strickland
On the second Sunday of Easter we heard these words: When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”(John 20:19-20)
For over five weeks now, many of us have been like those early disciples, the doors of our houses locked. Sheltering in place. Being church in place. Maybe, like the disciples, we have locked our doors out of fear of the unknown with this virus. More so, we have sheltered in place to save lives literally. This practice has been an opportunity to “love our neighbors as ourselves” by not being with them physically.
In my last correspondence with you, with the urging of the Synod Council, I implored you not to gather for in-person worship through April and possibly May. This was before any of the four governors in our synod made shelter in place orders. Each state’s government is handling this differently and choosing to lift their shelter in place by some measures or creating a tiered approach for “opening” back up soon. I have even heard it said, “I can’t wait until we get back to normal.”
Moving forward, “normal” will have to be drastically different. We now must live into a “new normal.” I, like you, desperately pray for an end to this virus, for no more infections, for no more job loss, for no more events and plans canceled, for no more deaths to occur as a result of COVID-19. For that to happen, we cannot, and we must not enter into this “new normal” lightly or hurriedly.
Yes, it is true that in some places, there are less reported cases of infections and, yes, fewer deaths due to this virus. That is because sheltering in place is doing its job and flattening the curve. However, more and more people are also reporting that they are asymptomatic carriers of this virus, which is even more reason to be concerned. Recognizing that we are all antsy to return to worshipping in person, it would be risky at best and irresponsible to do so with sheer urgency. This virus continues to spread and will do so unless precautionary methods are extended.
I, along with the Synod Council, strongly implore and encourage you not to physically gather in worship through May. As you make this decision, please also continue to heed what the CDC, local, and state governments are suggesting. Some restrictions of smaller group gatherings may be lifted in your areas; even so, we encourage you to make the wisest decisions regarding the
health and wellbeing of all those who might be present. We all grieve this decision, but the health and welfare of all of our members are of the utmost importance.
It has been said that we are in a liminal space as a world and a church. Liminal spaces are described as being in the already but not yet moment. We live through what is, knowing what was, and yearn for what is not yet. As one pastor pointed out: “Liminal seasons are thin spaces, where the presence of the divine is palpable. Liminal seasons are ripe opportunities for communities of faith to deepen their practices of group discernment, to watch for the movement of God.”1
I have been overjoyed watching and witnessing how each of you live in those “thin spaces” and continue to offer places for worship in which people can deepen their faith and watch for the movement of God. You show the world and one another what it means for love to look like an empty church building. You are the Body of Christ alive and active in the world, in your homes, behind locked doors. And there, there Jesus meets you, as he did the disciples and says, “Peace be with you.”
On the synod website (www.elca-ses.org), we have a host of resources available concerning public health information, worship resources with sermons from staff, lists of food and medical assistance, faith formation resources, and pastoral letters from the bishop.
As 1 Peter 1:3a reminds us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We are people who have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dear pilgrims on this journey, as we move together to the other side of this virus, hold onto the hope of the resurrection and new life that keeps springing up all around. You are not alone! We are in this together!
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
+Bishop Kevin L. Strickland
1. Susan Beaumont, “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season
Communication # 6 April 15, 2020 – Council President
April 15, 2020
Dear Messiah Family:
Thanks to all of you for participating in our Holy Week services and for the nice response we received to our Holy Week appeal. I read a quote recently from a Presbyterian minister, who said “the fact that we’re not at church doesn’t keep us from being the church.” That’s certainly our philosophy as well.
Yesterday our Church Council Executive Committee met again, as we’ve been doing weekly between full Church Council meetings. We continue to talk about finances, our online services and other related topics. Here’s a summary of what we discussed:
CARES Act stimulus program
Messiah may be eligible for a loan through the federal CARES program as part of its Paycheck Protection Program. Loan amounts are based on average monthly payroll costs. There’s a potential for 100% loan forgiveness when funds are used on specific expenses – so it can be an interest-free loan. Loan payments can be deferred for up to a year; there’s no prepayment penalty. Our treasurer, Steve Voss, has started the application process with our bank. This is just the first step. The loan could be for upwards of $40,000—but we’ll have to see what the bank determines and if we’re even approved. If we are approved for a loan, the full Church Council will determine whether or not to accept it.
Zoom Security Issues
A very popular videoconferencing site has been Zoom. Many churches in our synod are using it, as well as universities and schools. Currently Zoom is being used by several of our church groups (adult Sunday School and Men’s Bible Study). We also had used Zoom for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.
Some security issues have been reported with Zoom. Here’s one article that details it: https://www.nytimes.com/article/zoom-privacy-lessons.html?searchResultPosition=1
The suggested workaround is to access Zoom meetings via a mobile device, such as a cell phone or an iPad. From a security standpoint, more problematic potentially are joining Zoom meetings through your Mac or Windows PC.
For now, we’re hesitant to change videoconferencing platforms. We don’t anticipate using Zoom for online worship. More and more of you are using Zoom to participate in other church events. Just be aware of the more secure ways to access Zoom.
Holy Week Services/Ongoing Online Services
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Zoom services seem to have been attended similarly to when there were in-person services. The Easter service, in particular, was well-viewed. Our thanks to Alexandra Talsness for assisting with the Zoom services. Also, thanks to Peggy Pearson for her ongoing Messiah website support.
Right now, we are pre-recording Sunday services, rather than live-streaming them. That allows Ken McLauchlan, our resident tech whiz, to provide significant production support. We may want to revisit live-streaming in the future, as an addition to our regular in-person services. We don’t know when we can all gather again in the sanctuary for services. For now, we will continue pre-recorded services.
Some churches nationally are donating supplies or money to community organizations during this time. Based on a few financial requests, Messiah’s Outreach team sent checks for $500 each to Ronald McDonald House and Second Harvest. These are charities that normally receive in-kind contributions of time or food from us.
Mission Investment Fund (MIF)
The terms of our sanctuary mortgage loan from MIF allow for periodic adjustments to our interest rate, as well as to our monthly principal and interest payment. MIF has advised Messiah that our mortgage interest rate has been reset. It will be somewhat higher, effective May 1. A higher rate was surprising, since commercial mortgage rates are declining. Upon further investigation by Steve, MIF said they do not tie interest rates to any indices. They make an independent determination about the interest rate to charge borrowing congregations and ministries, based on future lending needs.
In addition, reflecting that we have been paying down our mortgage more quickly than required by the terms of the mortgage, MIF has re-amortized our mortgage. MIF is dropping our monthly payment, effective June 1, by almost $1,600. The lower amount assumes that we pay through the original mortgage term — through Dec. 1, 2031. Ideally, we will have paid off the mortgage before then. Messiah can always make additional payments to MIF. We can continue to work toward early retirement of the mortgage, if desired. There’s no penalty to pre-pay our mortgage.
In closing, please contact the church if you need assistance or want to be added to the prayer list. We are there for you in this unusual time.
God’s blessings to you.
Church Council President
Communication #4 & 5 – Holy Week Plans
Special Holy Week Offering
The Council of Messiah is inviting you to participate in a special Holy Week offering. For those who live on the island, on Good Friday, April 10th, from 2pm-4pm, a representative from Messiah will stop by outside your home and pick up your offering from your tube. If you are interested in participating, please email Stewardship Chair Clarke Field at [email protected]
giving him your name and address….he will make sure someone drives to your house. You need not be present when the offering is picked up. Please know that we will be observing social distancing in this project, making sure everyone involved is safe. The grand total of this offering will be announced at the Easter worship service. In the event that you put your offering out and it is not yet picked up by 4:10pm, please call Pastor Talsness on his cell phone.
Communication#5 April 8, 2020 – Council President
- We will have a full March financial report later this month. Giving had dropped significantly the weeks of March 15 and March 22, the first two weeks of our online services. There was a rebound in giving by the end of the month – which is great news. Thanks to all of you!
- Meanwhile, we had announced last week a special Holy Week appeal. If you want to contribute, please notify Clarke Field ([email protected]) no later than Thursday. A Council member would pick up the offering from your tube Good Friday afternoon between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
- Treasurer Steve Voss has been investigating the CARES Act, a new federal government stimulus package. It was meant to help businesses/organizations keep staff during COVID-19 through a low-interest loan. Loan amounts are based on payroll costs. There’s a potential for the full loan to be forgiven when funds are used for specific expenditures. We have received some information from our bank, Synovus, and are working to determine the amount we could seek. The full Church Council would ultimately need to determine whether or not to take advantage of the CARES Act.
- Another potential financial relief option is through the Mission Investment Fund, which holds our mortgage. They have a new program allowing, in part, mortgage payments to be deferred. This is also being investigated. It could be an alternative to the CARES Act.
Communication #4 April 1, 2020 – Council President
Communication #3 March 24, 2020 -Council President
Hope you are all staying healthy. An update: We had a Church Council meeting this week, as well as a subsequent Executive Committee meeting of the Council. Some important decisions:
Given the Chatham County Commissioner’s decision to declare a state of emergency through Wednesday, April 22, we will not have in-person services at Messiah through that date. That means there will not be an in-person service in the sanctuary for Palm Sunday, Easter, and the following week (Sunday, April 19). We will continue to reassess government restrictions each week. It would be great if all is resolved with the virus sooner, rather than later, so we could resume services as before. Hard to say what will happen tomorrow, let alone weeks from now: Every day brings new information. We’ll advise weekly as plans change, however.
As long as there are no in-person services at Messiah, we plan to continue to do either pre-taped Sunday services or video-streamed services. They will be available on Messiah’s Facebook group and YouTube. With the help of Ken McLauchlan (financial ministry chair on the Council and tech whiz) and Tim Andrews (property ministry), we continue to seek ways to improve these weekend services. We have some technical limitations within the church and are investigating if we can work around these.
We appreciate the participation of Ken, Diane Boyd, Mary Maner, Lana Gilster and Alexandra Talsness in this past Sunday’s service. Many more people “liked” our Facebook page, as a result of posting the service there. We hope you were able to join us and will continue to join us in cyberspace in the next few weeks. Please check each weekly Messiah Minute, distributed Wednesdays, for information on the weekend’s worship service.
Finally, Jill Poole (parish life ministry chair) has devised a plan to keep in touch with all of you. Each Council member has been asked to contact weekly a portion of the congregation…just to make sure you’re okay, whether you need assistance getting supplies, and whether you know how to access church communications. We will do this for at least a few weeks. Then we’ll determine if these continue to be needed.
Please know that Messiah continues to be there for you.
Blessings to you.
Church Council President
Communication #2 Saturday, March 21, 2020 – Pastor
Dear Messiah Family:
It is important during this time of adversity that we stay connected to God. This is also an opportunity to show the world that the church is not merely a building and that the faithful can still gather for worship through the gift of technology.
We invite you to join us for Sunday online worship at 9:00 am. The worship service will include music by Diane Boyd, supported by a small singing team and a sermon from Pastor Talsness entitled “Clinging to Hope”.
There are two ways to view the service (click one to link to the
- Click here to link to Messiah’s channel on YouTube.
- Click here to link to Messiah’s Facebook page.
View the bulletin for the service by opening this file.
I suggest you prepare for tomorrow by clicking these links and reviewing the bulletin.
If you have troubles navigating technology you can call you can call one of the following members for technical assistance, either today or before tomorrow’s service:
- Frank Camizzi at 912.346.8867
- John Duren at 912.663.0653
- Jennifer Nguyen at 912.232.0701
- Khoa Nguyen at 912.272.4969
- Tim Andrews at 612.868.5222
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Pastor Jason Talsness