Dear Ohio Congregational Leaders!
How are you doing? There is a lot going on and we know that last week especially was difficult for many of you having to make decisions on the fly. With urgent congregational communications, altered worship practices, and perhaps even the need to quickly learn new technologies to facilitate online services, it has certainly been a tumultuous time for churches across Ohio.
All of this, of course, has been piled on top of normal pastoral care duties and the now exacerbated needs of an entire community going through this crisis all at once. Truly, we know and understand that this must be an incredibly trying time for you in your pastoral role and leadership. Know that we are praying for you and are grateful for your service and ministry. Your calling and your gifts are appreciated now in ways that they have not been before. Thank you for your service, your generosity of spirit, your compassion, and your love. Please know that you are not alone. There are similarly gifted and passionate ministerial leaders across the state that share your vision and compassion as we all continue forward in mission.
As we do find ways to move forward in this time of uncertainty and new experiences, we are hoping to be creative in our approach to regional ministry as well. Although some of our programs will be postponed, many of our meetings are cancelled, and uncertainty looms on the horizon, we know that God is present with us through it all, providing a way where there was no way, giving us a lamp unto our feet. We would love to hear from you about how and where God is guiding you during this time!
At times, during crisis, we are called through necessity to find new, creative and inventive ways to engage with one another through extraordinary new ministries. Some of the most beautiful hymns have been written in response to deep tragedy. The early Christian symbol of the fish was drawn in the sand to designate a safe meeting space for people who were otherwise being persecuted. Maybe there will be new traditions and rituals born out of this time of social distancing and finding new ways to do and be church.
If you are having livestreamed services, we’d love for you to share a link. If you are engaged in other ways of connecting throughout the week, we’d love to hear about what you are doing and how people are responding to your efforts. Are you encouraging post card writing? Sharing prayer partners? Facilitating online bible studies? Supplying “Homework” sheets or Devotionals?
We would love to share with the greater region how your congregation is moving forward in ministry. Sharing these resources and access to online worship services allows us to continue to be connected, continue to pray together, and continue to learn and grow together with one another and with our God.
We are working to compile shareable lists of congregations that are doing online services as well as any resources you would like to share with others around the state. Please email any links to online services or available resources to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make the list available to the public.
This pandemic is hard for so many of us and so many in our communities. But it is made easier by the fact that we are not alone in finding our way forward. There is a promised land that God is guiding us toward. May we be water for one another in this wilderness path that we now walk.
Prayers of Love, Healing and Hope to you all,
Jennie Stoddart Bernard – Regional Administrator
Rev. Alan Dicken – Regional Program Director
*If you or your congregation has begun to think about alternative services for Holy Week and/or Easter, there have been a number of requests for shared insights. Any and all brainstorms and ideas would be helpful to many. Thank you again!