“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”
- Psalm 91:1-3 (NIV)
Sunday, March 22, was the second weekend that our Crossroads District churches made the decision not to gather in physical spaces and to cooperate with the public health efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Thank you to every pastor, team leader, and volunteer who worked countless hours to serve your congregation in these unusual days.
Sherry and I viewed several services online yesterday morning but also made it over to Lakeview Wesleyan Church in Marion to participate in their drive-through prayer ministry. In spite of the colder weather, Interim Pastor Lenny Luchetti and the Lakeview team took the opportunity to open their parking lot for a brief greeting (at the appropriate social distance) and offered pastoral prayers for specific needs.
We are all learning, and unlearning, to meet the challenge of change. Some of the changes that have been forced upon us may have been overdue and will undoubtedly serve us well going into the future.
For example, most churches could get better at meeting needs in their congregation between Sundays. I’m seeing pastors sharing daily devotional thoughts on their personal Facebook page in the morning. Pastor Ben Parker at Back Creek Wesleyan Church has been doing this for months now and it has been received well by his church family.
Most churches could step up to another level of effectiveness in their online ministry for not just replaying services but engaging people for next steps. Small churches are learning what can be done with even an old iPhone on Facebook Live. We are also learning that many meetings can be handled online through platforms like Zoom.
Last week, in addition to teaching an IWU class via Zoom, I participated in a General Board Executive Committee meeting, a General Board meeting, a District Board of Administration meeting, and with several meetings with smaller groups of district pastors hosted by our Assistant District Superintendents. While the technology is not perfect, there are new ways to connect to which we can adapt.
Most churches, if they didn’t already provide a way for people to give digitally, had at least considered the possibility. Special thanks to General Treasurer Kevin Batman and his team who mobilized an online giving platform for Wesleyan churches. Pastor Joe Jackson at United Wesleyan Church in Anderson was our first church to take advantage of this convenient platform which has $0 start-up costs. If your church doesn’t yet provide that option, here’s the link for more information:
Last week, our Crossroads District Board of Administration met via Zoom and approved an initial response to the challenges our churches are facing. We approved a refund of district portion (40%) of the March and April USF payments for every church that paid 100% last conference year, or up through February of this year. Also included in this package were funds to assist churches in meeting utility bills or insurance payments on their property, a grant for pastoral families, and a Great Commission grant of $1000 for every church to be creative in reaching out to their community with the love of Christ. (Pastor, if you did not receive the video and response form, please let us know ASAP.)
You will also want to be aware that The Wesleyan Church General HQ has provided a 1/12 reduction in this current year’s USF so that you will not need to send in the 60% of the April USF payment that goes to our EIF (Educational Institution Fund) and to the GSF (General Stewardship Fund).
An important announcement for all church leaders is that this year’s General Conference is being postponed by one full year. The General Board (as authorized by Discipline 1530) felt this was the most prudent course of action given the uncertainties of the national emergency in which we find ourselves. The collective prayer gathering scheduled for May 31, Pentecost Sunday, will still be offered online and we would love for you to share that invitation with your congregation.
The Crossroads District Board of Administration has followed in that decision (Discipline 1112), determining that most of our agenda for the upcoming session was to focus on the results of the General Conference. We will be working with the General Superintendent to set the exact date of conference but anticipate that it will be June 25-26, 2021. The District Board is authorized (in the interim of our conferences to 1233:38) to approve the recommendation of the DBMD for ordination candidates. We anticipate holding an ordination service on a Sunday evening as close as possible to the original date.
Here are the implications for your local church. No annual local church conference needs to be scheduled until such time as you are able to gather in person. Pastors will complete their annual service reports and statistical reports online at the normal time with special directions coming to them from Wesleyan HQ. Any of your officers or board members who were planning to transition at the end of this conference year may still do so. The LBA is empowered to appoint successors to fill those vacancies (Discipline 815:2) in the interim and to make all necessary budget adjustments during this emergency. Again, no annual local church conference needs to be scheduled until such time as we receive official notice that we are cleared to convene in person.
We do have churches that are in the middle of searching for their next pastor and I know they would be grateful for your prayers. Pastor Eric George has resigned at New Castle Memorial Wesleyan Church and I met with their LBA on Wednesday night to prepare for this transition. I met with the LBA of Wabash New Journey Community Church on Thursday evening and they will be conducting interviews over the next few weeks. Tonight, I’ll be meeting with the LBA at Lancaster Wesleyan Church to assist them in their search process.
We believe that God is able to work in any circumstance to advance His Kingdom. I received a report that Facebook, YouTube, Boxcast, Zoom and others had service failures during the peak morning window yesterday. Churches almost broke the internet! In spite of the down time, the church online platform (offered free by lifechurch.tv) recorded over 28,000 people who clicked the Salvation Moment as a response to the invitation.
We are praying as you and your team continue to adjust and respond positively to these new realities. Please call, text or email if there are questions you have or ways that our district office staff can assist your church. I can’t wait to hear the creative ways in which you’re preparing for an amazing Easter outreach!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent
P.S. Here’s what Bethany Wesleyan Church in Pennsylvania did this past Sunday: