| Having trouble viewing this email? Click here ||April 1, 2020 |
Greetings to the church in a time of mystery preceding Easter.
It's all very strange and sometimes surreal, this time we're in … preparing for the joy of Palm Sunday, the pain of the Passion, and the catharsis that comes with Easter … all in the midst of overwhelming uncertainties that accompany daily life in the COVID-19 crisis. I know our churches are responding with creativity and energy to maintain a sense of community, and I am grateful for all those who are bending their "normal curve" in a willingness to try something new that keeps us all connected. All of us are negotiating untested waters here and trying to find the best way forward.
I want to offer just a couple of updates from my desk here in the cloud:
- The Conference office suite is closed and will remain closed through April 30 at a minimum. Staff is working from home as appropriate. Please remember Dana Ney, our staff person who covers most search and call and ministerial needs, as he is furloughed during this shut down. Please direct calls normally intended for him to my desk at email@example.com.
- Council of Conference Ministers (CCM) — This past week I attended a full meeting of the Council of Conference Ministers via Zoom. There is a new task force responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This group is seeking to create a "template for response" that will be adaptable to each of our conferences. The task force will address financial support of churches and where to find resources, along with the possibility that some of our churches may face dissolution as a result of the pandemic. The task force includes five conference minsters, three executives from our financial ministries (Pension Board, United Church Funds, and Cornerstone Fund), Rev. John Dorhauer (General Minister and President) and Rev. Traci Blackmon (Associate General Minister for Justice and Local Church Ministries). This is difficult yet necessary work in the face of this financial and health crisis.
- UCC National Board Meeting — I also attended a semi-annual meeting of the UCC Board of Directors via Zoom this past week. The national staff members of the UCC are all working remotely. Progress and plans continue for Synod next year in Kansas City. The theme, "Rooted in Love,' was announced alongside a beautiful logo. We heard updates regarding the postponement of National Youth Event until 2022. There will be some online national youth activities this spring, however. We will share those as we receive more information. The Board also will continue discussion of responses to Resolution 8 from Synod last year (on stewardship of display space) as well as explore questions regarding the length and frequency of Synod. The Board heard the description and composition of the Council of Conference Ministers' Task Force on COVID-19 and approved its work moving forward.
Thank you for your continuing prayers for the Florida Conference. They are reciprocated, I assure you, as we continue to make community in new and wondrous ways.
Be at peace, wash your hands, and be in touch, won't you.
Rev. John Vertigan
A pastoral letter in a time of pandemic
As leaders in our beloved United Church of Christ, we write to speak a word of tender care to our congregations, our clergy, and our members.
We are sensitive to the grief and loss that many of you are experiencing. Most of us have never seen anything like this. The pandemic has interrupted our lives. Some have suffered the premature death of loved ones, while others live through and with severe pain and suffering. People are losing their jobs. Many of us have been placed under orders not to leave our homes and to shelter in place. In most of our communities, orders have been given to limit gathering in public spaces. This has been hard for all of us.
As leaders, we also bear witness to acts of profound kindness and creative ingenuity that remind us of the better angels within us. We are watching a Church prove itself to be incredibly adaptable as orders to stay at home have not ended our collective need even in times like these to give our thanks to God. Churches who not only have never gathered in a digital community, but who never thought they would need or want to, are doing just that — and experiencing something very profound and very meaningful. We have heard stories of whole families, spread across the country, being able to gather together for the same worship service via digital broadcast. That is such a meaningful gift the church has to offer in a season such as this. -> Read more ->
New Facebook group available to Florida Conference clergy
We have created a Facebook group titled Florida Conference UCC Clergy. You will find it at -> https://www.facebook.com/groups/820455145105485/ <-. It is yours to use as you wish while maintaining good boundaries. Your conversations are encouraged and welcomed, and a member of the Conference staff will view this page regularly to respond as needed. Remember, though, there's no substitute for a phone call if you have time-sensitive needs.
Prayers for churches and
We invite you to join us in praying for the churches of your Conference. Each
issue of e-Celebrate will contain the names of the churches we hope you will pray for personally and
as a congregation. Meditate on them, pray for them, and sense your oneness together as the Body of
Christ that is the United Church of Christ in Florida. This issue's churches:
- First Congregational Church, Orange City
Rev. David Westcott, pastor
- First United Church of Christ, Orlando
Rev. Theresa "Terry" Hood, pastor
- Riviera United Church of Christ, Palm Bay
Rev. Tim Woodard, pastor
We also remember those in specialized ministry settings outside the local church whose presence
provides spiritual care and support to many who are in need:
- Rev. Paul Bizer, regional mission interpreter, Southern Region Church Building & Loan Fund
Save the date
Postponed until 2022: National Youth Event, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. For more information, ->
click here ->
Oct. 8-10: 2020 Annual Gathering of the Florida Conference of The United Church of Christ, Coral Gables Congregational UCC, 3010 DeSoto Blvd., Coral Gables, FL 33134. Stay tuned for more information.
Oct. 15-17, 2021: 2021 UCC Southern Region Women's Retreat, hosted by the Florida UCC Women at Cerveny Conference Center, 11057 Camp Weed Place, Live Oak, FL 32060. Stay tuned for more information.