As this difficult time continues, one thing that has become clear is that — even as we remain separated in our homes — we are all in this together. You are finding new ways to be part of your congregations, including creative online worship. And the diocese and wider Church are finding new ways to support your congregations.
One of those new ways has been a daily email to your clergy, with updates from Governor Raimondo and links to a wide range of resources to help them as they manage our congregations in new ways.
Another way is a new diocesan financial plan, including the expansion of grants and loans we highlighted in the April 1 enews. The plan is, first and foremost, based in Scripture, particularly this well-known story from the Book of Joshua: “Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, saying to the Israelites, ‘When your children ask their parents in time to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, “Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty.’ ”
Notice that the scripture makes clear that the entire nation crossed the Jordon. It’s not just the strongest or the most able — it is the whole people that are brought to safety.
We are committed to helping all of our churches “cross the Jordan” financially. No church will be left behind, no matter how small it is or how limited its resources are.
The ways we implement the plan may need to shift as needs change over time, but the plan’s guiding principles will remain unchanged: grace, flexibility, teamwork, collaboration and creativity.
To provide direct help, we are deferring apportionment payments for churches on an as-needed basis through June and maintaining current payouts of dividends from the Diocesan Investment Trust to participating churches.
We are also recommending that churches take specific actions of their own. They include reducing expenses where possible; accessing help from the wider Church, which is deferring insurance premiums and payments to the Episcopal Church pension plan; and applying for help from the federal government through the CARES Act.
And we have asked churches that are fortunate enough to have endowments and resources to be as self-sufficient as possible, to allow churches without such resources to access shared diocesan funds.
So, with all of these actions under way, how can you help your congregation? First, by regularly participating in online worship, whether that involves services your church is creating or other options that are available, such as the Sunday celebrations of the Holy Eucharist from Washington National Cathedral.
Second, as much as you are able, by continuing to pay your pledge or make your other contributions. New tools are making it easier for our smaller churches to offer online payment options. Mailing a paper check to your church also is fine, as is arranging for automatic payments through your bank.
And perhaps most importantly, by praying regularly. Pray for the health of all people and, particularly, for those who are ill. Pray for perseverance as we move on this journey together. And in that spirit, Let us pray:
Lord God, we are in the midst of a storm such as we have never seen. We need you and we need each other. Help us to lean on your strength so that we can help those who walk beside us, and those who’s strength is failing; for you are our Savior and we put our hope and trust in you. Amen.