I often wonder whether this season of Eastertide does not especially attune us to the workings of the Risen Christ in our midst. It is so easy, in the midst of relentless handwashing, social distancing, and an overabundance of solitude, to grow weary of the present circumstance of a pandemic and to find ourselves trudging down a path of deep sighs, where hope seems so far over a distant horizon. Yet along this journey, I have become increasingly aware of these little “resurrection moments” hidden within the fabric of the everyday – moments when Christ’s community finds a way to be a thriving Easter-people, even in the most bazaar of circumstances.
For instance, in a check-in phone conversation with Sister Cecelia Dyer of the Tremont Terrace congregation, I was amazed to hear how this moment of challenge has blessed their Wednesday evening Bible Study. Having continued along with six or more people for years, the present realities of the pandemic forced the small group to consider another means for continuing their Bible study fellowship. As with many of us, they turned to the world of video conferencing as a means to keep their little group meeting and exploring the scriptures together. They obviously expected to see each other’s faces from the comfort and safety of their own homes. However, what they did not expect was that their Wednesday Bible study number would quickly increase to over 20 people! The video conferencing format both allowed people to take part in a safe way, but also provided access (both far and near – some are taking part from Florida!) for those who wanted to engage the scriptures, but from the convenience of their own homes.
Although this is simply one example, I can’t tell you the number of congregational leaders and pastors who have reached out to share stories of surprise and blessing at the way creative, technological innovation in this challenging time has positively affected their worship and fellowship. Please do not misunderstand, everyone is equally anxious to return to the face-to-face fellowship which is such an integral part of faith community. However, there are some sacred revelations that have been born out of necessity and which will undoubtedly be a part of our “church life” beyond this difficult time. May these resurrection moments inspire us in the present, but also grant us new wisdom for the future.
In that same spirit, Pastors Peg Chemberlin, Rebecca Craver, Russ May, Brian Dixon are working on an online workshop for Moravian clergy (NP, SP, active roster and retired) following the Festival of Homiletics. The Festival, organized by Luther Seminary and Lectionary Homiletics, is an online event this year from May 18-22. The plan – in consultation with Moravian Church Without Walls, and the Board of Cooperative Ministries – is to host four 90-minute Zoom sessions over the 4-week period following the Festival. (You may wish to consider registering for the Festival of Homiletics now!) They are finalizing session outlines, guides and schedules, and inviting some festival panelists to take part in discussion and Q&A. The goal is to have registration information ready by early May.
As Pastor Brian Dixon put it, “We hope to encourage collegiality, discernment, and shared purpose in the ministry of the Word. We look forward to this time of inspiration and equipping for the task of transformative preaching. We will create and share plans and tools for practical application of the gifts of the Festival, while exploring the role of spiritual discernment and pastoral context in prophetic ministry. And, we will seek clarity in what God is offering us and what God is calling for from us in this time. We are grateful for this opportunity to share together in the experience of a national preaching conference, and to create and offer a forum for study, reflection, and peer learning. Please let us know if you have any questions or ideas as we firm up details.”
In All Things, Love
Over the past several weeks, many of the things we value at our local churches, such as worship, Christian Education, and fellowship, have changed in dramatic ways. But the Good News of God found in Jesus Christ has not, nor has our commitment to our communities of faith, their missions, and one another. As a reminder, because of our provincial structure, a gift to your local congregation supports shared ministries like camps, missions, communications, etc.
In addition to supporting your local congregation in this present moment through the Moravian Giving Portal, consider ways to help over the longer term too.
One especially flexible way you might consider supporting your congregation is to include a charitable contribution in your estate plans, a gift that you will leave as you enter into the more immediate presence of our Lord. This can be as simple as adding a beneficiary designation to a bank or other financial account, or may involve adding bequest language your will. One distinct advantage of this kind of gift is that you can easily make changes any time your circumstances require.
We can discuss with you an estate gift and other tax-smart ways to adapt your charitable giving and accommodate your changing financial circumstances, including gifts that can provide income to you or others. When you are ready, we will be here to help you shape a charitable gift plan that suits your needs and the needs of your local congregation.
On behalf of the many people who will benefit from your gifts, we thank you for your generous support and steadfast obedience to God’s call. We hope we can continue to be your partner as we move ministries forward, together. Please call Chris Spaugh at 336-725-2589 or email him at [email protected].
Covid-19 virus has dramatically impacted congregational life, with all of us not being able to worship in our sanctuaries since early March. In seeing a need, the Board of World Mission has invited congregations in the Northern and Southern Provinces to apply for $200 grants to assist with expenses relating to the virus. Many are setting up streaming services such as Zoom to allow them to broadcast their Sunday services over the internet to their members. Others are using the money to increase mailings to their members. To date, we have had distributed almost $10,500 out of our Moravian Disaster Relief (MDR) fund to 43 congregations and organizations within our two Provinces. We have been impressed by the creativity and passion that our pastors and congregational leaders have shown in adapting and enhancing their ability to share the Good News with the world, most notably through the Holy Week and Easter season. If you have not applied for a grant and are interested, please contact Chris Giesler at [email protected].
A Request from IBOC
Share Your Ministry!
In these challenging times, much of our weekly routine has been turned on its ear. For many of us, social distancing, stay-at-home orders and health care challenges have significantly changed the “how’s” of your ministry. Every day, we are seeing some amazing creativity and inspired outreach across the Moravian Church.
To better document and share these efforts, the IBOC would like to learn more about how you and your congregations have been approaching your ministries differently during the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you reaching out in new ways? Finding alternatives to Sunday worship? Using different methods to connect with your members – and keep them connected to your church and each other?
Please share how your “how’s” have changed, along with the challenges you have faced, the highlights you have seen and the new things you have learned. We are collecting stories from congregations to share with the denomination as a whole; your ideas may work well with others! Plus, we are hoping to publish a collection of these stories later in the year.
If you would like to participate, please send your stories and ideas to: Sue Kiefner at: [email protected] There is no deadline, no restrictions on what you can send, and no idea/practice/change or story is too small. You can also send photos, videos, links to online events, printed materials, and other items that demonstrate your efforts. We will follow up with those who send us their stories.
We hope you will share your efforts with us, and we look forward to hearing from you!
If you are shut-in at home during this pandemic, here is something you can do with your family to help grow your spiritual lives. Loving Hearts United: This Moravian Christian resource for forming a spiritual bond in family, church, and home includes a workbook containing activities, organized for the 52 weeks of the year, plus more for liturgical celebrations. A CD accompanies the workbook with hymns and interactive songs for the whole family. Spiral-bound, 192 pages.
Grab an Auto Magnet – find your friends in the grocery store parking lot by the Moravian Seal on your bumper, keeping our distance in our cars!
Looking for a Way to Worship Virtually this Sunday…and on Sundays to come?
This Sunday, many Moravian congregations across the U.S. and Canada will be hosting online worship during this time of social distancing. Be sure to check in with your local congregation to learn more about local church services.
In addition, Moravian Church Without Walls (MCWW) will offer a virtual service open to all at 11:00 am ET on Sunday, May 3. MCWW will host a Zoom webinar service led by the co-founders of Moravian Church Without Walls, Justin Rabbach and the Rev. Dan Miller, and featuring the Revs. Brian Dixon, Greg Behrend, Kurt Liebenow and Jason Andersen.
The webinar begins at 11:00 a.m.; we encourage you to log in early. To join the service, click this link:
We are using the Zoom videoconference service, which allows those with a computer, smartphone or tablet to participate. You may need to install a program on your device to access the Zoom stream. For information on what you need to make Zoom work on your system,
We encourage church members to stay connected with and informed about the work of their home congregations, and view MCWW as an additional option or resource as we navigate this situation together.
Postponement of 2020 Eastern District Synod
In consultation with the Synod Planning Committee, the Provincial Chancellor, Brother Rick Santee, and as authorized by the Northern Province Book of Order, the Eastern District Executive Board has prayerfully made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Eastern District Synod until further notice. We will seek to reschedule the synod as soon as possible, taking into account the importance of a safe environment in which to have a large group gathering, as well as the practical logistics of acquiring a reservation upon the campus of Moravian College. We will forward further information as it becomes available.
Synod Registration Fees have been refunded to congregations and agencies with checks that were mailed out recently.
Remote Sunday School
VBS Planning Meeting by Zoom
Contact Marie Couts ([email protected]) if you are interested in resources for conducting remote Sunday School. Also, Marie is planning a zoom meeting for VBS directors, “Conversation about VBS 2020” and will contact congregations soon to secure names and emails for your VBS Directors.