Intro

Church, as we face the uncertainty of a global pandemic, we invoke the names of the saints, ancestors and forerunners who have guided the Church in times of plagues and illness before. Remember especially Rev. Absalom Jones and Bishop Richard Allen and the Black Philadelphians who cared for white residents during the yellow fever of 1793.  Remember  Florence Nightingale who founded modern nursing and declared “’God has spoke to me and called me to His service” of caring for the sick. Remember St. Rocco, who himself contracted the plague.  Remember Keith Haring and give thanks for Archbishop Tutu and all who bear witness that the body of Christ has AIDS.

Church, we honor the unbelievably complex ministry you are doing.

We have compiled the following resources to help you through this time. If there’s something you suggest we add, please contact us at council@masscouncilofchurches.org

Re-Opening

Minimum State Standards

On Monday, May 18, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker’s Re-Opening Advisory Board released their plan for “re-opening” Massachusetts.  Included in the plan was the announcement that Churches could meet as part of the first phase.  Churches should note that these are the minimum mandatory safety precautions required by law.  We have also included the City of Boston’s “Temporary Guidance for Places of Worship” which may also be helpful for churches in other municipalities, too.

New from The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship and Sacraments:  “Resuming Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic” 

Denominational Resources

Massachusetts Council of Churches Members

The American Baptist Churches in Massachusetts:
As churches consider reopening buildings and resuming in-person worship, what can pastors expect?”

Diocese of the Armenian Church in America (Eastern):
“The Power of Patience”

Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts:
“A Journey by Stages” Phased Re-opening Plan

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, New England Synod:
Video, “Five Considerations in Re-opening

Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston:
An Update Regarding the Re-Opening of Churches

Religious Society of Friends, New England Yearly Meeting:
Resources for Meetings Approaching Re-opening

Presbyterian Church, Presbytery of Boston:
Re-Opening Resource Page

Unitarian Universalist Association, New England Region:
Updated Guidance for Gathering

United Church of Christ, Southern New England Conference:
Guidance for Phasing Forward to In-Person Gatherings

United Methodist Church, New England Conference:
Re-Entry Considerations and Guidelines

 

Other Denominations and Ecumenical Bodies

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston:
Re-Opening Guidance

Emmanuel Gospel Center:

COVID19 Resources

Overseed Evangelical Network:
Church Re-opening Checklist

Webinar from the National Council of Churches

Wisconsin Council of Churches:
Returning to Church

Specific Guidance

Church Music in the Age of COVID-19, Wisconsin Council of Churches

Resources

Guides from the Massachusetts Council of Churches

As religious and ethnic minorities have been increasingly and unfairly blamed for the pandemic, we are aware of the long tendency to scapegoat during a time of trial. Read this essay on the history of scapegoating during plagues and be vigilant in your speech.

Free Mental Health Resources from MassSupport

Are you looking for mental health resources to support your congregation or yourself?  MassSupport Network provides free community outreach and support services to residents of all ages across the state in response to the unprecedented public health crisis, COVID-19. This Crisis Counseling Program is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and managed in partnership between the MA Department of Mental Health and Riverside Trauma Center, a program of Riverside Community Care.
MassSupport’s anonymous, confidential, and free program features:
• One-to-one, short-term, confidential support for individuals (all ages) and families.
• Psycho-educational presentations on a range of topics including: common reactions to highly stressful events, helping children manage in hard times, stress management and others upon request.
• Consultation and group support for schools, businesses, organizations and communities.
Find out more at www.MassSupport.org

Leadership and Grief: A Conversation for Pastors with Dr. Jacqueline Dyer

Wednesday May 6 at 3pm

Have you lost members/parishioners to COVID-19? Are you wondering how to cope or help others cope with the recent loss of norms? If so, watch this recording of our Facebook Live meeting with Dr. Jacqueline Dyer for clergy and leaders on coping with COVID-19. She gives models of grief and lament, coping mechanisms, and leadership on trauma care.

Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Dyer is an Assistant Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—Boston, and Directs the MA in Counseling Program, license and non-license tracks. She is an early career researcher whose interests are clergy compassion fatigue and domestic violence in faith communities. Dr. Dyer has provided clinical supervision in secular and Christian communities, and was also a volunteer facilitator for a Christian domestic violence support-group.

You can watch the recording here and download Dr. Dyer’s slides here.

We had some technical issues with this recording, it catches up about ten minutes into the presentation.

Supporting Children, Youth & Families during Covid 19

Learn with Christian Educators and Parents across Massachusetts as we share best practices on how to support children and Youth during Covid-19.  Rev. Carrington hosted this meeting on 4/21 with Rev. Vrame, Director of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.   We shared resources, best practices and theological insights as we all try to make meaning for ourselves and the young people we love around us.

In the link below you can find the playback that you can listen to and share with individuals and communities you believe this will be helpful to:

See link below.
https://zoom.us/…/tMZnJaCgrn9OfZXO7U_HfawhFb_DT6a81nVM__Rfz…

We were joined on the call by:

Rev. Dr. Anton Vrame, Director of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Dr. Theresa O’Keefe, Associate Professor of the Practice, Youth & Young Adult Faith, Boston College

Tanya Nicole- Youth Director of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Boston, Massachusetts

Jaronzie Harris, Program Manager, Institute of the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

Ely Ducatel- Ohio Area Director, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd-Boston Director, Mothers of Preschoolers

Reverend Jeremi Taitt- Morning Star Baptist Church, Boston, Massachusetts

The Zoom call was facilitated by Reverend Carrington Moore.

Loans for Churches through the CARES Act

Church, the Payroll Protection Program is a part of the federal legislation known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to support non-profits during COVID19. You can apply for financial support. Here is an overview of the CARES Act from the Center for Public Justice.

There is no restriction with respect to religious organizations. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has created a guide to Frequently Asked Questions for Faith Based Organizations here.  Should you bank question your eligibility, please refer them to this document.

What we suggest is that you apply now, through your bank, if you are concerned that a loss of revenue because of the pandemic may result in closure of your church or an inability to pay employees. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides funding for 2.5 months of an organization’s average monthly payroll (full-time and part-time), including benefits, as a forgivable loan.

Beginning on Friday April 3, SBA (Small Business Administration) approved banks will begin accepting applications from non-profits for loans to cover payroll, health benefits, paid sick and family leave, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and debt interest.

This loan will be eligible for “forgiveness,” essentially turning into grants if they are used for the purposes as outlined:

  • The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8 week period after the loan is made; and
  • Employee and compensation levels are maintained.

Proceeds used for other purposes will have to be repaid.

Here is a guide to calculating your payroll and loan forgiveness, via the Jewish Federations of North America. As we’ve read other briefing guides designed for churches applying for loans, we believe, but are not certain, that the payroll calculations can include clergy housing allowance.

In order to apply through your bank, you will need to fill out the application, and you will need to provide your bank with payroll documentation. You will need:

  • The Application
  • Payroll Documentation
  • your church or religious non-profit’s Tax Id (EIN)
  • your average monthly payroll
  • your total number of employees

We recommend this guide from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, via our colleagues at Vision New England.

Another helpful guide with Frequently Asked Questions comes from Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference

CARES Act Webinars for Churches

Co-hosted with the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, the Emmanuel Gospel Center and the Massachusetts Council of Churches

 

Steve Abdow, Canon for Mission Resources for the Episcopal Diocese of Western MA. Video of the 4/14 Webinar (with registration and authentication) here.

 Rachel Anderson, Resident Fellow of the Center for Public Justice. Video of the 4/7 Webinar  Available (with registration and authentication) here.

Church Finance Webinar

Wednesday, April 1, 12 noon

Co-hosted by the MCC and The American Baptist Churches of MA, with MCC Treasurer Mr. Thatcher Freeborn and TABCOM Director of Stewardship and Finance Rev. Dr. John Page for a conversation on what churches can do to put themselves in the best possible financial position during the COVID-19 pandemic. A video recording can be found here.

Coordinating a Statewide Response to COVID19

Church, we need you to fill out this form. In collaboration with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), we are creating an interactive web map to identify organizations  providing vital services to those most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, especially those serving vulnerable populations. As this crisis goes on, we know more vulnerable populations will be in greater need of support.

To capture this information, we ask that ONE clergy person/designated leader only from each congregation/church complete this form. We only need one submission from each congregation. We are looking to identify feeding programs, 12-step meetings, parking lots, nursery facilities, and potential volunteers for spiritual caregiving, both in person and remotely. If your church has multiple locations, we ask that you fill out a survey for each location. This will ensure that locations will appear within the community that they serve.

Please fill out this form only once: https://massgov.formstack.com/forms/houses_of_worship_questions

Prayer for the Commonwealth

Every day at 4:15pm starting on Wednesday April 15.

Join us Rev. Laura Everett on Facebook Live on Wednesday April 15 to pray at 4:15pm.

Beginning on 4/15/20 (the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing and “One Boston Day”), the Massachusetts Council of Churches along with many interfaith and civic partners invites all people to a daily, intentional, universal common prayer over your town and the Commonwealth at 4:15pm each afternoon. Set an alarm each day to pray. You can use this prayer written for Christians with broad interfaith participation. It may be adapted for other settings and states, with attribution: “May This Plague Pass Over:” A Prayer for Our Commonwealth.  You can read Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s A Day of Reflection, Prayer, and Unity Proclamation, and join an interfaith service at 2 pm on boston.gov or on many local cable stations.

Message to the Churches from Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey

On April 18, we received this request from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey to share with you this message.  Gov. Baker, AG Healey, statewide hospital executives and health care providers met about their concern that people are not going to hospitals or clinics for non-COVID issues out of fear of getting the coronavirus. They are especially concerned about communities of color and immigrant communities who need medical care. At MCC, we know that there are historic and persistent reasons why communities of color do not trust fully trust medical systems. And yet, we grieve the prospect of further loss of life and health during this pandemic from preventable medical concerns. You can read more, and forward the message here  or share via our Facebook page here, or via our Twitter account here.

Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey asked that pastors, especially pastors leading immigrant and Black churches, read, email, and share the following message with your congregations.

As we pray for relief from this pandemic and for the lives lost and those sick, Governor Baker and Attorney General Healey want the public to know that they should please go to the hospital or call their health care provider if they are feeling unwell, become injured or need medical attention for non-COVID illness such as chest pain, dialysis, emergency care, and routine vaccinations and treatments. They have heard stories of people avoiding care out of a fear of contracting the coronavirus.Hospitals and health care clinics are safe and here to protect you and you should not avoid seeking needed care for non-COVID related illness. Take care of yourselves and one another.   Our health care community stands at the ready to help, and your government is here to serve everyone.

MCC Newsletter

You can sign up for the MCC Newsletter here (sent weekly during COVID-19).

Certificate of Organizational Excellence

Is someone in your life or church doing really excellent ministry during this chaotic time? Show them you see and honor their work with this Certificate of Organizational Excellence!

Online/Remote Giving Resources

Tithely

Tithe.ly is very easy to set up.  The Massachusetts Council of Churches used this app to offer a text-to-give option for our 400 Years Commemoration.  There is a small fee charged per transaction.

Vanco/Give+ App

Rev. Meagan’s church uses Give+ for online giving.  Here’s what she says:  “We had an easy time setting it up because of a partnership with the Presbyterian Foundation—you may want to check with your denominational leadership to see if something similar is offered in your own judicatory. Giving through the Give+ app is easy, and you can also link to an online giving page on your church’s website.  There is a small fee charged per transaction, individual givers can decide if they would like to cover the fee.”

Givelify

Rev. Kenneth’s church uses Givelify and Paypal for giving.  Here’s what he says: “Givelify is great because it gives you the opportunity to give through any smart phone and website. You can also give to a direct cause such as tithes, offering, scholarship fund, etc. The money goes directly to the organization’s bank account. There’s a slight fee but it’s not as expensive as other online giving tools.”

Paypal

The Massachusetts Council of Churches receives gifts through Paypal.  It’s easy to set up with your organization’s address and bank account information.  A fee per transaction is charged.  Benefits to Paypal include that it is very widely-known and used by many people already, and that money can be deposited quickly into an organization’s account.

Bill-pay through bank

Members can set up payments to you via their online banking services.  These will be paper checks that arrive in the mail, so take into account if there will be someone monitoring your mail and if the correct financial officer and procedures (i.e. two people when counting money) can be followed.

Venmo and CashApp

These require an individual’s cell phone number to open an account, which might violate your church’s best practices on how money is received, counted, and tracked.  If this is easiest and the best way your community can collect online donations, go for it.  The Massachusetts Council of Churches does not recommend these apps because of the lack of oversight or ownership by the church itself.

Online Worship and Meeting Tools