COVID-19 Response

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

 

Upcoming Events:

 

CARES Act Webinars for Churches

Tuesday, April 7, 12 noon

Tuesday, April 14, 12 noon

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/449576971?pwd=Ynd3aGVjT2dNd0FCREJVSUM3ZGh4dz09

Phone number:  (646)558-8656

Meeting ID: 449 576 971

Password: 841257

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

With Rachel Anderson, Resident Fellow of the Center for Public Justice 

Video of the 4/7 Webinar  Available (with registration and authentication) here.

 

 

Pastors’ Open Office Hours
Mondays at 3pm (except Easter Monday)
Thursdays at 6pm (except Maundy Thursday)

We know that this is uncharted territory for pastors. We are holding so much. We make it through together by holding it together.  Please join Revs. Laura & Carrington for open office hours:

https://zoom.us/j/4382346652

By phone: 312 626 6799 or 646 558 8656
Meeting ID: 438 234 6652
meeting pass word : 463299

If you are considering hosting  your own group pastoral care open office hours, you are welcome to borrow from our format here. 

 

Wednesday Briefings with Rev. Laura

Join us on Facebook on Wednesday at 3pm for a weekly updating on Pastoring during COVID19. We’ll discuss what has changed during the week, what new resources are available from MCC and other sources, what questions churches have and what we can share to support one another. Find out more on our Facebook Events page. Every Wednesday at 3pm, on our Facebook page- Facebook.com/masscouncilofchurches  

 

Church Finance Webinar
held on 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. Video recording here.

 

Resources:

Guides from the Massachusetts Council of Churches

Guide to Christian Funerals During COVID19

Guide to Church Finances During COVID 19

Guide to Church Feeding Programs during COVID19 (forthcoming)

Guide to Hosting 12-Step Meetings during COVID19 (forthcoming)

Guide to Pastoral Care for Essential Employees during COVID19 (forthcoming)

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. We recall our own history of Christian anti-Semitism, and invite you to consider how our Holy Week texts are heard and sung. Here is A Note on Holy Week Scriptural References to “The Jews” available for you download and use.

 

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

We are digging in more closely to the questions around 501(c)3 designations and churches.  For now, we encourage all churches and religious non-profits concerned that they may need to lay off staff, or not make payroll to please apply through your bank.

Join us also for the MCC’s CARES ACT webinars:

CARES Act Webinars for Churches

Tuesday, April 7, 12 noon Video of the 4/7 Webinar  Available (with registration and authentication) here.

Tuesday, April 14, 12 noon

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/449576971?pwd=Ynd3aGVjT2dNd0FCREJVSUM3ZGh4dz09

Phone number:  (646)558-8656

Meeting ID: 449 576 971

Password: 841257

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

With Rachel Anderson, Resident Fellow of the Center for Public Justice 

Video of the 4/7 Webinar  Available (with registration and authentication) 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

 

Spaces for Collaboration

Massachusetts Council of Churches Best Practices Google doc

Facebook Group: Multifaith Clergy & Spiritual Communal Responses to Covid-19

Mass Council of Churches Facebook Page

 

Public Health Guidance

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Coronavirus Page

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Denominational Resources

African Methodist Episcopal, New England Conference

The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts

Diocese of the Armenian Church in America (Eastern)

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts

Evangelical Covenant Churches, East Coast Conference

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, New England Synod

Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston

Religious Society of Friends, New England Yearly Meeting

Presbyterian Church, (USA) Synod of the Northeast

Salvation Army, Massachusetts Divisional Headquarters

Unitarian Universalist Association, New England Region

United Church of Christ, Southern New England Conference

United Methodist Church, New England Conference

 

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

 

MCC Newsletter

April 2, 2020 Pastoral Letter from the MCC

March 26, 2020 Pastoral Letter from the MCC

March 19, 2020 Pastoral Letter from the MCC

March 12, 2020 Pastoral Letter from the MCC

Sign up for the MCC (weekly during COVID19) Newsletter here.

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

Live-stream worship guide for making this transition in a hurry

Online Streaming PDF Guide from St. Ann’s

Intro to Zoom Guide in paper format from Temple Israel, Boston

Zoom Meeting Guide from Next Church

The United Methodist Church has some tips for online Bible Study here

One Quaker colleague has shared a good round up of resources here

 

Supporting the Most Vulnerable

As hard as it is to keep your hands clean, think of living outdoors. One homeless parishioner said, “You want to be clean, but you can’t; no one will let you use their bathrooms. There’s no bathrooms, there’s no sinks, there’s no place to get clean.”  So here is what you can do.  Please give the following:

  • Money to supplement the decrease in food donations
  • Cleaning Supplies: Clorox wipes, hand soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer or ingredients (rubbing alcohol at 70% or higher and aloe vera gel)
  • Personal hygiene supplies: individual packs of tissues, individual handi-wipes,
  • Individual Gift cards to Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Burger King

As volunteers have been decreasing due to social distancing, these communities are feeling further isolated. Consider inviting your church to send cards.  These are the outdoor or housing unstable/homeless churches of Massachusetts, mailing addresses at the link: Boston’s Common Cathedral; Boston’s MANNA community; Cambridge’s Outdoor Church; Cambridge’s Friday Café; Waltham’s Chaplain’s on the Way;  Worcester’s Worcester Fellowship; Worcester’s Walking Together;  Springfield’s Church without Walls; Northampton’s Cathedral in the Night ; Greenfield’s Cathedral in the Light; Pittsfield’s Cathedral of the Beloved.