We have all heard the musings of one year “lost” in a pandemic. But perhaps as we have listened to God’s leading in this time of our lives, as we have sought light in the darkness, we may have found some things too. We may have learned that we did not need and could not be as reliant on what we call “material things.” We may have “lost” our regular seats in Sunday worship, but we may have found a different perspective that allows us to see and hear worship in a new light. We may have realized that no matter how many losses we counted, God was with us to lead us to respond in faith, love and hope.
Regathering: We have missed the companionship of loved ones and friends as we first sheltered in our homes and continued to restrict physical contact during these months of pandemic. Of the 94 persons who responded to the Regathering survey sent to members last week, 85 had watched the livestreamed worship or watched it later on Youtube, 24 had attended a worship service in person and 58 had attended meetings or Bible study by Zoom. Eight others mentioned handbell practice, playing in the band outside and drive-in communions as ways they had gathered during this past year. We will continue to follow guidelines for safety (3 Ws) as we gather for now, but our gatherings for meetings and fellowship inside and outside can be up to 25 persons.
We have learned that sharing worship on a screen or by sitting masked and apart from others isn’t the way we expected or even wanted, but we may have found ways to listen to God in the stillness, in the music and liturgy read and sung to us, and even in the clatter and noise of keyboards and dishes and dogs. We may have looked outside ourselves to see God at work in our world as we began to watch the world transform with spring’s beginning. We may have seen the enormity of feeding the hungry in just our small neighborhood and stocked the Blessing Box or sent food to Sunnyside or supported missions like H.O.P.E. through our Missions and Social Concerns Committee. These efforts, like dropping coins into the huge lovefeast candle that lit up in December, may seem small, but to one person who lost a job during a pandemic and needed to feed a family, it may have been large. Diapers, books, school supplies, Imprints Cares, delivering communion kits, doorstep visits, benevolence to help a neighbor in need—none of these may solve all the shelter, world hunger or food deserts or even keep everyone connected, but each of these acts is the something we can do and have done to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.
Justice and Reconciliation Team has continued to study, to share conversation and action with our neighbors, looking for ways to partner with Estamos Unidos, the Moravian Hispanic ministry led by Rev. Angelica Regalado Cieza and with Rolling Hills Moravian Church in Miami. Meetings each Wednesday night during Lent and through the first of April focus on sharing the Lenten series A New Way of Being.
Stewardship: As a congregation, we are being led by the Stewardship Team and our pastor Sam to think about stewardship in some different ways over these next months of 2021, a refocusing to follow cross-shaped-giving and cross-shaped-living as we examine practicing Jesus’s economy. How can we continue our mission to live like Jesus, serve our neighbors like Jesus and love our neighbors (next door and across the globe) like Jesus? Consider your talents and gifts and how you can use them to serve like Jesus in the coming months as we regroup and regather.
We kept lights in our windows and in our hearts when news of the world seemed so dark and heavy. We lit our lovefeast candles this year in a different way: we shared them with family and in small groups physically distanced as some of us stood outside in the dark on Christmas Eve, but we also lit them in our bringing them to some of our members with portable lovefeasts and porch visits and as we shared our lovefeast kits and a recorded Christmas Eve service with our families. Pastor Sam shared stories of how God’s light in our lives inspires us. Are you seeing some light in your life? We are gaining about a minute’s worth of light every day as we move toward a season of warmth and hope.
Stories can help us process both the joys and sorrows of our lives.It’s how Jesus often taught—with parables. Let me tell you a story of one member’s path to participation in worship during this past year. This member was present in person last March on the last Sunday we were able to be present in person without masks, distancing and the protocols we adopted to keep each other and our community as safe as we could from infection. Within a week after we were shocked into realizing that we could attend only by finding our livestreamed service online, we started using Zoom, a videoconferencing tool, to have members call in by phone–usually landlines– to listen to the service as it is livestreamed. For approximately 52 Sunday mornings, this member with impaired vision, found a neighbor to dial a Chicago phone number, key in the meeting number, press #, press # again to bypass a participant number, key in the passcode, press # again, then choose speakerphone for the phone and tab the star and 6 keys in case she wanted to mute or unmute herself. All of that process to be able to join a few other church members to participate in worship. Every single Sunday morning. A year of Sunday’s. And now screens. Some of our members who had called in faithfully on landlines to hear worship can now see worship on tablets borrowed from New Philly using hotspots to connect them. We found some ways to stay connected.
Communication and connection happen because one person or group has a message to send to others to receive it. It can be like the old game we sometimes played in school where one whispers a message. . .
A town crier gave daily news in the village of Salem in the 18th century. This small community in the midst of the woods was 5-6 miles from Salem so it is doubtful that those residents of this community could hear that town crier shouting the news of the day. During the past year, communication and connection became even more important.
How do you receive news and information from New Philadelphia?
Sometimes we have to learn new ways to send and receive information to stay connected. Here are some of the ways we communicate and connect today:
- Email: 413 of us have provided up to date email addresses to the church so that we can receive an individual email when there is news to receive (including the weekly emailed newsletter that Emily McNeil from Communications Team has provided for little more than a year.
- Instant Church Directory: 176 of us have used our email addresses to create a login to the church directory where we can put a name to a face or click on a member’s email or phone to contact them. 609 families or individuals are listed.
- Realm: 90 active participants (those who have accepted the invitation and have access to their account) and there are 411 Members w/Email (an email group I set up).
- Website: For the newphilly.org blog/website – there are 114 subscribed email followers and 1313 who follow via social media. Our most popular day for the website is Sunday. All time views for the month of January 2.4K, February 2.8K, and 1.1K thus far for March( first week).
- MailChimp: We have 599 contacts in our total audience.
- Facebook: private New Philly Now group – 202 members with 130 of them showing as active.; 1215 people ‘like’ the public Facebook page, 1567 people ‘follow’ the public page.
- Twitter : 103 follow our twitter account
- Instagram : 370 follow our Instagram account
- YouTube : 127 subscribers
- Some three dozen members who do not use email request a mailed copy of the weekly newsletter and Sunday’s order of worship.
We are grateful for the shepherding, leadership and teaching of our pastor Sam Gray, who answered our request for a call to ministry last spring and who, since July, has led us, taught us, and encouraged us. We are grateful for church staff: Clyde’s enthusiasm, Evie’s creativity with children’s ministries, Zach and Erin’s creative planning for middle and high school youth, for Tim’s rearrangement of the spaces in this facility and on the grounds to provide safety, for Rachel who keeps us scheduled, organized and informed and Donna who manages financials. We are grateful for all staff and for the worship team: for Steve Gray whose leadership and teaching has amplified a few voices to sing and play so richly for us all. We are grateful to the small but dedicated tech team (Michael Crotts, Eric Bradley and Valerie Crane), who have used the media of sound and video to allow us to share in livestreamed worship, especially for the last 52 Sundays.
We are grateful for these outgoing board members who spent hours in prayer, in Zoom and in-person meetings, in faithful dedication to our congregation. For three years and three months, and in at least one case five years, these members of your Board of Elders: April Greenwood, Frank Chitty, Nancy Renn, Tina Spach and your Board of Trustees: Alan Barber, Brad Pitts, Chris Rogers and Ron Tedder have served in these capacities. Our Rules and Regulations say that they can have a two-year break before being nominated to serve again, but they continue to lead us as they seek to follow Jesus’s example. Thank you to this group and to April Greenwood and Chris Rogers who have chaired the Nominating Committee, and who have invited many of you to serve on our boards for the coming term.
Congregational council elected four candidates for Board of Elders and four for Board of Trustees who will help to lead New Philadelphia’s congregation in living, serving and loving like Jesus during the next shortened term of two years and nine months. We welcome Mike Sloan, Will Spach, Darla Bonnett and Shannon Koontz as members of the Board of Elders and Steve Huddleston, Darlene Reinhardt, Dan Franklin and John Geis to the Board of Trustees to serve through 2023. Nancy Holland will serve as Congregational Council secretary. Board members who continue to serve are Andi Williams (2022), Cindy Daggett (2022), Cynthia Fearrington (2021), Frank Nifong (2021), Michael Crane (2022), Tiffany Woods (2021), Maggie Davis (youth representative) and Kay Windsor (2022) on Board of Elders, and Becky Ward (2021), Bill Byrd (2021), Bruce Bradley (2022), Constance Linville (2021), David Stanfield (2022), Earl Wall (2021), Susie Tickle (2022) and Tony Ebert (2022).
Continue reading Congregational Council REPORT