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).
How wonderful to see so many in the Sanctuary for Congregational Council. We hope to see many more in the near future as things begin to open up, vaccines become more prevalent and people start to feel more confident getting out. It is also good that so many others are joining us through the magic of Zoom. Technology has proved to be invaluable to the workings of our church during this pandemic, from allowing us to have meetings to attend to the business of the church, to having our services delivered to us in the comfort of our homes or wherever we happen to be. Kudos to our staff, musicians and technical folks for delivering, what I believe, to be a Sunday morning program second to none.
Kudos to you, the members of the church, as well for helping to weather this pandemic. You have helped us both to continue to deliver the important services which the church provides, and to remain financially solvent. As most of you recall, we had a very difficult year in 2019 which resulted in significant changes to our budget for 2020. Our budget for 2019 was in excess of $1,000,000. During 2019 we recognized that the budget was not achievable and we reduced actual expenses to about $886,000. However, revenue was only $745,000 resulting in a loss of about $141,000. Obviously, the church could not continue this trend for too long and remain a viable entity. Your Boards worked with our staff and the Province to reduce the 2020 budget to a bare bones $750,000. These cuts included eliminating one pastoral position and reducing other full-time positions to part-time. As a result, final expenses for the year ended up totaling about $768,000, a bit over budget, but your contributions helped boost total income to almost $782,000, resulting in a sur-plus of almost $14,000 for the year. In addition, the church, together with the preschool, was fortunate to re-ceive a PPP loan of approximately $128,000 to stabilize the payment of certain expenses. The terms and amount of repayment, if any, of this loan have not yet been finalized by the government. Given the uncertainties of 2020, your financial stewardship was commendable and I want to personally thank you as well as deliver thanks from your joint boards and the many people in the church, in the community and around the world who depend on your generosity.
This brings us to 2021. The budget for this year is almost $771,000, about $3,000 more than last year’s expenses but about $11,000 less than last year’s income. Through February, because giving is traditionally highest at the beginning and at the end of each year and because we have not yet incurred our highest expense items, income exceeds expenses by about $18,000. I expect this margin to decline in March. Given the surplus at this point in time, the budget sounds like an easily achievable goal. However, it really won’t be this year for at least two rea-sons. First, a significant portion of last year’s income came from individuals who have moved into the more immediate presence of the Lord or, second, came from individuals who are no longer members of our church. If we are to be successful in maintaining our programs and, ultimately, to grow them, it will require each of us to be as vigilant with our financial stewardship as we are with our stewardship of time and talent. I am confident we will do so this year and begin the process of growing our numbers and our outreach in the service of the Lord.
Ways to send your gifts and tithes:
$ Mail checks to the church|4440 Country Club Rd| Winston Salem, NC
$ Use the portal for online giving on www.newphilly.org
$ Use the Moravian Ministries Foundation portal also on www.newphilly.org
Christian Education Report
Greetings on behalf of the children of New Philadelphia! In this last year, Children’s Sunday School has gone through several phases- in-person, to all-remote, to hybrid outside then inside, back to all remote.
Even with those challenges, we have maintained the learning, the fun and the fellowship! Each week, via Zoom, we catch up with each other, then we share a game that gets us up and moving around, then we have brief les-son. Aligned with the lesson, we share a Bible verse in American Sign Language, we do a PrayerShare and then we close with another game, maybe a scavenger hunt for household items. We recently even had a dance party!
Now we are moving toward resuming in-person meetings and we are very excited about that! There will still be adoption to meet via Zoom so that no one is left out.
And with that, I NEED YOU!
Think about what role you can play to make the children’s ministry art New Philadelphia vibrant! Your relationships with the kids are SO important and they last forever. So I’m going to leave you with that. I am grateful to be worshipping and serving among you!
Youth Ministry Report
The COVID pandemic has slowed down our ministry a bit, but we have continued to roll on. Since November, we have cancelled all in person activities by recommendation of the Southern Province. Because of this, we have done all Sunday School activities through Zoom. We have been teaching lessons to inspire students to dive deeper into the Word of God and create a deeper relationship with Jesus. This includes lessons through the story of Nehemiah and the parables that Jesus shares in Luke 15. We have also done other online activities, such as our Zoom Christmas Love Feast to help the students hold onto some traditions that they are so used to.
We have just received the thumbs up to start outdoors activities, so we are beginning to plan events to get the students back together. We will be participating in park days, outside and socially distanced meals, and in-person Sunday School once the weather allows.
We have also begun plans for future activities such as a Laurel Ridge service project day, attending summer camp at Laurel Ridge, and even our summer mission trip that we are planning on visiting Rolling Hills Moravian Church in Orlando.
We appreciate all prayers for this program and can’t wait to have our students be active within the local community as soon as possible.