COVID-19 Government Aid Info for Churches and Church WorkersJoin us for a government aid webinar, Tuesday, March 31

COVID-19 Government Aid Info for Churches and Church Workers
Join us for a government aid webinar, Tuesday, March 31

We have received many questions regarding the recent passage of the CARE Act through the United States Congress. Many of these questions revolve around if there are any provisions in the act that will help non-profits, churches and church workers during this period of economic turmoil and uncertainty.

The Center for Finance and Administration has released a helpful document that analyzes the most imporant information that churches, pastors, and non-profit groups need to know in order to receive government assistance.

We are also hosting a webinar on Tuesday, March 31 to go over the steps you and your group need to take in order to receive government aid, as well as answer any questions you still have about this important legislative development.

The Government Aid webinar will be held at 1 p.m. on March 31. The link to the Zoom webinar can be found here: https://arumc.zoom.us/j/100891545

For further questions, contact Todd Burris at tburris@arumc.org.

A Quarantine Meditation

A Quarantine Meditation

By Kay Brockwell

Lay Leader, St. Paul UMC, Jonesboro

When we began Lent on Feb. 26, we were certainly not thinking about giving up this much. Not our jobs, not our family gatherings, not our dinners out and movie nights, not our worship services. We were not thinking about giving up affectionate hugs from our friends when we met them. Our teens were not thinking about giving up senior proms and high school basketball championships. Our sports fans were not thinking about giving up March Madness and the first month and a half of major league baseball.

We were not thinking about giving up community. 

What a difference four weeks make! Now we are “hunkered down,” making only necessary trips to the grocery and pharmacy and doctor’s office, and being careful to keep the prescribed six feet away from everyone else in the store. In the evenings, we rediscover our families, if we are fortunate enough to still share our homes with them. Unless we’re a health care worker or a first responder or work in what’s deemed essential retail, we’re absent the community of our workplace. Those of us who live alone may go for days without seeing another human being.

Our Lent is fashioned after Jesus’ period of fasting in the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan, and where he withstood those temptations. He spent his 40 days in solitude. And here we are, 2000 years later, spending our days leading to Easter in solitude as well. Our churches are empty. Our Sunday morning church is conducted by Facebook live, YouTube, Zoom meeting or conference call. We, too, are tempted in our solitude; tempted by sloth, by depression, by even further withdrawal from the world we can no longer touch. We, and our church, will emerge from this period time a changed people, and a changed church; the question is how we will change, and how we’ll shape the post-coronavirus church and world.

How do we, then, survive this time in our own little wilderness? While our distractions are lessened, our opportunity to seek God grows. Without the tyranny of a schedule and a calendar, we can spend more time in His presence. We can take time to sit quietly in his presence, not petitioning, not praising, just aware of his presence in us. We can, perhaps, begin a practice of meditation and contemplative prayer.

We can spend more time showing love to those with whom we live, and to others in our community. We can craft wonderful meals, build long-awaited projects, play in the back yard; we can take a home-cooked meal to a neighbor (leaving it on their porch). We can call a shut-in or someone who lives alone and pick up their groceries when we shop. We can mail a card or a small gift. 

We can re-establish our church community through a combination of technology and inventiveness. If most of our members are elderly and not online, we can have conference call services. We can offer drive-up Communion, complete with masks and surgical gloves and individually packaged elements. We can move a pulpit and sound system to the parking lot and hold a drive-in church. We can establish online prayer groups and Bible studies.

We can reach out to those we don’t know by providing food for feeding programs, or in neighborhood “free pantries,” or to our local food bank. We can continue to provide for the many needs that don’t stop because we are quarantined – infant formula, children’s clothing, online one-to-one tutoring for school children, meeting the needs of our homeless.

Most of all, we can remember the many times God has promised that he will never forsake his people. Quarantine may separate us; let us not allow it to forsake each other.

Thinking Ahead: Getting Creative for Your Easter Service

Thinking Ahead: Getting Creative for Your Easter Service

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

“Will we be able to hold Easter Worship in our sanctuary and, if we can’t, what can we do?” This is a question laity and pastors are asking all over Arkansas. Bishop Mueller and the Cabinet believe it is important to recognize that it is highly likely that no congregations will be able to gather together for in-person worship before the beginning of May at the earliest.

Since Easter is coming up quickly — Sunday, April 12 — it’s important to be proactive about the creative ways in which we can celebrate Easter this season rather than be reactive to all the unknowns we face.

So here are a few ways that you can remain together during Easter and celebrate the resurrection of Christ with the ones you love.

Livestream/Video Your Message

We have been talking a lot about livestreaming recently, and many of you had your first experience with a live-streamed worship service this past Sunday. And we keep talking about it because it’s such a great tool, especially with our current limits on worshiping together in-person. For Easter this year, consider livestreaming your service in the same way that you’ve been livestreaming your Sunday services. And if you can’t livestream, pre-record your sermon and post it online (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc.) For more on livestreaming, check out our Communications webinar from Tuesday, which will be uploaded here very soon.

Connect with Local Media

Despite our current social distancing rules, your local media is still hard at work bringing you the news each day. That means radio stations and TV networks are still available to reach out to and ask about broadcasting your Easter service in your local area. Find out which stations broadcast in your area, and reach out to them to see if they would be willing to work with you and send out an Easter message to your community.

Record an Audio-Only Sermon/Podcast

If you don’t have a way to video your sermons, but you have a microphone and a recording device available, then consider recording your Easter sermon in an audio-only format. There are lots of free websites where you can upload your audio files for your congregation to hear, such as SoundCloud, Anchor, and even YouTube. You can also consider starting a podcast for your church, and uploading your audio sermons to one of the many podcast hosting services available online.

Hold Your Easter Service at a Later Date

In The United Methodist Church, we recognize Easter as the day where we celebrate the risen Christ at the end of the 40-day Lenten season. But have you ever wondered why the date for Easter changes from year to year? According to Ask the UMC, “In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea set the date for the celebration of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. For this reason, the date will change each year and can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25.” Although this has been the traditional understanding of Easter for hundreds of years, there are no rules that say you can’t hold your Easter service days, weeks, or even months later. Consider postponing your Easter service until the current regulations of social distancing have eased.

For all information regarding the Arkansas Conference’s response to COVID-19, visit our resource page below.

Recommended Practices for Protecting You and Your Community from COVID-19

Recommended Practices for Protecting You and Your Community from COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our communities, we want to make sure clergy, laity and all leaders of churches are prepared for a potential outbreak.

Local Church Leaders: Plan & Prepare

Below are guidelines for faith leaders, found on the CDC’s website, that will better prepare you to make important decisions for your congregation and your community.

  • Update your emergency operations plan with the help of your local public health department, emergency operations coordinator or planning team, and other relevant partners to include COVID-19 planning.
  • Identify space that can be used to separate sick people if needed.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information to workers and those you serve.
  • Identify actions to take if you need to temporarily postpone or cancel events, programs, and services, especially for groups at greater risk such as older adults or people with chronic health conditions.
  • Promote the practice of everyday preventative actions.
    • Frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.
    • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    • Stay home when sick.
  • Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at your organization (e.g., soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and a couple of disposable facemasks, just in case someone becomes sick during an event).
  • Plan for staff absences by developing flexible attendance and sick-leave policies, plan for alternative coverage and monitor and track COVID-19 related staff absences.
  • Engage with stigmatized groups and speak out against negative behaviors to help counter stigma and discrimination.

Important Steps for Everyone to Take (If COVID-19 is in your community)

  • Stay informed about local COVID-19 information and updates.
  • Put your emergency operations and communication plans into action.
  • Communicate with your community members if events and services are changed, postponed, or canceled.
  • Emphasize everyday preventive actions through intensified communications with employees and visitors to your organization.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Wash hands often.
  • Limit close contact with others as much as possible (about 6 feet).
  • During an event, if someone becomes sick separate them into an isolated room and ask them to leave as soon as possible.

*All information gathered from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

For up-to-date information regarding what you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visit the Center for Disease Control & Prevention website at www.cdc.gov. Tips for faith and community leaders can be found here www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/index.html.

For Little Rock Residents: Please continue to check the City of Little Rock’s website at www.littlerock.gov/city-administration/mayors-office/covid-19-information/

  • The City of Little Rock is implementing a curfew, beginning Wednesday, March 18. The curfew will be from 12 a.m. – 5 a.m. (this excludes overnight workers)
  • Gatherings of more than 50 people are also postponed until further notice, following new guidelines from the CDC.

We will continue to update this post as new information from federal, state, and local governments becomes available.