The Commission on Congregational Mission of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin has chosen as its focus for the first half of 2021 the topic of “stewardship.” The Commission has pursued research on the topic, particularly as it relates to engaging younger generations. Members meet monthly to share their learnings with one another and to develop a strategy for sharing more widely across the Region. The following is a brief reflection on those learnings in light of the effects of the pandemic.
“Realities of Our New Normal”
The COVID 19 era has been a curse and, in some ways, a blessing for so many churches. Several churches have closed while others have flourished. This deadly COVID 19 virus has caused much fear and loss. It has forced the church to permanently change the overall concept of what church means, is and does. This Commission on Congregational Mission has researched current information on stewardship, today’s churches, and their youth. The following is a brief reflection drawn from our efforts.
Discussions about the “graying” of the traditional church were occurring in the years prior to the pandemic. Adults were living longer, and this generation was not training or making a way for successive generations. Countless numbers of young adults and their families were leaving the traditional church. Some traditional churches were having more funerals than baptisms and weddings. Pastors who managed to maintain intergenerational congregations prior to the pandemic have stated that they continue to focus their sermons on universal themes. They have encouraged their members, seniors, and youth to use their smart phones and new technologies in their ministries. Youth were encouraged to help the older generations increase their knowledge of and comfort level with the new technologies that are available to communicate and to worship.
Today’s young adults have found there is now a need in church for their skills with technology and social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. They have also found church to be a refuge to turn to where they can address the emotional and financial trauma caused by the COVID 19 pandemic. Church without walls has allowed members to continue to fellowship and “congregate” while respecting the public health requirements for social distancing. The longer the pandemic lasts the more creative our churches are becoming, thanks to our young adults as well as Pastors and Ministry Leaders who are “tech savvy.”
Core memberships in several family churches have remained intact and eager to participate in ways not previously imagined. More people are reaching out to our churches and receiving the Good News than were able to in our brick-and-mortar edifices. Today’s churches are still able to provide human services, such as food, clothing, COVID supplies and financial support, to populations in their local church and in their local community. Today’s church members are praying more, teaching more, and reading God’s word in more unique ways. Let us pray that we continue to develop a “new normal” in today’s churches as COVID 19 becomes less of a threat. Let this “new normal” continue to utilize inclusive thinking, intergenerational ways to worship, and multigenerational leadership in service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The members of the 2021 ABC Wisconsin Commission on Congregational Mission are:
Bonnie Sorenson, Wauwatosa, Underwood Memorial (chair)
Dr. Carolyn Parker, Milwaukee, Progressive
Rev. Terry West, Milwaukee, New Hope
Rev. Walt Hoshaw, Beloit, First
Linda Cutler, Milwaukee, Greater Mt. Zion
Rev. Russ Antos, Ixonia, First
Set aside Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 16 NOW for Spring Into Camp 2021 — and get to praying that we will actually have an on-site camping season at Camp Tamarack in 2021!
by Rev. Dr. Arlo R. Reichter, Former ABC/WI Executive Minister
Several years before my retirement in 2014 my wife and I took advantage of two important resources available to American Baptist clergy. The Midwest Ministry Development services (MMD) and the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB). The professional attention by these two ministry agencies helped us prepare meaningfully for retirement.
The MMD staff aided us in facing the reality of how our lives would change in retirement, it explored our hopes and desires for retirement. This provided us with an opportunity to intentionally consider how our relationship would change, where we wanted to retire and what our priorities would be during those years. While we had discussed “retirement” in general the MMD staff led us in a comprehensive consideration of the new phase of life we would be entering.
The MMBB provided a Certified Financial Planner from their staff to analyze financial resources and needs in our retirement years. Prior to our consultation we were asked to provide information about our financial resources and our estimates of anticipated expenses in retirement. Working with this information the planner generated a multi-page analysis of our finances which included projections well into our retirement years. The planner reviewed the analysis with us and asked probing questions with sensitivity that enabled us to clarify our situation financially. As we came to the threshold of retirement we provided updated financial information and the planner provided us with an updated financial analysis.
No matter what a person’s financial situation may be, I highly recommend this process. While I had a reasonable understanding of our financial situation, these comprehensive analyses revealed factors which were new to me and allowed us to enter retirement more confident of the resources we had.
I encourage anyone within ten years of when they plan to retire to participate in these experiences. You will not regret taking the time to plan for your retirement years.
To learn more about upcoming opportunities:
or to learn more about specific ABC/WI partnership with these organizations, contact John Jones or Marie Onwubuariri.
On Singing During Times of Social Distancing…
Baptist people are a singing people. We join our voices in praise of God, to share our prayers, and to proclaim salvation through Jesus. When we sing together, we are sharing God’s story with those who gather and actualizing the Body of Christ – one voice raised in song. Singing together expresses our love for God and our love for each other, creating community with song. It is hard to imagine worship without singing but here we are facing the prospect of worship without congregational song.
Why are we not singing during in-person worship? The research is clear and comes from many sources – the Centers for Disease Control, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the American Choral Directors Association, the Calvin Institute for Worship, and many others. All have come to the same conclusion – singing expels aerosols which can carry Covid 19. These aerosols can linger in the air much longer than droplets and possibly infect a person. Multiply these aerosols by the number of people in worship and you can understand that singing might be a source of infection. Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must follow the solid advice of the scientific community and refrain from singing in our worship. That is going to be difficult and painful for us.
As Psalm 137 says, “How can we sing the songs of our Lord while in a foreign land?”. It seems like we are living in a foreign land with things we don’t understand and things that make us uncomfortable. We are like the Israelites – removed from our sacred places and sacred spaces. One of our most dearly held worship practices as Baptists and as musicians has come to a screeching halt! I know we all feel very disconnected and maybe even a little fearful. What are we to do in this time of change?
We need to hold tight to what Jesus has directed us to do – love your neighbor as yourself. We need to follow the science and lead our congregations through this time with love. Singing as a gathered community may be on hold for some time, but singing will not stop! Instead, it will move to our homes and be carried in our hearts as we navigate this new land. Our love for our brothers and sisters who gather to worship with us compels us to refrain from singing in order to protect each other. It is an act of love. It is the way of Christ.
Each church has to discern what path they will follow in these uncertain times. The logistics of in-person worship with social distancing, masks for all, and sanitizing requirements are almost overwhelming. Plans have to be made and people have to commit to carrying out those plans with diligence. Our responsibility as Christians is to love our neighbor. If that means not singing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, then our path in this matter is quite clear.
Remember, the song of salvation through Jesus will never be silenced. Its expression may change but it will never stop. We need to apply our gifts and talents to figuring out and designing other ways to include our beloved song in our worship. Our worship may need to change in significant ways for a time, but Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The call to love each other may require us to make a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice made in love.
Links to explore:
Wisconsin Council of Churches
Orthodox Church in America
Early May 2020 we announced that unfortunately we have decided to cancel all the overnight camp programs at Camp Tamarack, our ABC Wisconsin region camp in Waupaca, originally scheduled for June and July 2020 due to the current COVID-19 health crisis. Our decision was made in large part due to our commitment to the health and safety of staff and our campers.
We also remain committed, however, to connecting in creative ways with our campers, camp families and seasonal staff, many of whom had originally planned their summer with Camp Tamarack on the top of their list.
To lead us in this effort, we are excited to announced that we have hired Mrs. Dianna Brophey as our Summer 2020 Camp Director.
A wife and mother of three, Dianna Brophey has spent the better part of her life as an educator. She is a member of First Baptist Church of West Allis and attended Camp Tamarack as a youth. She continued coming back over the years as summer staff, cabin leader, health officer, and Primary Camp director while introducing her own children into the camp family. Her family cherishes the connections made there, and one of her goals is to continue the tradition for new and returning campers.
Dianna shares, “I love Camp Tamarack! This camp season, I look forward to sharing the peace and grace of God I have come to know at Tamarack. The goal this summer will be to make that connection in new and different ways as we embrace transformation.”
As an educator, Dianna has already been pivoting in new ways as she has led her virtual classroom over the past several weeks, and I trust she will bring all her experience, creativity, and skills to the challenge of exploring, designing, and implementing virtual summer camp experiences, and, if safe to do so, alternate in-person activities at Camp Tamarack later in the summer.
She knows it will take a team of leaders and helpers, as has always been needed in all previous camp seasons, and she has many relationships within our Camp Tamarack family with which to draw upon.
This part time summer position is necessarily designed to be flexible, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for ways you can join our “Transformed Summer 2020 Camp Season Team,” learn more about how your youth and families can still experience Christ’s love through “camp” and “outdoor ministry,” or simply offer your support to Dianna. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her focus area will be summer programming, and she will work alongside Kim Drost, Assistant Minister Camping – Facilities and Guest Services, who continues to oversee the stewardship of the grounds and manages the rental opportunities of Camp Tamarack.
Please join me in welcoming Dianna to our region staff team, and please keep her and our Camp Tamarack ministry in your prayers as we still have a lot to discern about how God is seeking to transform this ministry through this season.
As American Baptists, we are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on Asians and Asian Americans. The fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic has led many persons in the U.S. to scapegoat, resulting in Asians and Asian Americans becoming victims of prejudice, discrimination and, at times, violence.
The Alliance recently issued a Statement of Concern regarding COVID-19 and the Anti-Asian Racism and supports the Statement of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. This latter website contains many helpful resources as well.
Efforts to raise awareness to the current issues and to move our denomination forward in racial equity and justice are continuing.
View this Zoom Conversation, hosted by ABHMS: Racism against Asian Americans during COVID-19, originally posted on May 21, 2020.
Avenues to Wholeness Webinars
American Baptist Women’s Ministries hosted “Avenues to Wholeness”, a free winter webinar series in 2020. This webinar series help participants to discover their natural abilities, strengths, gifts so they can achieve their full spiritual, personal and professional potential. The series featured a variety of experts including Dr. Elizabeth Perryman, founder of Upstream Mindfulness LLC and Allison Lansky, Lead Senior Clinical Therapist at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center. Topics ranged from mindfulness and Christian spirituality, emotional awareness as a tool to overcome addiction to finding wholeness after tragedy through the lens of a survivor of Hurricane Maria. This webinar allowed space and time for women to be honest and examine their intents, motives and desires for setting goals.
Avenues to Wholeness: Discover your Superpowers
January 9, 2020
Guest Presenter: Dr. Robin L. Owens, Ph.D
Click here to watch on demand
Avenues to Wholeness: Finding Wholeness in Seasons of Change
January 23, 2020
Guest Presenter: Rev. Jessica Vaughn Lower
Click here to watch on demand
Avenues to Wholeness: Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality
February 6, 2020
Guest speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Perryman, Ph.D
Click here to watch on demand
Avenues to Wholeness: Finding Wholeness after Tragedy
February 20, 2020
Guest speaker: Mrs. Sandra Roman
Click here to watch on demand
Avenidas a la Plenitud: Bienestar Financiero (For Spanish Speakers)
March 19, 2020
Presentadora: Mrs. Magda Amargos
Click here to watch on demand
For more information on the Avenues to Wholeness project and to watch recordings from the Fall 2019 Avenue to Wholeness Series, click here.
The emergence and spread of the novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as designated by the World Health Organization, has faith leaders considering appropriate response and responsibility. This developing situation reminds us of the interconnectedness of the world; we are all connected as part of God’s good creation. People of faith respond to such developing situations with compassion and care first, rather than fear and panic, because of the courage that faith inspires.
TWO IMPORTANT TASKS...
As with any developing situation, some media reports can be more harmful than helpful, inspiring fear and anxiety, even outright panic. As people of faith, we are called to remember two important tasks in such situations:
1. We are called to respond first as Christians, as the church, the body of Christ. The first response is compassion and concern, undergirded by prayer and service. Our first impulse is courage, compassion, and faithfulness. Those principles, rather than fear and panic, guide our decisions and actions moving forward. Bias and racial profiling often accompany public crises, as they have in this case. Resist and renounce these temptations in your response to this crisis.
2. Because of our first response, we are also called to inform ourselves about the reality of the developing situation and about known best practices for dealing with the situation in a coherent and faithful way. We must draw on reliable resources for guidance in both preparing for and dealing with this developing situation.
We hope the information on this page can support our faith communities as you discern faithfulness and wise actions in the weeks ahead; we will try our best to update this page as frequently as we deem helpful.
The OGHS COVID RESPONSE is a two-part appeal: one part for relief across the United States and Puerto Rico (domestic); the second part for international relief. Relief efforts, domestically and internationally, will cover a wide range of needs that have been impacted by COVID-19: unemployment, housing, hunger, healthcare, ministry programs, special needs of marginalized populations and communities, and more. Emerging needs will also be considered. OGHS is typically the 2nd quarter ABC special offering. 100% of OGHS donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs. HOW TO GIVE:
Give your donation to your church, indicating the appropriate designation noted below, and ask your church to send in your donation along with their monthly mission giving:
Domestic: “OGHS-COVID Recovery: US & PR” |
Global: “OGHS-COVID Response International” |
General Disaster Relief: "OGHS" Click HERE for other ways to give.
During this time of COVID-19 the Milwaukee Christian Center's food pantry has maintained our mission to help those in need. It is hard for families to keep food on their shelf during the everyday normal struggles of life adding COVID pandemic makes it even more difficult. MCC's food pantry has seen an increase beyond the norm of families in need, from March 16th through April 16 MCC has served 876 households which equal to 2,422 individuals. This has put a tremendous financial stress on the pantries food as well as overhead cost. Anything given is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support. Stay safe. Stay well. Contact Bernadette Arellano, Food Pantry Coordinator, for more information: email@example.com
CONSIDERATIONS: RETURNING TO CHURCH BUILDINGS
WHILE IT IS THE POSITION OF ABC WISCONSIN TO FOLLOW THE STRICTEST OF LOCAL AND COUNTY ORDERS regarding public gatherings and to err on the side of extreme caution with so many unknowns about the continued spread of the coronavirus, we understand that conversations about the church building reopening for public activity are inevitable. To this end, we offer the following resources to aid you in having well-informed and thoughtful discussions and decision-making:
- ABCUSA - Discussion Guide for Reopening Churches from the Office of General Secretary. Lists discussions questions covering building, ministry, and personal considerations. Available in English and Spanish.
- Wisconsin Council of Churches - Holding Our Plans Loosely: Returning to Church 2.0
- Church Mutual - Frequently Asked Questions about safely returning to worship, including issues of liability.
- ABCUSA National Insurance Company -
- CDC Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting
- Vanderbloemen- Christian Organization Resource Organization - Recorded Webinar Resources -- series of webinars covering different discussion topics for re-opening
- For long-term adjustments to the physical space of your sanctuary, see this resource on Church Facilities in a Post-Coronavirus world.
- Also see Employer/Employee and Church Building Considerations/Signage resources below
REQUESTING RELIEF FUNDS
All American Baptist national and regional partners including regions, churches, American Baptist Related Organizations such as ABMen and AB Women, ABC related colleges, universities, seminaries, Community Outreach Ministries partners and the American Baptist national network of chaplains, pastoral counselors, spiritual counselors and specialized ministers’ are eligible to apply for these grants. Organizations may apply for a OGHS COVID-19 related grant in one or more of the quarterly cycles. However, priority for awarding grants will be given to organizations who are first time applicants.
Please find attached the OGHS COVID Grant Application form. You may also submit the application online on our website at this link: https://abhms.org/abhms-covid-recovery-grant-application-form. The passcode is: COVID1920
Previous Communications from ABC/WI
ABC/WI Email Blast Sent on May 14, 2020 | Still Safer-at-Home and Surveys
ABC/WI May Synergy Enews sent on May 6, 2020
Pastoral Letter from Regional Executive Minister, “In This Together” sent on April 20, 2020
ABC/WI April Synergy Enews - COVID-19 Edition (sent on April 1, 2020)
ABC/WI Email Blast Sent on March 25, 2020
ABC/WI Email Blast Sent on March 19, 2020
Initial ABC/WI Email Blast Sent on March 12, 2020
Pastoral Care/Clergy Health Resources
1. In “Ministry during Pandemic: From Awareness to Implementation,” Judson Press and the Rev. Dr. Naomi Kohatsu Paget offer a free and downloadable resource at www.judsonpress.com for ministry in these times.
2. ABC Regional Executive Ministers have put together a brief list of best practices, including pastoral care and recommendations for funerals. Click HERE.
3. A "Guide for Christian Funerals during COVID-19" by the Massachusetts Council of Churches.
4. A Multi-Faith Clergy group on Facebook produced this document, giving suggestions and guidance for worship, technology, giving, and pastoral care.
5. Psychological Perspectives on COVID 19 by Richard Bedrosian, PhD, a brief slide show with links to various practical resources on coping with anxiety, stress, and other psychological and emotion health topics.
6. Mental Health Guide for Faith Leaders - provided by Pathways to Promise, an interfaith cooperative of many faith groups to facilitate the faith community’s work in reaching out to those with mental illnesses and their families.
7. Taking Inventory: Preparing for the Next Phase in Ministry - a Zoom conversation, hosted by ABC/WI and CENTRAL Wisconsin on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Slides from the presentation available: Taking Inventory slides. Also available is an edited audio recording of the event:
Worship Service Resources
2. Church Music in the Age of COVID-19, provided by the Wisconsin Council of Churches
3. A sermon "Connected through the Cloud" based on Hebrews 12:1-3 from John Jones, Associate Regional Minister-Education, for all the churches of ABC Wisconsin. Click HERE.
4. A sermon and word of encouragement from Marie Onwubuariri Regional Exec. Minister, to the churches of ABC Wisconsin based on Ephesian 4:11-16. Click HERE.
5. Hymn Medley: Pianist: Marie Onwubuariri
Holy, Holy, Holy; Great is Thy Faithfulness; It is Well With My Soul
6. Blest Be The Tie That Binds (Instrumental): Pianist: Marie Onwubuariri
To listen to the audio file you do need to log into Dropbox; you can listen from any browser window.
Lyrics can be found HERE if you would like to sing along (Note: Time Signature is 4/4)
7. Sample video devotion from Camp Tamarack - from Rev. Kim Drost
9. Ministry Brands: Free Online Ministry Resources
2. CDC guidance for employers and businesses that might be modified for a church setting
3. APA Center for Workplace Mental Health: Working Remotely During COVID-19: Your Mental Health & Well-Being - provided by Dr. Laura Miraz, ABHMS | HRMATTERS.
Church Building Considerations/Signage:
3. Signage: How to Protect Yourself and Others from the CDC
4: Signage/Guideline: Cleaning And Disinfecting Your Facility - from the CDC
5. Signage: How to Handwash - World Health Organization
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT...
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Matthew 25:35-36 NRSV
‘If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?’ James 2:15-16 NRSV
Listen to the scriptures and the tradition that speak our identity into existence. The scriptures remind us of who we are in times of crisis: those who respond. However and whatever the response, may we remember first and foremost who (and whose) we are.
Pray for those infected by the coronavirus all around the world.
Pray for the families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.
Pray with gratitude for those who care for them.
Pray with gratitude for health specialists and authorities who are combatting the spread of infection.
Pray for government officials and leaders to have the wisdom necessary to make necessary and informed decisions out of care for the public good, particularly those most vulnerable.
Pray for all who at this time are feeling anxious.
BASIC HEALTH GUIDANCE
This guidance for all individuals of basic protective measures is drawn from the World Health Organization, and other widely available communications.
- Stay home if you are feeling sick.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Maintain social distancing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Practice respiratory hygiene.
- Bleach, alcohol, Lysol and other basic disinfectants are good to use to clean doorknobs, handles, faucets and counter tops.
- Have a good supply of fluids, healthy food, decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen for fevers.
- Have a first aid kit, flashlight, space blanket in your car.
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the following camps at Camp Tamarack have been cancelled.
This does not mean there will be no programming this summer, however – please stay tuned for alternate Summer 2020 opportunities!
June 5-7 AB Men’s Retreat
June 12-14 AB Women’s Retreat
June 14-20 Sr. High (Campers that just finished 9th-12th grade)
June 21-24 Primary (Campers that just finished 1st-2nd grade)
June 21-27 Middler (Campers that just finished 3rd-4th grade)
June 28- July 4 Junior (Campers that just finished 5th-6th grade)
June 28-July 4 Jr High (campers that just finisher (7th-8th grade)
July 5-8 Grandily – Grandparents and Family Camp (All ages!)
July 5-11 All Inclusive – no programming
July 12-18 Hispanic Camp
Registration will be open in the spring!
ABC/WI News Release
NO ONE PUTS NEW WINE INTO OLD WINESKINS; OTHERWISE, THE WINE WILL BURST THE SKINS, AND THE WINE IS LOST, AND SO ARE THE SKINS; BUT ONE PUTS NEW WINE INTO FRESH WINESKINS.
The New Wineskins Grant Program is up and running!!
Throughout April and May the New Wineskins administrative team, made up of both regional staff and representatives of the Commission on Finance, reviewed the applications from churches and individuals seeking to build new faith communities. It was difficult to know that we were not able to fund all applications as each had promising elements for Christian mission work; we hope that all will continue to pursue their vision. However, there were three applicants that most clearly exemplified the New Wineskins ideals of: New means new, new relationships, “with and among” not “to and for,” alignment with ABC/WI mission, collaboration with others, and innovative approaches.
We are so excited to announce the three inaugural projects receiving a 2019 New Wineskins Grant:
Miracle, Inc. (birthed by Milwaukee, Progressive Baptist Church): BLESSS–(Building Love Equipping shepherds around shame, stigma, suicide, and self-care). BLESSS aims to meet the challenges of clergy mental health and suicide by dispatching a faith-based, pastor-centric curriculum and developing a community of practice during the process.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Madison: Mt. Zion Campus Ministry—Campus Ministry holds a monthly worship service entitled Relevant Worship and events in reflection of the needs of the campus. Our mission is to inspire college students to grow personally and spiritually by inviting them to deepen their values and their relationships with themselves, others, and God. Lastly, our vision is to be an Acts 2 church – expanding our support to college students through obedience to God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit through worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship, and ministry.
Underwood Memorial Baptist Church, Wauwatosa: Bricks—In response to the absence of safe spaces for liberation/healing for trans people, Bricks has been organized by intersectional trans people for intersectional trans people. The group utilizes liberative pedagogies to view trans history – past, present, and future – through a critical counter-narrative lens to found a group identity built upon the tenets of solidarity, liberation, and the power of trans people. Through learning this identity, we seek to create a space/dialogue where trans people can know God’s love and have space to heal, grow, and thrive in their bodies, families, and communities.
This program is made possible through the partnership of the American Baptist Foundation, where the New Wineskins Endowment is managed.
To read the full news announcement, click HERE.
To learn more about the New Wineskins program, click HERE.