Grace to you and peace,
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”
These ancient words from Isaiah precede a list of dangers that awaited God’s people. The waters and the fire of Isaiah 43 are now augmented by the dangers and the unknowns that surround COVID-19. But through all the challenges, God’s assurance of care for God’s people resonates and echoes.
The last few months have challenged us to be the church in new ways. The “shelter in place” orders and the concern for our neighbors and communities led us to adapt how we minister to each other and to our communities. We have adopted new ways to worship while physically separated; we have discovered new opportunities for expressing care and building community.
At first, the adaptations were challenges that many embraced. We expended enormous amounts of energy to meet new demands. Every major area of life has been affected – families, jobs, residence, church, friendships, community involvement, etc. But now many are wondering “how long” each adaption will need to be in place. We are recognizing the emotional and psychological toll exacted from taking the recommended health precautions that necessitate social distancing and lack of touch.
There is so much that remains unknown for us. What are the long-term effects of employment furloughs or lay-offs on business viability, on the national economy, and on the stock market? What will be the lasting effects of this pandemic on ministry participation and on ministry stewardship at congregational and presbytery level? Will some of the alliances forged during the crisis change the way we minister to local communities? How will education at every level be changed by the way in which educational resources were delivered during the past three months?
The COVID-19 disruption occurred as the Presbytery of Lake Michigan was in the process of giving clearer definition to its future leadership needs. Members of the presbytery’s Leadership Team were forced to balance the demands of family care, employment, and life-style adjustments with their Leadership Team responsibilities. The same was true for the Budget and Finance Committee members. The focus and energies of the presbytery staff were directed towards necessary adaptations while providing resources to congregations and ministries attempting to utilize alternative forms of ministry best suited to local needs. We look forward to a time when Leadership Team members, Budget and Finance members, and staff can return to addressing a clearer definition of presbytery needs.
One of the components of this process is to describe what kind of permanent leadership would best serve our presbytery. The impact of COVID-19 on ministry may change perceptions of what kind of leadership our presbytery needs. Another component in the process of addressing our presbytery’s future is a discussion of a five-year financial plan. Our intent was to begin discussion of finances at our June 9, 2020 Stated Meeting with action contemplated for September or December of 2020. However, the impacts of COVID-19 on ministry, stewardship, the financial markets, and on the schedules for our committee members have rendered the previously communicated intended schedule obsolete. The need for these actions remains, but currently we are unable to offer a schedule for implementation.
This is a time of anxiety for all of us. Our fear of the unknown sometimes tempts us to “hunker down” and hold on to what we think we had, other times we are tempted to act precipitously attempting to hoard what we think we will need, and at other times we are tempted to “just do something” as if doing something will help us control a seemingly out of control present and future.
We ask you to walk with us on this journey through the unknown challenges and dangers with the promises of our God etched on our hearts: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Serving God and God’s people in the Presbytery of Lake Michigan,
Leadership Team Committee
Alexander (Sandy) Lipsey
Budget & Finance Committee