April 25th: Waiting for Signs & Proofs of New Life
Updated: Aug 15
This week’s newsletter will be more news than theology. There are two important matters I want to update you on, ABCMC Emergency Relief Grants to churches and our ABCMC Summer Camp and outdoor ministry programs.
Emergency Relief Grants: The region has $75,000 in program endowment funds available to spend between now and the end of June, and no current programs to spend them on due to the quarantine. Therefore, the Cabinet, acting in an emergency capacity on behalf of the Family Council, has authorized us to repurpose of those funds as emergency relief grants to churches.
You can see the basic guidelines in the separate attached document. We are dividing up the $75,000 into three portions, one third available right now, one third in May, and one third in June. The program is being administered by me and our Associate Regional Ministers (Rev Chan Thawng Lian, Rev Shakespeare Osorio, and Rev David Watkins) with the goal of helping meet in a small way the most acute needs first. Contact one of us if you would like to receive support.
The maximum award will be $4000, and we have prioritized the needs we are seeking to support: first, helping meet payroll; second, helping with emergency ministry needs; third, helping bridge the digital divide costs of technology and tools that quarantine ministry requires; fourth, helping pay utilities or service debt. We are aware that grants this size will not transform a church budget; but if we can help a church get from this month to next, we would like to try.
Our two program endowments, Equipping Clergy and Outdoor Ministry, which were created at the time of the sale of Camp Grow. Each year, 90% of their income is available for programming over the course of the fiscal year, when runs July 1 through June 30. The coronavirus hit us just as we were gearing up to commit the balance of 2019-2020 program funds.
Outdoor Ministry for Summer 2020: The Outdoor Ministry Committee has decided to cancel ABCMC Camp for this summer. Plans were under way for us to rent Camp Tamarack and have a week of summer camp for the children and youth of the region, but given the unpredictability of the coming months, it seemed unworkable to ask for registrations and commitments now from campers, families, volunteers, and staff. Instead, we are working to create outdoor activities that can be scheduled with several weeks notice, one-day “summer camp” experiences we can share without needing to predict the future quite so far ahead.
As far as theology goes, I will offer this simple thought. For you lectionary followers, this week’s gospel reading is the story of Doubting Thomas from John. As I was meditating on it this week, I noticed something I had not noticed before. The story begins that Easter night, when Jesus appears to the disciples (all but Thomas), showing them proof of the Resurrection. Thomas has his doubts, until he can see them himself. What I noticed was, this second part of the story doesn’t happen until the following Sunday: “A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.”
This time delay struck me. Thomas has to wait a full week before he can feel the Resurrection in the flesh. That’s what I noticed reading the story this year. In my socially distant, shelter at home life, in my apartment, it struck me that I feel like Thomas, in the long week between. We have heard the news of the Resurrection, but are waiting to see the embodied proof. The curve is bending, but we are still waiting the news that we can come together in person, in body, to worship and serve together. We know God reigns, but it is discouraging to have heard news of it at such distance. So we’re like Thomas, waiting for signs and proofs of New Life.
Like Thomas, we have moments of doubt, especially in moments of feeling lonely, isolated, and homebound. But like Thomas, we will come join the community again on some Sunday not too long from now and experience the Good News in person. Like Thomas, we will feel in the flesh the Body of Christ, the people, reunited and again on the road to Resurrection. Rev David Gregg