Updated April 17, 2020 to include news from Mennonite Central Committee
This week’s updates related to COVID-19 include a call to prayer from USMB national director Don Morris, an update on MB Foundation’s COVID-19 Church Relief Fund, new plans for the MCC centennial celebration and the announcement of a coronavirus fund launched by MDS, MCC and Everence.
As of April 15, there have been 30,844 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19. More than 1,000 deaths are now routinely announced across the country each day, with some days exceeding 2,000. At least 638,374 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and four U.S. territories, have tested positive for the virus, according to a New York Times database.
The global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has infected more than 2 million people worldwide. More than 136,000 people across the globe have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
USMB calls for 24 hours of prayer and fasting
U.S. Mennonite Brethren are invited to participate in a 24-hour time of prayer and fasting April 21-22, 2020 in response to COVID-19, “one of the most significant events in world history, certainly in our lifetimes,” says Don Morris, USMB national director, in an email announcing the event.
As part of this 24-hour period of fasting, at noon central time on Wednesday, Stephen Humber and Kelly Pankratz, who work with Multiply to equip and mobilize workers, will lead a Zoom prayer hour. Join the Zoom prayer time using this link.
“With all the challenges that COVID-19 has brought into our lives and to our ‘normalcy,’ maybe this is just the right time for God to reveal something new to us,” Morris says. “What might he be calling us to, individually, as a family, as his people?”
While people can pray for healing, protection and that the events of COVID-19 will be used for “enhanced evangelism and connection with people,” Morris says he sees this as a time of worship, listening, prayer and humbling oneself before God. The set time for fasting and prayer is from 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 22.
MB Foundation Covid-19 Church Relief Fund Gaining Momentum
The COVID-19 Church Relief Fund has gained momentum with an additional matching pledge of $10,000 from the Southern District of MB Churches. There are now $60,000 in pledges available to match, dollar for dollar, donations to the fund. As of April 15, 2020, contributions and match bring the fund to a total of $13,500.
MB Foundation established the COVID-19 Church Relief Fund to assist MB churches, including churches in process of joining, who are struggling financially because of the health crisis. It will be administered by the USMB national director and district ministers. Churches and individuals who contribute extra resources to this fund, link arms with the national MB family to help churches maintain financial stability, prevent major staff transitions and continue to preach the word of God and provide pastoral care.
Contributions may be made by sending a check to MB Foundation or giving online at mbfoundation.com/COVID19ChurchReliefFund.
MCC delays 100th anniversary celebration
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Celebration 2020: MCC at 100, MCC’s U.S. national centennial celebration, has been rescheduled to October 17, 2020. The original dates were June 19-21, 2020.
‘We hope that many people will be able to join us in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to celebrate MCC’s history and ministry; and to give thanks to the MCC supporters, partners and workers who have made this work possible,” writes MCC human resources executive assistant Becky Ream, in a letter announcing the change.
The event has been scaled back to reflect new realities.
The morning will include tours and warehouse demonstrations (8 am-noon): quilting, comforter knotting, packing kits and blessing a humanitarian aid shipment. A pancake breakfast will be served (7-10 am; by donation). These events will take place at the MCC East Coast Material Resources Center in Ephrata.
Afternoon festival activities on the MCC campus in Akron will include MCC office and Welcoming Place tours, children’s activities and a music and storytelling tent. Participants can enjoy free roast-your-own hot dogs/veggie dogs and homemade ice cream.
A two-hour evening worship experience at Manor Church, Lancaster, will mark 100 years of ministry and give thanksgiving to God. The featured speaker will be Leonard Dow, stewardship and development specialist with Everence Financial, former MCC staff member and longtime pastor and MCC board leader. The service will be live streamed.
MDS, Everence, MCC launch COVID-19 Congregational Relief Fund
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), Everence® and Mennonite Central Committee U.S. (MCC U.S.) have joined together to launch a COVID-19 Congregational Relief Fund to aid churches facing financial crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new fund was seeded with a combined $550,000 commitment from MDS, Everence and MCC U.S. The fund will be administered by Everence Foundation. A special committee with representation from MDS, Everence and MCC has been formed to review requests and allocate grants based on need.
“The Anabaptist faith tradition has a long and well-known history of stepping forward to help those in our midst with extraordinary needs,” says Kevin King, MDS executive director. “This is one of those times. The COVID-19 global health emergency is impacting society as a whole and will require a broad response to help neighbors and communities recover spiritually, physically and financially.”
The fund will accept grant requests of up to $5,000 each from churches that might not have means to recover from this unprecedented global situation. Recipient churches may use the grants to meet their congregational financial needs (such as rent, mortgage, utilities, staff salaries, etc.) or to assist families and individuals in their midst recover from COVID-19 hardships.
U.S. Mennonite Brethren congregations are among those churches that are eligible to apply for a grant. Priority will be given to racially and ethnically diverse churches serving in historically under-resourced communities, i.e. communities and households that are underbanked, underinsured and/or uninsured.
While primarily focused on domestic relief needs, a portion of the fund will support global partners through the Mennonite World Conference Global Sharing Fund. Established in 1997, the Global Church Sharing Fund supports the ministries and mission of Mennonite World Conference member and associate member churches in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The coronavirus disease and its accompanying impacts will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations, particularly those who are part of racial or ethnic communities,” says J Ron Byler, MCC U.S. executive director. “It’s imperative that we recommit ourselves to caring for our neighbors, acting generously and sharing God’s love and compassion with all in the name of Christ.”
To learn more and/or apply for a COVID-19 Congregational Relief Fund grant, visit everence.com/covid-19-congregational-relief-fund. Individuals, churches, businesses and organizations may also support the fund through charitable donations.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and two grandchildren. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.