Here is the most recent round-up of updates from Mennonite Brethren agencies regarding ways in which COVID-19 is impacting their ministry and what resources are available to individuals and churches related to the new coronavirus. Read earlier announcements here.
USMB offers resources
The U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (USMB) has developed a resource page on its website that lists resources relevant to churches.
“Our desire as USMB staff is to provide our churches and leaders with relevant information that you can use as you enter unknown and very unusual territories of ministry,” writes Don Morris, USMB national director, in a March 20 email to churches. “We are working diligently to do our research and provide with you with everything we hope to be beneficial to you.”
Among the resources listed are several provided from within the USMB family. Included in the resources unique to USMB is a four-part tutorial by Stephen Humber, former pastor who is currently a Midwest regional mobilizer for Multiply, on the basics of using Zoom, a popular online meeting platform.
Fred Leonard, pastor of Mountain View Church, Fresno, California, is leading a live Zoom seminar covering seven topics for online ministry. Topics include providing effective online worship services and small groups, creating a YouTube site for the church and online financial resources. The seminar is March 27 and a recording of the event will be posted on the USMB website. (Update: The seminar was not recorded.)
USMB and the Center for Anabaptist Studies at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, have hosted two webinars for pastors to share ministry ideas and to support one another during this season of uncertainty and change. A recording of the webinars are posted online.
Regarding USMB Gathering 2020, the national convention scheduled for July, the website states, “We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are committed to the well-being of our USMB family. Should our plans for USMB Gathering 2020 change in the coming weeks, we will notify you immediately.”
Multiply hosts discussions, courses
Multiply, the North American global mission and church planting ministry, is offering three digital learning opportunities that are designed to educate and encourage participants to live on mission even when face-to-face social interaction is limited.
For the next four weeks, Multiply workers from around the globe will be sharing twice a week during one-hour discussions about how the coronavirus is impacting their ministry and how they are seeing God at work in their region. Click here to see a list of regions represented in these discussions and to join the live Zoom call.
Church planter Derek Parenteau will be offering an intensive two-day webinar on starting a faith conversation online. Practitioners from India, Africa and Asia will talk about developing a home-based missionary community that reaches people open to gospel conversations. Two sessions are offered: March 28-29 and March 30-31.
“Living on mission in times of crisis” is a 12-day interactive online training program developed by missionary Andy Owen. The course dates are March 30-April 10. From the individuals who register, groups of 10 to 12 people from across North America and around the world will be formed.
Everence offers assistance
For the remainder of 2020, Everence is doubling the amount of eligible Sharing Fund grant money available to congregations with an Everence stewardship advocate. This change is designed to help churches assist members or community individuals facing serious financial needs due to COVID-19, including pastors who may be losing income due to reduced giving in the midst of the epidemic.
As in past years, Sharing Funds are accessible as long as the funds are available or until Dec. 10, whichever comes first. Congregations with greater capacity to meet the coronavirus-related financial difficulties within their faith community are encouraged to support other churches by applying for a grant to share their extra funds with another congregation or waiting until later in the year to apply for their additional amount.
Everence is the stewardship ministry of Mennonite Church USA and serves other Anabaptist denominations, including USMB. To read more about other Everence responses to COVID-19, visit its website.
Tabor College reschedules commencement
Tabor College announced a series of decisions prompted by national and local directives regarding the coronavirus. Included in the decisions is that all face-to-face courses are cancelled for the rest of the 2020 spring semester. All instruction will be done online and the Hillsboro campus will remain closed to guests and non-employees.
While degrees will be conferred in May and diplomas will be mailed to graduating seniors that month, 2020 graduation events have been rescheduled for homecoming weekend, Oct. 10-11. Commencement will be held Sunday morning, Oct. 11, and the President’s Party will be held the night before.
Additional information is posted on the college website: https://tabor.edu/coronavirus/
ICOMB postpones annual summit
Each year Mennonite Brethren leaders from around the globe gather for the annual summit of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren. The 2020 summit, scheduled for May in Brazil has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. The ICOMB executive committee is considering options, including holding the meeting in the fall or meeting virtually (online.)
“COVID-19 has occupied us all to a greater or lesser degree,” writes Rudi Plett, ICOMB executive director in a letter announcing the change. “And even today the experience is not the same everywhere. But we have realized that step by step all countries unite in creating an isolation and thus prevent a further spread of this disease.”
Coronavirus to date
As of March 24, the coronavirus, which surfaced in a Chinese seafood and poultry market in late 2019, has spread to at least 166 countries, killing more than 16,000 and sickening tens of thousands of people in a matter of weeks. Nearly a third of the world’s population is living under coronavirus-related restrictions.
The World Health Organization declared the situation a pandemic on March 11, triggering in the U.S. a series of decisions over the next two days to cancel professional sporting events, college basketball tournaments and other recreational and entertainment events. Some schools were closed and worship services cancelled.
Every-day life was further impacted March 13 when U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and again March 15 when the Center for Disease Control advised no gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks. The following day, Trump advised citizens to avoid groups of more than 10 for the next 15 days.
For the next two weeks, as the coronavirus spread across the United States, USMB churches, colleges and ministries tried to keep up with ever-changing directives as state and local governments mandated that residents “shelter at home” and closed schools, restaurants and non-essential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.