The importance of our collective well-being
by Clyde G. Kratz
Executive Conference Minister
Pastors and Leaders Update
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
The importance of our collective well being
In my conversation this week with ecumenical colleagues in the Harrisonburg area, we shared about the intense challenge that some pastors are experiencing in opening up their congregations for worship. One member of the group cited Philippians 2:3-4 as a specific reason not to open our congregations for worship at this time. As I reflect on the breadth of Paul’s admonition to the Philippian faith community, I was struck by the tension of human behaviors and the way of Christ. I believe the way of Christ calls us to put the well-being of others ahead of our personal and human tendencies.
In my ecumenical conversation, the leaders reported similar experiences with pastors in their fellowship. Pastors are being drained spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually as they respond to the daily changes in expectations from cultural voices, uncertainties in congregational life, pastoral care via phone, postponed grief as families experience the death of a loved one, the need to become tech savvy experts, the disconnect of preaching to a screen, and the lack of fellowship time in the foyer, aisles of the meetinghouse, and parking lot conversations.
The list of adaptations made by pastors in this time may be longer. It requires almost daily innovation and perhaps living into areas where the pastor feels inadequately prepared as he or she is called on to perform new tasks.
We recognized the need for pastors to take time off in the midst of this pandemic, and to unapologetically engage in self-care. Here I am giving my direct counsel to pastors – please contact the chair of your Elders and review the self-care plan. Be transparent about your needs with your Elders and your Oversight Leader. There are counseling funds available from Virginia Mennonite Conference that I can provide for you—up to four sessions with a therapist—you merely need to call me before you set up your appointment to understand the billing process. Please keep in mind that this pandemic is a marathon and not a sprint. Your health is vital to your ministry. Take the time today to observe your level of needed care.
Updates from Virginia Mennonite Conference
Conference Council met this past weekend and there were a number of items that were approved or discussed.
- Summer Delegate Assembly will be held on July 18, 2020, as a virtual Assembly
- Strategic Planning Task Force goals and objectives
- Potential new staffing configuration for Conference staff
- Conference Council will meet via Zoom in June 2020
Virginia Mennonite Conference COVID-19 Benevolence Fund
This fund was established to help congregations to continue to provide the pastoral staff salary and benefits, pay the rent of the congregation, and the congregation’s utility bills, in the event that a congregation has financial difficulties meeting these expenses. Please contact your District Minister or me to talk about financial assistance for your congregation’s financial wellbeing. There remains significant resource available in this fund.
Special agency edition of Pathways
Conference Ministers and Conference Endorsed Ministries are providing a news update about the challenges and opportunities they are facing with the pandemic. Some of the reporting organizations welcome financial assistance through donations at this extremely challenging time. Be assured that in my writing on behalf of these organizations’ financial needs, I have consistently highlighted the importance of giving first priority to the local congregation in financial giving, followed by other important ministries. This special edition will come out next week as an electronic edition. Please forward it to your constituency.
Some resources that I became aware of this week
- MennoMedia’s Leader magazine is hosted a discussion with a panel of Anabaptist pastors and church leaders to unpack practical advice as well as theological considerations for effective online preaching. Entitled Preaching to the Screen: Sharing the Good News Online in the Age of COVID-19, this video features panelists: Bruxy Cavey, Meghan Larissa Good, Lesley Francisco McClendon, Osheta Moore, Brian Quan, Josh Meyer, and Allan Rudy-Froese. Many pastors and church leaders are delivering sermons remotely for the first time, as in-person worship has become impossible due to COVID-19. How best can preachers foster meaningful encounters with the good news of Jesus, even as congregation and preacher are physically dispersed?
- Do not sing together if you are gathering physically for worship—Article from Mennonite Church USA
Update from MEA
Yesterday, Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) shared a letter with congregations across the denomination to encourage their support of our students and their families during this time of crisis. As you probably know well, many of our students and their families are struggling, and uncertainty weighs heavily on them.
In the spirit of increasing our mutual aid to care for each other in a time of need, I encouraged congregations to continue the financial support they already provide to students and their families and to consider increasing their support. I also urged congregations to consider developing a student aid plan now if they do not already have one. I offered information about various giving models and how MEA can help. Finally, I asked congregations to consider supporting MEA’s Anabaptist education programs for Hispanic leaders.
Would you help share this message with your constituents in whatever way makes sense to you?
I am appreciative of your faithful ministry to your congregation and organization. I regret that our updates to you have not gone to some of our associate pastors, so please forward this letter to your pastoral staff. I am working on updating our email lists and hopefully this will be remedied in the near future.
Clyde G. Kratz
Executive Conference Minister