Coronavirus Outbreak: Updates

Welcome back!

Our first in-person Service was August 16, 2020 and it was so good to be together
with all of you who were able to attend these first services during this difficult
time.
We are following all of the safety and disinfecting protocols required by the Bishop
and Conference. The building had been professionally cleaned and disinfected
before our first Service back and going forward, a group of our congregation has
volunteered to take turns cleaning and disinfecting the church after each Service.
If you would like to be a part of this important team, let Lois Chenkus know and
she will include you in the team.
I know that some will not feel ready to attend in-person services yet and that is
alright. The services will continue to be video recorded and posted on You Tube so
we can be together in this virtual way until you all are comfortable in physical
group settings again. I will continue to try to improve the audio quality of those
recordings. There is no question that church will be different for a while but we
will embrace this reality and pray for a resolution to our present challenges which
extend way beyond COVID-19.


In His Peace, Pastor Steve

Click here for updates from New York Annual Conference

Our Food Pantry has had to make major changes in it’s distribution model to stay open and safe during this time. We are also seeing an increased demand. We need help. Your monetary contribution will enable to us to procure more food from the Regional Food Bank of NENY to help our neighbors. If you can, click here to make a donation. Thank you.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we all are aware, the COVID-19 issue is impacting our nation as nothing in our recent history.  We need to take the appropriate actions to help prevent the spread of this virus.  

At the direction of our Bishop Bickerton we will  suspend our Sunday Services for the next two weeks.  As the need progresses we will update our situation.

If you work at the Food Pantry please contact Janice to see what the need there is as this important service will continue.

There are some among us who may not have access to email, please pass along this information as you can.

We lift up this situation in our prayers asking for guidance in our response and care for those in need.

In His Peace, Pastor Steve

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March 13, 2020

TO: Church Leaders in the New York Annual Conference

FROM: Thomas J. Bickerton, Resident Bishop

RE: A CRITICAL UPDATE FROM BISHOP THOMAS J. BICKERTON

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

To Church Leaders in the New York Annual Conference:

As all of you know, we are currently being called to serve in ways that require exceptional leadership and spiritual guidance to create and manage our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response plans.

As one of the most diverse Conferences in the connection, there is rarely a “one-size-fits-all” response to any matter. However, in this instance, there is need for a uniform response.

The recent news that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic and also the growing number of our churches that find themselves in the eye of this storm, means that we as leaders, must make difficult decisions.

This is one of those occasions where I, as your Episcopal Leader, must act immediately to protect our congregations and communities. Given the clear word from health officials across the country and our own local authorities, I am asking that all United Methodist Churches in the New York Annual Conference not hold public services of worship for the next two weeks.

There will be a separate advisory issued today with information for churches in need of guidance on streaming services, Zoom video, conference call options and grants that will be offered by the New York Annual Conference in order for local churches to acquire necessary licenses to conduct worship services and meetings remotely. We will also provide guidance for you to consider as you engage with groups that rent/utilize your facilities.

The need to minimize and “flatten the curve” of infection and curtail the spread of the Coronavirus is at a critical stage. Together, we must act to lessen the burden on health care personnel, systems and our people.

This clear reality has given rise to the need to make this decision. It has been made only after careful conversation with several informed people and deep personal reflection within myself. While this is a matter that will affect all of us emotionally and spiritually at the very core of who we are and what we do as called servants of Christ, it is a decision that must be made for the good of all the people we serve.

In the midst of the challenges associated with cancelling public services of worship, I strongly urge all our leaders to explore ways to continue providing words of hope and guidance when conveying the steps that must be taken in response to this crisis. Our role as spiritual leaders who provide a message of hope and possibility does not nor should not be quarantined. This is a time to explore and utilize new and creative ways of sharing the gospel in spite of the current circumstances around us.

In your planning, a key consideration is the responsibility we have to open our doors in creative ways and respond to the needs of the poor and marginalized. As the crisis escalates, we know that the least among us will arrive at a point of critical need.

We must maintain or begin to establish outreach ministries that are needed to assist our communities. I am asking that all of our churches and leaders explore ways that will allow us to serve as “Responding Stations,” able to receive the needy and offer essentials such as food, water, supplies and comfort.

I urge you to consider that not everyone in your community is able or willing to make the best or most prudent decisions in regard to this pandemic. And I am also sure that not everyone will understand the need for this decision to be made. However, these challenging days demand of us to take extraordinary actions. In light of this, I pray that you, as a leader, will take on the task of caring for the welfare and health of the congregation under your care and the community to which you have been appointed.

United Methodists have historically stood as a connectional church. Friends, we are in this together. As such, let us remember to pray for one another as we work to provide hope and healing in response to this virus.

The Journey Continues,…
Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop

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Bishop Bickerton’s Response to Rising Coronavirus Concerns

March 11, 2020

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

By now, you’ve likely heard the news that New Rochelle, N.Y., has been hit hard by COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus.

Yesterday’s reports of 10 additional cases of the virus in Westchester County, brings the total number of confirmed cases to 108 in New Rochelle alone. By comparison, New York City has 36 reported cases.  New Rochelle is now home to the largest coronavirus cluster in the United States.

These findings prompted New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to accept the recommendation of State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker for new emergency measures to better control the novel coronavirus cluster in New Rochelle.

In response, Gov. Cuomo has called in the National Guard to set up a one-mile radius “containment zone” around New Rochelle.

What this means, according to an announcement issued yesterday by the governor’s office, is that New Rochelle schools, houses of worship and other large gathering facilities in the city will be temporarily closed for a two-week period from March 12-25. The National Guard has also been deployed to a State Health Department Command Post in New Rochelle to assist with food delivery, cleaning and other community support efforts.

Many of you have reached out already to inquire about our New Rochelle United Methodist Church (located squarely within the “containment zone” and just a short walk from the Synagogue attended by the first person diagnosed in the area) and how to best manage the impact on your own churches as well.

We have been in direct communication with Rev. Angela Redman, the pastor of New Rochelle UMC, and Denise Smartt Sears, the Metropolitan District superintendent, about a plan for their congregation. One idea being seriously considered is the use of “live streaming” technology for worship and ZOOM internet for congregational Bible studies, meetings, etc. Angela is taking a pro-active approach to this and my office is in direct contact with her and the congregation about their alternatives as they face the challenges these next two weeks bring. It has been of critical importance that we partner together to provide collaborative solutions moving forward.

I want to continue to encourage all of our NYAC churches to operate with intentionality, and clear thinking in taking the necessary precautions as your response to the threat of this virus in your community. 

Refraining from using the common cup in Holy Communion and refraining from having renewal of baptism water in the narthex of your church are two clear practices to be utilized in worship.  Today I learned sign language for the “passing of the peace” in a worship service I attended and found it to be a fun and creative way to encourage the joy of sharing fellowship with one another without excess contact.

Our communications staff at the conference center is prepared to offer information, support and resources on how to conduct live streaming during worship and the use of ZOOM internet technology in conducting meetings.  I would encourage all of our leaders to be aggressive in communicating with your congregation and offering whenever possible an encouraging word about coronavirus, the precautions you are taking, and the word of hope that will help someone to not overreact. 

Remember throughout that your non-anxious leadership will calm fears and help people to clearly think through alternatives.

Just today, we received an update from Rev. Dr. Brian R. Bodt with the Hamden Plains UMC. He shared a special health notice prepared in collaboration with Yale School of Medicine physicians in his congregation with the intention of quelling fears and spelling out protocol needed to keep everyone safe moving forward. (To read or download the plan, click here.)

The notice does a wonderful job of outlining information in a clear, concise and non-hyperbolic manner. I’ve asked that it be uploaded to our website along with the growing list of resources that should help you stay informed and educated by reliable sources. You can access this and other information from the carousel on our site.

Undoubtedly, we are living in a very unique time in our history as we continue to manage the daily business of the United Methodist Church, while also working to adapt the familiar to accommodate this current health crisis.

As always, I will continue to pray for each and every one of our churches, the leaders within them and our members, many of whom are working to sort through a myriad of emotions and concerns. Please know that all members of our NYAC staff as well as the connected churches in your Cooperative Parish are your resource, when you need to field questions, assess practices, gather information and/or allay concerns in the weeks and months ahead.

I will continue to share information, assess and offer insight on any needed adjustments and lift you up in prayer.

Let us in particular lift up the people of New Rochelle and our congregation in that city.  And let us pray for anyone, anywhere affected by this virus that they may find healing and wholeness.  We are a people of faith who are called to use the gift of science and medicine and community organization to tend to all of the people under our care.  To that end, let us pray for one another that we may lead in ways that are faithful to the calling God has placed upon us all.
 
The Journey Continues, . . .

Grace & Peace,

Thomas J. Bickerton

Resident Bishop of the New York Area