Emergency Response

 

Regional Communication

 

October 27, 2020

Dear Members of Regional Council 15 and Church Boards/Church Councils:

Thank you for your patience and for your continued care and due diligence for yourselves and your communities of faith. As you already know, it is important that we all do our part to keep one another safe. Please know your work in these challenging times is both honoured and appreciated.

Thank you to the clergy who have been in contact to make me aware that there is confusion with respect to singing in church. I have been in conversation with Dr. Strang’s office to clarify the situation.

Singing in Faith-Based Gatherings:

Dr. Strang has confirmed that the document on the website: novascotia.ca/coronavirus/

Guidance for Faith Based Gatherings is still the current guidance. The written information for faith based gatherings from September 23rd is the latest update, and is located using the following link: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/Faith-based-gatherings-guidelines.pdf

It states:

Singing and playing wind or brad instruments are higher risk activities because the virus can be transmitted through saliva and respiratory droplets. Choirs are not recommended at this time;

  • Discourage congregational singing and chanting. Alternatively, suggest congregants hum along to the vocalist, instrumentalist of pre-recorded music.

From Dr. Strang:

“As you referenced in the Sept. 23rd guidance document (which is the current version of our guidance to faith communities) we recommend against congregational singing but do not prohibit it. I have communicated that churches can make the choice to have congregational singing, and if they do make that choice people should be masked”

We have suggested for our United Church, that a soloist or small group of people lead the singing and invite the congregation to hum along.

Please also see Guidance for Musicians document

Group Singing (Choirs, Ensembles, Musical Theatre)

https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/COVID-19-Guidance-for-Vocalists-and-Instrumentalists.pdf

  • Group singing is considered higher risk at this time and is not recommended.
  • If singing groups choose to practice they should consider virtual or small group practice; any time spent in group singing should be kept to a minimum.
  • For indoor studios there should be a 30-minute time followed by cleaning of common surfaces.

As singing is not recommended, yet not prohibited, if you are considering introducing singing to your Faith Based Gathering please consider the following:

  • That you inform the congregation before you begin, so they can make an informed decision of their comfort level being in a setting where there is singing.
  • That you consider the demographic of the congregation and whether the majority of the congregation is in the risk category.
  • Given the restrictions for indoor studios (see above). You may wish to allow the congregation to sing the last hymn, or sing hymns in the second half of the service. As congregants will then leave the building (keeping with the 30- minute allowable time) and allow for the cleaning following the service.

Bulletins:

I have been ask about the production of bulletins.  Here are some suggestions to help you:

If you have the capability of having your church service projected, that is the safest way to have congregational engagement. I realize that this is not possible for many congregations and there are passages of life in which a bulletin is important and becomes a family heirloom/keepsake/memory.  In such situations, I would recommend:

  • that one person who has worn a mask and has sanitized hands, produce and fold the bulletins.
  • that the same person distribute the bulletins by placing them on the marked spots where seating is allowed with the distancing regulations.
  • that congregational members be asked not to share bulletins unless they are in the same family bubble.
  • that the congregational member be asked to take their bulletin with them or place them in the recycling bin on the way out of the church. (This will help protect your volunteers or caretakers)

Site Visitors: Church Office and Drop-ins.  It is recommended:

  • that congregations limit the number of visitors to the workplace (office) to only those essential.
  • if people need to meet with a staff person, suggest people make an appointment and make sure masks are worn.
  • have extra disposable masks available in case people come without.

Sunday School, Children and Youth Programs:

The instructions for our Region 15 (NS) says:

  • Instructional settings for children (e.g. Sunday School) should follow the applicable guidelines for day camps. Please see the link:

https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/COVID-19-Return-to-Day-Camp-Guidelines.pdf

We recommended that Sunday school happen at a different time than during church.  We encourage you to find creative ways to have your Sunday school programs and at the same time following the guidelines of the Health Authorities. Please use the guidelines for day camps as your guide, and we ask that you follow those protocols for children and youth ministries. If you are able to adhere to the guidelines for day camps and still have Sunday school at the same time as church then we support you in that endeavour.

Please see the recorded webinar from Rev. Catherine Stuart on the Regional Council website for ideas for children and youth programs.

Spiritual Care in Hospitals and Long-Term Care facilities:

From Dr. Strang:

“I have reached out to colleagues in the health care system to discuss opportunities to ensure the necessary access for pastoral care for patients/residents.”

Therefore, we ask that you follow the protocols that are in place for each institution. 

Spiritual Care in people’s homes:

I share everyone’s concern about visiting, and would love to be able to say its fine to visit people in their homes.  We have been asked to limit our exposures to multiple groups of people, so that makes it hard to visit from family to family.

The Nova Scotia requirements are as follows:

5.3 Notwithstanding section 5.1 and section 5.2:

(b) individuals may gather together in social groups of up to 10 persons per group without adhering to the physical distancing requirements of two metres or six feet.

5.4 Effective July 3, 2020, persons may engage in the following events or activities indoors or outdoors, while adhering to a maximum of 50 persons in attendance:

(a) social events;

(b) arts and culture events;

(c) sports and physical activity; or

(d) weddings and funerals, and other faith gatherings,

all persons in attendance must practice physical distancing, except persons residing in the same household or social groups of up to 10 persons adhering to section 5.3(b).

If the understanding of a social group is that it has to consist of the same people all the time, then I would recommend that visiting people in their homes only be done on an urgent basis, with the adherence to the social distancing regulations and masked.

In visiting people’s homes you are exposing yourself and the family to other social groups.

I will be part of a meeting with Dr. Strang on November 2, 2020 for denominational leaders and will ask the question about visiting people in their homes so we can gain more clarity.

If you have other questions you wish me to ask at that time please email them to me at fmaccuish@united-church.ca by October 30, 2020 at 4:00pm (Atlantic time) and I will endeavour to get the answers.

Sincerely,

Faith

Faith March-MacCuish

Executive Minister

August 12, 2020

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

COVID-19 update August 12, 2020

Dear Members of Regional Council 15;

As you are probably already aware on July 31st, 2020, the requirement to wear a non-medical mask in (most) indoor public places came into effect in Nova Scotia. For us as church, this does include worship services, weddings and funerals.

Government of Nova Scotia:
When worn properly, non-medical masks can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. Your mask can be a commercial non-medical mask or a homemade mask that covers your nose and mouth. A face shield cannot be worn instead of a non-medical mask (face shields protect your eyes, but will not protect other people). Using a mask alone is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You should also make sure to keep your hands clean, follow cough and sneeze etiquette and social distancing guidelines and stay home if you’re feeling sick.

The question has been asked of Dr. Strang about the mask requirements for someone leading worship. The following explanation has been given by Dr. Strang.

5.18 Notwithstanding section 5.17, a person is exempt from the requirement to wear a mask in a public place if the person:
(h) is a performer or officiant in the course of performing activities requiring vocalization, such as talking or singing, at an event or activity as described in section 5.4. (Health Protections Act, NS)

This includes a priest/pastor/minister/rabbi etc. as well as someone else who is singing/chanting as part of a faith service/gathering.

Please note that after the performer/leader finishes their part of the service they must put their mask back on.  As you continue to work on your re-entry plans please make sure the wearing of masks is part of your plan. If you have not added this to your plan please do so. It is important that we as communities of faith follow the government and Health regulation.

If you have question, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with myself or your Regional Minister, David Hewitt.

Sincerely,
Faith March-MacCuish

June 30, 2020 Update (1 of 2)

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

To: Communities of Faith, Ministry Personnel, Board/Council Chairs and Central Treasurers

COVID-19 Financial Assistance Update June 30, 2020

Please see the following information that might help you as a community of faith in these times. Note the change to the Canadian Emergency Bank Account (CEBA)
75% Wage Subsidy The Government announced on May 15, 2020 that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) would be extended by an additional 12 weeks, to August 29, 2020. Please see the government link below for the information, application and how to calculate.
https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/subsidy/emergency-wage-subsidy.html

In short, there are two main tasks:
1. Determining eligibility for 75% subsidy
2. If yes, doing the calculations
The webinar Congregational Finances During the Pandemic with Erik Mathiesen (dated April 29, 2020) will help to answer questions you may have about making the application. https://www.united-in-learning.com/index.php/webinars/recordings/334-congregational-finances-april-29-2020

Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) Good news for our Communities of Faith. The Government of Canada recently announced that it would be providing the Canada Emergency Business Account to support Canadian charities and non-profits that have been adversely affected by COVID-19. If you meet the criteria, you can receive a $40,000 line of credit loan for immediate financial support to cover short term operating expenses, payroll, and other non-deferrable expenses, which are critical to sustain business continuity.

The CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) loan requires both local and region approval. The CEBA details are as follows:

 It’s a $40,000 government-guaranteed loan to help eligible businesses pay for operating expenses, payroll, and other non-deferrable expenses which are critical to sustain business continuity.

Until December 31, 2020, the Canada Emergency Business Account will be funded as a revolving line of credit for $40,000.
 After December 31, 2020, any outstanding balance on the revolving $40,000 line of credit will be converted into a non-revolving 5-year term loan maturing on December 31, 2025, at which time the balance must be paid in full.
 No interest applied until January 1, 2023.
 Commencing on January 1, 2023, interest accrues on the balance of the term loan at the rate of 5% per annum, payable monthly on the last day of each month.
 If you pay 75% of the balance of the term loan (as at January 1, 2021), on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining balance of your term loan will be forgiven. For example, if your balance is $40,000 on January 1, 2021 and you repay $30,000 on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining $10,000 will be forgiven.
 If you do not repay 75% of the balance of the term loan (as at January 1, 2021) on or before December 31, 2022, the full loan balance and all accrued and unpaid interest will be due and payable on December 31, 2025.

Changes as of June 26, 2020:

Charities can qualify if they earn revenue from the regular supply of property/goods or services. In the case of our Communities of Faith, rental income would be the enabler. They must have non-deferrable expenses over $40,000. CEBA funds are to be used to cover non-deferrable operating costs. To help Pastoral Charges make application for the loan in an expedient manner, the following motion was made: Permission to access Canadian Emergency Bank Account (CEBA) Loan

MOTION: (Ron Patterson/Joyce Wylie)
That The Division of Finance & Administration of Regional Council 15, agrees that any applicant (community of faith/pastoral charge) that meets the threshold for the Canadian Emergency Business Loan (CEBA) has regional council approval and is required to report the loan application and status of approval to the Chair of the Property Committee.
Approved April 24/2020

For more information, the CEBA details are found on the Government of Canada website using the following link:
https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#businesses

United Church of Canada Bridging Loan:
This is a short-term emergency loan program for congregations during the pandemic.
Emergency loans of up to $10,000 are available to communities of faith that need a short-term top-up after they have accessed the government programs available or are transitioning out of the government benefits.
Please fill out the application form, and then press Submit. The form will be sent automatically to your Regional Council.
Your eligibility will be determined in consultation with the Regional Council. Repayment terms will be negotiated. Loans must be repaid by September 30, 2024.
 Loans are interest-free if repaid by September 30, 2021.
 After that date, the interest rate will be 2% per annum.
 Those who pay before September 30, 2021, will only need to repay $9,500.

For more information, e-mail Maria Pimpinella at mpimpinella@united-church.ca.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to be in touch.

 Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council
Regional Council 15
The United Church of Canada

June 30, 2020 Update (2 of 2)

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

To: Communities of Faith, Ministry Personnel, Board/Council Chairs and Board Secretaries

COVID-19 Update June 30, 2020

Dear members of Regional Council 15: Things are changing and changing fast. It is hard to keep up with the announced changes. Therefore, with the tools of the PowerPoint, and the checklist, we also recommend that you go onto the government site frequently so that you have the most updated information. All of the information is still relevant except of course the numbers of people now permissible. Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia, announced on June 26 further lifting of restrictions given Nova Scotia’s continued low rates of COVID-19. “We’ve now had more than two weeks with no new cases of COVID-19, and Nova Scotians are getting back to normal activities while maintaining precautions,” said Premier McNeil. “Continuing the core measures of physical distancing and hand hygiene is how we will keep our case numbers low, especially as we increase gathering limits and welcome Atlantic Canadian visitors to Nova Scotia.” Effective Friday, July 3, 2020 some gathering limits will increase. If a recognized business or organization is planning an event outdoors, 250 people can attend with physical distancing rules in place. For an indoor event, the limit is 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 200, again with physical distancing. Remember, you can only have the number you can accommodate in your building or in your parking lot with Physical Distancing. Gatherings not run by a recognized business or organization, for example a family event in the backyard, are still subject to the 50-person maximum limit with physical distancing unless you’re in your close social group of 10. The expanded gathering limits apply to social events, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and other cultural events, and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts. Guidelines for these types of events are available at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/Events-theatres-and-venues-COVID-19-prevention-guidelines.pdf …2
People can continue to gather in close social groups of up to 10 without physical distancing. People in a group are not required to be exclusive but they are strongly encouraged to maintain a consistent group. People should not gather in random or spontaneous groups of 10.
It is important to note the following for singing and instruments. We are not yet at the place of church singing or the gathering of choirs.
Vocalists, singers, public speakers and instrumentalists
Singing, use of wind instruments, speaking loudly and cheering may pose a higher risk of spreading the virus. Gatherings and events should limit the risk by implementing the following:
• Consider adapting activities which would normally require individuals to be in close proximity (i.e. music, dance and theatre) to maintain physical distancing
• Individuals who are heavily exerting themselves while engaging in activities at the event (i.e. playing music, singing) should maintain a distance of 4 metres/12 feet from all others while performing, including vocalists and musicians
• Consider having vocalists/musicians face away from others while singing or playing wind instruments
• Increase physical distance between performers and the audience to 4 metres/12 feet
• The number of performers should be limited to soloists or small groups
• Members of a performing group should not mingle with audience members, patrons, venue staff, or volunteers during or after performances
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to be in contact.

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council
Regional Council 15
The United Church of Canada

June 17, 2020 Update

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

Relaunching Guidelines for Regional Councils (June 22, 2020) PDF Format

Re-Entry to our Church Buildings Checklist June 17, 2020 (PDF Format)

April 30, 2020 Update

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

To: Communities of Faith, Ministry Personnel, Board/Council Chairs and Regional Members:

COVID 19 Regional Update – April 30 2020

Recovery Plans to Reopen
As some of our provinces are beginning to relax restrictions and begin their recovery process, it is important that we follow the regulations set out by the health and government authorities. At this point, we are not able to open our church buildings, but those who wish to go to their churches to have a live service may do so within the allotted provincial numbers. It is important for us as Communities of Faith to model good citizenship and comply with the health care and government authorities’ directives and, more to the point, it is important to do our part in keeping ourselves and others safe.

As each province or government will have different strategies in place for its recovery plans to reopen, we cannot have a one size fits all plan for The United Church. I have compiled what the provincial and Bermudian government plans have in place to date with some recommendations for our Communities of Faith at this time. As these policies may change frequently, it is the provincial/government guidelines that we will follow closely.

As discussed on April 29, 2020 in a gathering of church leaders, let us not jump too quickly into beginning activities as usual, for if we do move too quickly we may go into a second wave and all that we have done and all the sacrifices we have made will be in vain. As well, simply adhering to government and public health directives and guidelines, which are of upmost importance, may not be enough. We need to keep in mind our context, including the types of activities we host, and the age and health demographic of participants. The Staff Leaders Team of General Council, with the direction of the General Secretary, are currently working on some guidelines that will be released next week to help us when the health and government officials allow us to begin to have gatherings again.

I have included information in this communication for each province and Bermuda, indicating where we are at the present moment. Please make sure you check the link to your province or government’s directives before making any changes. If you are having wonderings about the wisdom of those directives, please do not hesitate to be in touch. As information changes and the guidelines are developed, remember these are tools to help you, our Communities of Faith, to reopen. You and your governing bodies will certainly have to make decisions about how you wish to reopen once that is permitted and what guidelines you will need to implement for the safety of all of our congregations and ministries.

Quebec:
Currently in Quebec, churches are not permitted to be open, and no more than 2 people in the building at any time for any reason. An update will be made after May 7, 2020.
https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/  

New Brunswick:
Please see the link below and in particular Page 8 for Outdoor Religious Services. At this point, our buildings are not permitted to be open for gatherings and therefore washrooms will not be available to people who come to the Drive in Services.

If you are not able to have Outdoor Religious Services in keeping with the restrictions, you should continue to offer services as you have been during the isolation period. There was a meeting between church leaders and government officials for NB, and Health NB will be giving us more information for our churches as they are able.

Please see page 8 in the link below for details of the restriction on the Drive in Services.
Guidance Document of General Public Health Measures During COVID-19 Recovery

Prince Edward Island:
Four Phase Renew PEI, Together: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/renew-pei-together

Phase three has some implications for our churches and will potentially begin on June 12, 2020, allowing slightly-larger indoor and outdoor gatherings:

Potential to re-introduce gatherings of no more than 15 people indoors, and 20 people outdoors (for example, religious gatherings, large families having visitors or playing frisbee in the park)

  • maintain physical distancing with individuals who are not part of one’s household
  • permitted to share equipment among individuals from different households when necessary and with precautions (e.g. soccer ball, library book, trying on clothes)

 
Churches in PEI are to remain closed for gatherings until at least June 12, 2020 and at that time there is a limit of 15 people inside and 20 people for an outdoor religious gathering. If you are not able to adhere to the restriction of social distancing with the limit of 15 people inside or the 20 people outside, please continue to offer service as you have been doing in this time of isolation.

Nova Scotia:    https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/
The same restrictions remain in place for NS as the recovery plan has not been circulated as of today’s date on the government website. There will be a further update as we know more. It looks like these restrictions will remain in place with further updates after the May long weekend (May 19, 2020).

Churches will remain under the same restriction until a further update after May 19, 2020.

Newfoundland and Labrador:
The Province of NL will release its plan on April 30, 2020 for its phases of reopening. This communication will be updated when we have more information.

Churches will remain under the same restrictions until a further update.

https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/resources-2/

Bermuda:
The current shelter in place regulations are extended for an additional two weeks, through to May 2, 2020. Churches will not be open until it is permissible through a directive from the Government and Public Health Emergency Response Team. Although Bermuda will begin its four phase reopening process on May 2, 2020, church openings will not begin until the third phase and we do not have a timeline for that. Churches will be following the government guidelines.

Please see link below:
www.caribbean360.com

The Regional Council Offices will remain closed at this time, with staff continuing to work remotely. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to be in touch.

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council
Regional Council 15
The United Church of Canada

COVID-19 Regional Update March 27, 2020

It seems like such a long time ago that I wrote the letter acknowledging that it was time to shut down our buildings and have our staff work from home, and yet that was only ten days ago.

Since that time many things have shifted. The messages from our health and government authorities have gotten stronger and we have all been asked to do our part to help plank the curve, to keep each other safe and to model good citizenship for our communities, our provinces, our country and our world.

I have such a deep sense of gratitude for our Ministry Personnel, our Communities of Faith’s governing bodies and our many staff both in local congregations and at the regional level. We have been and continue to be affected by this Pandemic.

Thank you to all the Ministry Personnel. I know how hard you are working to be present to your Communities of Faith in this very difficult time. I am aware of your tenacity, your resolve to find new ways of providing worship and connection, through social media and through a simple phone call, which means so much. I know that you are struggling when you have to say to a beloved family that the funeral of their loved one needs to be postponed, that you are sorry you are not permitted to visit them at home or in the hospital, or when you speak with a couple who are planning their marriage and ask them to consider changing the date. The feeling of helplessness in these situations is causing you so much extra stress and anxiety. I know your call to ministry is to be present for and with all God’s children and that has not waivered. I believe it has only been made stronger as you work hard to be the presence of Christ in ways you never knew possible.

Thank you to our Communities of Faith, your governing bodies, and volunteers for providing for your staff by allowing them to work from the safety of their home. You are also doing your part to be an example for the wider community. I have been hearing stories of Board members setting up phone trees and prayer chains. Communities of Faith checking in with the vulnerable and making sure they know they are not alone. I believe your call to support your staff and your congregants has also become your strength. Congregational members are also very concerned about the financial well-being of the Pastoral Charge and have found new ways to give. Thank you to everyone for doing your part in these most difficult times.

Thank you to our Regional Staff who are now working many overtime hours from their homes to make sure our congregations, committees, ministries and clergy have the information and the tools they need in these difficult times. Thank you as well to our General Council Staff, Moderator and General Secretary who, at the helm of our church, strive to keep us connected and informed.

We are truly blessed and upheld by each other and by a good, loving and ever-present God.

As we are fast approaching the first two weeks of closure and our March 30 date, we know we are not in a place to be able to open our churches or our offices. As this continues to go on, I know it is becoming more difficult. At this point, we will continue to be closed until the end of April and we will reassess at that time.

Thank you all for supporting this tough decision, adhering to the health and government authorities and keeping congregations and your staff safe.

 Some things to keep in mind:

  • Please avoid going into the church buildings at this time.
  • Please have one person designated to go in on a weekly basis and check on the building, the pipes and boilers etc.
  • When you do so, make sure you sanitize the door handles and the things you touch.
  • If you need to check the mailboxes at the church, please make sure you are safe in doing so.
  • If clergy wish to go into the building to record or livestream worship, it is permissible as long as it is a small group of 1-3 people. Again, make sure you sanitize anything you touch and make sure you are keeping the required distance apart.
  • If you are able to record your services from the safety of your home, all the better.

If your Community of Faith is having financial difficulty, please call your Regional or Executive Minister to discuss the options available for you. If you are considering temporary layoffs of any staff, it is important that you follow employment law as well as United Church policies and therefore it is imperative that you are in touch with your Regional Minister. Our General Council staff are working with employment specialists to guide us at this time and our Regional Ministers are being equipped with this information and hope to have it by early next week. It is our hope that it will not have to come to this. As we are hoping that, with government aids as well as help from Regional Councils and General Council, temporary layoffs will not be needed.

 This has been a very different Lenten journey and it will be a very different Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I know you will all do your best to honour our Easter traditions in new, creative and safe ways. Despite everything that is happening in our world, we know God is our strength, and we live with the promise of resurrection hope.

 Yours in Christ,

 Rev. Faith March-MacCuish

March 24, 2020 Update

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

Greetings to You from Your Regional Council Offices;

As the sand continues to shift under our feet we, as citizens and church members, are facing unprecedented circumstances. As our health and government authorities place more restrictions on us to keep us safe, we are learning to adjust. As we listen to the news about our world, our country, our provinces and our community, individual and community anxiety is very real. The disruption of our daily routines and our inability to meet in person as faith communities will further exacerbate our isolation and worry.

It has been wonderful to see the spirit at work helping us to be creative in meeting community needs, pastoral care, support and worship. Technology and telephone has allowed the gospel message of the unfailing and universal love of God to be heard at a time when it is most important.

While we do not know how long these measures will need to be in place, what we do know is that there is a growing need for pastoral care and support in these anxious times. The call for community pastoral leadership is immense.

On March 20, 2020, Communities of Faith received communication from Rev. Alan Hall, Executive Officer, Ministry and Employment, General Council Office, which recognizes that with in-person worship and rental income being suspended, Communities of Faith may be experiencing financial difficulty. In that letter, Communities of Faith are to be in touch with their Regional Council Office if having trouble. (Letter from Alan Hall)

We do know that at this time, there are many families who are feeling the financial strain from the many businesses that have been forced to close and there are those who have experienced layoffs. We also know that as United Church people, we have been most generous in difficult times. This is an important time to encourage people to continue stewardship support and to assist them in that endeavour given that they are unable to be physically present with you to place their gifts in our traditional offering plates. Please see the following suggestions from our Atlantic Stewardship & Gifts Officer, Rev. Roger Janes:

  • Encourage members to sign up for Pre-Authorized Remittance. We suggest that churches edit the PAR form to have your information on it, making the form as simple as possible for folks to use. To speed things up, scan your completed PAR forms and email to Judith Gomes at jgomes@united-church.ca
  • Encourage members to continue their weekly givings through Canada Helps (canadahelps.org/en/). Every congregation already has a page on Canada Helps, and RIGHT NOW, people can go to the link and donate to the congregation. I encourage congregations to go on and edit their congregation’s area to make it pretty, inviting and compelling. 
  • Encourage people to prepare post-dated monthly cheques and put them in the old fashioned mailbox.
  • Here is a great article by Lori Guenther Reesor on online giving for churches: Online Giving for Offline Churches
  • Encourage your congregation to use e-transfers. (Ask your treasurer to talk to the bank and make sure you are already doing electronic banking. If not, set it up so the treasurer accesses the account for statements and can make deposits through e-transfer. Persons can then log into their bank account, send the e-transfer to the treasurer who logs into the church’s account online or through their phone and deposits the money. The treasurer has a record of the email with the amount and the bank statement shows the deposit in the exact same amount, all is clear and audit compliant.)

Other options for these trying times: (Please be in contact with your Regional Minister and the Property Committee for necessary approvals in these options below)

  • Obtain or increase your line of credit
  • Secure a loan
  • Make an application for a low interest loan (if made possible from General Council and/or Regional Council and if your Community of Faith meets the criteria)
  • Access government funding support for any staff who continued on payroll (see Alan Hall’s letter)
  • Consider using funds set aside for another purpose. It is possible for a Community of Faith, who has internally restricted funds, to use them; example: property or manse funds. If your congregation needs to use internally restricted funds, you will to need seek approval and structure it as an internal loan, with amount owing to the fund and a plan to pay it back when things return to normal.
  • Make sure your Trustees understand the status of any possible investments that may be needed in the short term for emergent ministry.

There are many types of restricted funds. Some have internal restrictions and therefore as a Community of Faith, we can choose to use them differently as needs or opportunities arise as long as we follow the appropriate consultation and procedures.

Some funds are formally restricted and we need to be careful to understand the difference. If you have donor-designated bequests, these normally have explicit instruction and are not to be used. Cemetery funds cannot be redirected if governed under the Cemeteries Act of your province.

If all options are exhausted and you find that you have no other choice but to move into a temporary layoff for your employees, it is imperative that you are in consultation with your Regional Minister and Pastoral Relations Committee. The General Council is working through the process to follow if your Pastoral Charge finds itself in this unfortunate situation. As the Region and Communities of Faith are in a covenantal relationship, it is important that all Pastoral Charges are in touch with the Region to work thorough these difficult decisions, and, where necessary, acquire the appropriate approvals.

Funerals

There have been questions about funerals. You will soon be receiving a letter from the Moderator. In all cases, it is recommended that funerals be postponed so that the families can have the service they need and deserve when this pandemic has passed. In cases where there is a body to be buried, it is recommended that a graveside burial happen, with strict adherents to the numbers that the health and government authorities have dictated in you province or country (Bermuda).

We know there are challenges and we are here to work with you to do our very best to find solutions. We continue hold you, our faith communities and your pastoral leaders, in our prayers as we know you are offering your prayers for the entire country at this time.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council
Regional Council 15
The United Church of Canada

March 17, 2020 Update and Closing of Our Church Buildings

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

As acknowledged in all parts of health care systems both, federally and provincially, things are changing daily and sometimes hourly with COVID-19. Everyone at every level has the same objective to protect people and the church is no different.

Our objective is to protect the health and well-being of our Communities of Faith, its members, our volunteers, our ministry personnel, our staff and our wider communities. Another objective is to make sure that our Regions continue with its services and remain connected with one another.

I realize that as a United Church, we have a conciliar system and we allow the governing bodies of our local Communities of Faith to make their own decisions. Please know I continue to respect that. However, these are unprecedented times and I feel it calls for unprecedented actions. After hearing from our Prime Minister who asked us to “stay home” and in conversation with the Presidents of our three Regional Councils, I am advising that it is time to close our churches for public worship and gatherings from today, March 17, 2020, to March 30, 2020. The situation will be assessed and new communication will be circulated as we get closer to March 30.

I know there will be many questions and I assume one will be about funerals. I would ask that you speak with your local funeral home to find ways that will best serve the families at this time and at the same time protect each other.

General Council Office has advised their staff who work from the office and those deployed in the Regions to work from home. Therefore, as of March 18, 2020 all staff in our Regional Council Offices will be working from home. Please use the same email and phone numbers. For urgent matters, please do not hesitate to call Regional Executive Minister Rev. Faith March-MacCuish at 1-709-691-3524.

For our Ministry Personnel, I realize that for your Communities of Faith you are an essential worker, and you will continue to find ways for your ministry to happen. Where there are needs to provide pastoral care to very sick or dying members or neighbours in your communities, you will need to protect yourself and others by taking appropriate precautions. This will involve some difficult judgements but these are unusual times, and we are asking you to take precaution. Social distancing, as difficult as that will be, is necessary. Please refrain from shaking hands and hugging those who are sick and dying and their families, remember hand washing and use hand sanitizer.

I also know you will spend much time connecting with your members through telephone and other technology as well as finding new ways to worship. For some of us, it is perfecting old skills and for others, it is learning something new. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you and you are not alone.

For our Ministry Personnel: Each of our Regions will be having a Zoom meeting for Ministry Personnel at least once a week so that as ministers you are able to check in with the President and Regional Minister and with each other. An email will be sent to you from the Regional Ministers with details of your Regional Conversation.

For our Divisions and Committees: We ask that you have your meetings through conference call, Zoom or Adobe Connect. For Adobe Connect and Zoom, please be in contact with Jennifer Taylor. For conference call numbers, please be in touch with Leona Laundry.

For Communities of Faith: If you wish to make use of Zoom or conference call, please know we have made allowances for you to do that. We ask that you be in touch with Jennifer for Zoom and Leona for conference calls. This is to help you continue to have your Board meetings and any emergency meetings to assist you with decision-making.

Please note you will need to be patient. We have added three new Zoom accounts totaling six for our three regions to use. However, with the demand, we are asking that groups only use it for necessary work at this time. Please let Jennifer and Leona know how long your meeting will be and please keep to your allotted timeline as others may have meetings booked before and after you.

I know this is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone. As ministers are still working, they will remain on payroll. We are asking our Communities of Faith, Pastoral Charges and Congregations to continue to pay your lay employees where possible. It would be important for you to communicate with your members the different ways to continue to contribute financially. Two options are through Pre-Authorized Remittance or encourage members to continue their weekly givings through Canada Helps. Each congregation is already pre-loaded into the site, so there is no set up needed. The United Church of Canada has also provided some guidance for congregations in regards to employment. Please go to The United Church of Canada website for more information.

I have been reflecting on the Gospel reading from Matthew and Mark when Jesus was in the boat with the disciples and the storm came up suddenly. Remembering how scared the disciples were and how scary this Pandemic is for us and our world, I am reminded repeatedly that Jesus was in the boat! In the middle of the storm, he was with the disciples. Our faith reminds us that in the midst of this storm, Jesus is with us. We are not alone.

My prayer is that we not only remember that we are not alone but that we are able to help each other feel comforted and included as we are called into distancing and isolation. May the God of all peace give us calm minds and hearts as we are called to steer the boat. May those who are ill have healing mercies. May those who are on the front lines be protected. May those who have the heavy load of advising and making decisions be guided. May we all put kindness first and hold one another as precious children of God.

In Love,

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister

COVID-19 Update (March 13, 2020)

As our Moderator has said in a prayer posted March 13, 2020:
“When we aren’t sure, God, help us to be calm; when information comes from all sides, correct and not, help us discern; when fear makes it hard to breathe, and anxiety seems to be the portion of the day, slow us down, God; help us to reach out with our hearts, when we can’t touch with our hands; help us to be socially connected, when we have to be socially distant; help us to love as perfectly as we can, knowing that ‘perfect love casts out all fear’”.

The United Church of Canada is asking congregations to make their decisions based on the information from their local government and health authorities. We ask everyone to be actively engaged in protecting themselves and those around them.

Please refer to The United Church of Canada’s Emergency Plan to help you prepare for your responses. The World Health Organization as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020, has upgraded the COVID-19 to a Pandemic Period. Therefore, we are looking at Phase 5/6 in the Appendix D of the Emergency Plan. We all need to be paying close attention to the provincial and federal health authorities, as they are the health care professionals.

We have attached the link to the Provincial and Federal websites to help you in your decision-making.

This may be the time to implement:

• No contact versions of sharing the peace
• Refrain from shaking hands as you leave worship (find non-contact ways to acknowledge one another)
• Consider postponing coffee hour or community meals
• Reduced or no passing of the collection plate (have the plates laid somewhere in the church, have your counters wash hands before and after counting money)
• Encourage people to continue their weekly givings through cheques or online through Canada Helps that has every congregation pre-loaded and will forward your donation
• Have the communion symbols and liturgy without the taking of the elements
• Remind parishioners and church leaders if sick to avoid coming to church
• Remind parishioners and church leaders to have increased hygiene
• Have hand sanitizers available and visible
• Have the church cleaned more often, “particularly high touch areas such as the books, tops of the pews and door handles.” ( e.g. after every gathering, Sunday school and nursery)
• Limit pastoral and community activities (as per your health authorities advice)
• If the public health authorities recommends closing our churches for a period, be prepared to have a worship service through social media and ways to communicate and offer prayer

If you have questions or need to be in touch, please do not hesitate to call Regional Executive Minister Rev. Faith March-MacCuish at 1-709-691-3524.

Please see Quick Links for sharing as much information as we can. A lot of this advice can be very beneficial as we plan our daily routine within our communities of faith.

Any questions, please contact the Tracey Rose at 1-800-268-3781 ext. 6142 or trose@united-church.ca

Blessings as we all live into the confusion of what this means for all of us.

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council / Regional Council 15

 

Emergency Coordinator

Emergency Coordinator for Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council and Regional Council 15 Office is Tracey Rose and she will be the person who will send out communication to the Regions.

Tracey Rose
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council / Regional Council 15
Phone: 1-800-268-3781 | Ext. 6142
Email: trose@united-church.ca