Update from Pastor Steve – Coronavirus Impact

Friday, March 20th, 2020

Spring greetings to all in the UMC of Auburn parish,
Let’s begin with prayer:
Merciful God, when so much of what we know and depend on shifts, help us to renew our trust in you. Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change. Give us the courage to change the things we can and should change, and by all means help us distinguish the one from the other. Amen.
Take a deep breath…hold it…exhale, slowly. (pause) Repeat (pause), and then repeat once more.
First, I hope this greeting finds you well. Please let me know if you need help in any way in which we can assist. I am praying daily for you, and ask that you hold the parish, community, leaders, and global family in prayer as well.
Second, with regard to social distancing, if each of us acts as if we are a carrier of COVID-19, and recognizes that anyone we meet may also be a carrier, we may defeat contagion handily.
Third, since local schools have extended closure to April 27th, the UMC of Auburn campus and office shut-down has been extended to April 27th. Further extensions will be reviewed closer to that time.
Fourth, I have spent much of the last two days updating my outlook group email list so that I may communicate with most of the parish through this email publication each Friday. About forty active parishioners either do not have internet access or address information on file with the church office.  Administrative Assistant Carla Daigle will continue to monitor the office, so information can still be entered. I am exploring a phone-in, one call communication option which may help.
Fifth, it is my hope to be able to offer a live-stream, on-line worship opportunity to you each Sunday at 10 am. As feasible, it will live-stream on the church facebook page and subsequently be posted for viewing on both the church facebook page and website for a couple of weeks: www.auburnmethodist.orgoffice@auburnmethodist.org (email). The Mid-Maine District website also has a published list of online worship opportunities available.

Sixth, pledges and financial contributions may be mailed to: 439 Park Avenue, Auburn, ME  04210. Financial Secretary Marcia Hennessey and Carla Daigle will process these contributions as they arrive. I know this is a stressful time financially for many. Since we will not be receiving income through loose plate offerings, building use or fundraising during time of closure, we will depend upon your faithful contributions more than ever. Thank you for keeping pledges current, or even prepaying them if you are able and willing.
The Council has authorized the Finance Team to secure a $100,000 equity line of credit, to be drawn upon in $10,000 increments by vote of the Council, as need may arise. Hopefully, we will not need to go to that well too many times. Since the facility will not be in use, we are lowering thermostats to 55 degrees. As feasible, new expenditures have been frozen. Staff will continue to be paid for six weeks (through April). If closure extends beyond that time, positions tethered to Sunday morning worship will have a negotiated compensation. We value each of our staff and know they will help however they can during this time.

Several givers have an arrangement with their bank (no admin fee) for automatic contributions to be sent to the church. If you wish to learn about this, please let me know. We are currently looking into re-activation of our church Paypal account which will enable contributions to be made through a link on our website. I will let you know when this is activated.
Seventh, missions continue! The Council has agreed to set up a ‘Coronovirus Assistance Fund’ within the operating account to assist folks in the parish and community. Contributions to this fund will be dispersed with discretion. Please let me know of situations where the need is urgent. The High Street Food Cupboard has modified its method of food distribution with minimum volunteer staff. This past Thursday, 42 families were given assistance with minimal risk to either volunteer or client. Outstanding job!
Trinity Jubilee Center will not be offering hot lunch, but has shifted to packaged meals which can be safely distributed. Our six gallons of milk, weekly contribution will shift to weekly $25 gift card contributions so that staff may purchase items most needed for distribution. This Sunday is UMCOR (UM Committee on Relief) Sunday (formerly known as One Great Hour of Sharing). If you wish to give to this UMCOR special offering, please mark your gift and it will be forwarded accordingly. UMCOR is one of the first responders to disaster any place on earth.
Eighth, the quadrennial UM General Conference, scheduled May 5 – 15, has been postponed.
Ninth, church meetings will be using Zoom video-conferencing for meetings. Please download the free, Zoom program so that you may participate in these meetings as they are called. You will receive a link invitation to each called meeting and will be guided through the process of connecting by the program itself.
Finally, I encourage you to look for the gifts that such a time as this offers: to recognize the sacrificial generosity of service workers, healthcare providers, and IT technicians, to take a solitary walk in the woods, to pray for those whom you love, and perhaps even more so, for those you struggle to love, to remember and reflect on your journey to date, to write and send notes of care, to listen for the voice of God who speaks to the listening heart. 
You are in my heart, too, as I listen,
Pastor Steve Bascom, UMCA
P.S. On a celebrational note, the sanctuary wall is just about finished and it looks beautiful to me!