M.I.L.E. – 2023 Annual Conference Sermons by Cedrick D. Bridgeforth
Throughout the 2023 Annual Conference season across the Greater Northwest Area, Bishop Cedrick D. Bridgeforth offered a series of messages to provide direction to the area.
How do we travel a M.I.L.E. in the Greater Northwest Area?
In his first year as episcopal leader of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth is encouraging congregations and ministry settings to go the M.I.L.E. this year and focus on Jesus’ call in the story of the Good Samaritan to “Go and Do Likewise.”
At his installation service in Juneau, Alaska, in May, Bridgeforth gave an overview of the theme and the meaning behind each step of the M.I.L.E. At each subsequent Annual Conference gathering – and in closing GNW worship – Bridgeforth offered in-depth explanation and inspiration for how we might all join him on this journey. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available here.
M: Ministry that Matters. Preached at Alaska Annual Conference opening session on June 3.
Ministry that Matters is about how churches and ministry settings can go outside of themselves to turn from the mirror and look out the window to be part of their communities. Specifically, Bridgeforth preached about the need to be engaged in the work of houselessness and health in our communities. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download.
I: Itineration and location. Preached at the OR-ID Conference opening session on June 8.
Bishop Cedrick encouraged churches to be window people, not mirror people, and spoke about Itineration [and Location] as it relates to clergy who are called to lead and the ministry settings in which they serve. In his sermon, he asked people to think about how we might address inequities in the itineration system within The United Methodist Church to best suit the pastor, church and community in which they are all serving. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available.
L: Lay Ministry Enhancement. Preached at the PNW Conference opening session June 13.
At the opening of the PNW Conference, Bishop Bridgeforth preached about the importance of lay ministry enhancement as the church changes shape. Laity are already a critical resource in our congregations and ministry settings, but there is a need to equip and empower laity to be a more active voice in our churches and communities we serve. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available.
E: Eliminating Racism. Preached at the GNW Area closing session on June 15.
As people of faith, we need to renew our efforts to eliminate the racism that is pervasive not only in society, but within our congregations, ministry settings and the institution of the church in general. During this sermon at the close of Annual Conference season, Bridgeforth laid out plans for resources to be developed to engage churches and ministry settings in meaningful discussions and evaluate practices that lead to institutional racism and societal harm. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available.
The Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops offers a short video message for Epiphany. In it, they reflect on the season of change underway in The United Methodist Church and the promise reflected in the generosity and grace of ministries across the region as faithful disciples “respond to God’s call to be nurturing communities, ministries and churches where love lives.” Churches are encouraged to share this message and can download it for use in their local settings.
The video features Bishops Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Conference, Interim Bishop Sally Dyck of the California-Nevada Conference, Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the California-Pacific Conference, Carlo Rapanut of the Desert Southwest Conference, and Cedrick Bridgeforth of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area.
Epiphany falls on Friday, January 6, 2023. Please share this message with your congregation as you see fit on Epiphany, the Sunday following Epiphany, or at another time that works best for your ministry.
Click here to view the video. Click here to download the video.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ on this day of Epiphany from the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.
Today, we recall the story of three Magi who, according to the Gospel of Matthew, followed a star to visit the baby Jesus. They came to honor the one who was born king of the Jews. When they found him, they were overwhelmed with great joy, and offered their gifts to him.
After they had paid their respects to the Christ Child, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, who wanted to know where the baby was. He wanted to harm this One who was seen as a threat to his power. The Magi heeded the angelic message and returned home by another road.
We are a people who have lived in darkness, who have seen a great light. It is this light that leads us home through roads we haven’t intended to travel, journeying with people we never intended to be in relationship with, listening to voices that are both strange yet life-giving.
In this season of great change in The United Methodist Church, as some choose disaffiliation, we are walking an unfamiliar and uncomfortable road. It is hard to have some churches divided on whether to stay United Methodist and other churches already heading out the door.
We also know that it is in moments like this–of uncertainty and fear–that God breaks into our lives and offers us a way forward.
As new and continuing bishops, serving the Western Jurisdiction, we are excited by what God is doing in communities across our connection. We give thanks for congregations committed to extending God’s generous grace and wide welcome to all people. We rejoice in ministries that share the love of God to those beyond the walls of the church. We celebrate lives touched and changed by an encounter with Christ.
We believe that the best days for United Methodism could still be before us. To live into the promise, we must respond to God’s call to be nurturing communities, ministries and churches where love lives. As we enter 2023, may we, like the Magi, follow the star so that we may be bearers of the Christ light to a weary world. May the ways we share this light be a beacon of hope to those who are struggling. May this light be so compelling that people will want to know more. May this light illumine a new and unfamiliar yet life-giving path that leads us all home to the Body of Christ.
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. – Acts 2: 24
Join us as we resume our weekly Wednesday webinar series with Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, on Wednesday, April 15, to share our Easter stories. The hour-long webinar begins at 9 amPDT, 10 am MDT, or 8 am AKDT. Clergy and laity from across the Greater Northwest Area are invited to participate.
We apologize for not communicating more clearly that there wouldn’t be a webinar during holy week, but the goal will be to hold this time each Wednesday, moving forward, as we navigate our way through this crisis.
This coming week Bishop Elaine will be discussing, with other panelists, where they see signs of resurrection – life that defies death – in this season of disease and death.
“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” – John 20: 21
Playing off the lectionary texts for April 19, the prayer and conversation will explore how you keep your own spirit rooted and refreshed in God’s Holy Spirit when death is so close and so real. There will also be discussion around how we minister to others in a time of physical distancing.
Advice from the Centers for Disease Control recently released states that, “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.
This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity —for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” ( See full article here.)
Health authorities warn not to rely on the homemade mask to protect you and still keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others when outside your home.
For those interested in making masks to wear in nonclinical settings or for personal use, Kaiser Permanente offers step-by-step instructions here. Be sure to instruct the receiver to wash it before wearing. There are several other mask instructions available on the internet.
Sally Blanchard, Oregon-Idaho Conference office and event manager, who has been sewing these said, “After you make the first one, they go quickly and are easy to make. Neighbors and friends have asked for them and it feels good to share what I can do.”
Production is underway for a Greater Northwest Area-wide celebration of Easter, and we are inviting you to participate! Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky will deliver an Easter message complemented by the musical and vocal gifts of people across the Area.
Lay and clergy members are encouraged to send one favorite church-related Easter photo for possible use during a portion of the Easter celebration.* Please submit one photo to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Friday, April 3, 2020. Photos should be at least 1920 pixels wide x 1,080 pixels high.
Bishop Stanovsky has invited Oregon-Idaho Conference Secretary, the Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett, to design the worship experience along with Pacific Northwest Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, the Rev. David Valera.
They are producing the 30-40-minute service so that local churches can adopt it in its entirety or choose elements to blend into what they are already preparing. The elements include the Bishop’s message, a variety of musical components, and special liturgy created for this unique Easter celebration.
A weblink to downloadable video files will be distributed to assigned and appointed local church pastors no later than Wednesday, April 8.
The full worship service will be available to view on Easter morning at 7 am Mountain Time, 6 am Pacific Time, and 5 am Alaska Time at the following locations:
FFCRA requires certain employers to provide new, and temporarily available, paid leave to employees who are impacted by COVID-19-related issues in certain ways. Specifically, the FFCRA requires those employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the first 10 days of which are unpaid.
Does the FFCRA apply to churches and other religious organizations?
In general, the FMLA applies to any employer which is “engaged in commerce” and which employs at least 50 people. For the purposes of the leave provided by the FFCRA, an “employer” must be engaged in commerce and must have fewer than 500 employees. Thus, churches and religious organizations that already must comply with the FMLA will likely have to provide the 12 weeks of leave created by the FFCRA, unless they have 500+ employees. Those that have not previously been subject to FMLA requirements because they have fewer than 50 employees will have to provide the 12 weeks of leave if they are engaged in commerce.
The paid sick leave requirement applies to the same set of employers – i.e., employers engaged in commerce that have fewer than 500 employees.
When is the FFCRA effective?
The FFCRA paid leave requirements become effective as of April 1, 2020 and remain in effect through December 31, 2020.
Do part-time employees receive 80 hours of paid sick leave?
No. Part-time employees are eligible to receive an amount of paid leave equal to the average number of hours the employee works over a 2-week period.
How would an employee be eligible for the paid sick leave?
An employee would be eligible to receive this paid leave if the employee is unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:
The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.
The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in one of the first two items in this list.
The employee must care for a child because the child’s school or daycare is closed or because the child’s childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID–19 precautions.
The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
How much is the employer required to pay an employee who takes this paid sick leave?
In general, the employee would be paid the employee’s regular rate of pay, if the employee is taking the sick leave because of one of the first three reasons listed above. However, an employer would not be required to pay more than $511 per day and $5,110 total.
If the employee is taking the sick leave for one of the last three reasons listed above, the employer must pay the employee at least 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay rate, up to maximum of $200 daily and $2,000 total.
Can an employer require an employee to use already-provided paid sick leave first?
No. If an employee is unable to work for any of the six reasons listed above, the employee may choose to first use the up to 80 hours of paid sick leave provided by the FFCRA. This paid sick leave is in addition to other paid leave provided by the employer.
How would an employee be eligible for the 12 weeks of FMLA leave?
The 12 weeks of FMLA leave provided by the FFCRA are available to an employee who is “unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.”
Are all 12 weeks paid?
No. The FFCRA does not require the first 10 days of the FMLA leave to be paid. However, an employee may substitute other paid leave provided by the employer (vacation, sick, personal, etc.) during those 10 days. The employee could also use the 80 hours of paid sick leave provided by the FFCRA for those 10 days. Afterwards, an employer must then provide paid leave for up to 10 subsequent weeks.
How much is the employer required to pay during those 10 weeks?
The FFCRA requires an employer to pay at a rate that is at least 67% of the employee’s regular pay rate. However, the employer is not required to pay more than $200 per day, even if that is less than 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay rate. The FFCRA also limits the total amount that must be paid by the employer over the 10-week span to $10,000.
Are churches and religious organizations eligible for the tax credits associated with these paid leaves even if they do not pay income taxes?
Yes. A church or other religious employer has access to tax credits to offset the costs of providing the paid leave required by the FFCRA. The credits are not against income taxes but are instead immediately applied to payroll taxes submitted and paid via IRS Form 941.
Are there limits to the amount of credits that can be claimed?
Yes. The credit that can be claimed for paid leave provided to an employee pursuant to the FFCRA is limited to the maximums that employers are required to pay for such leave. For example, if an employer paid an employee who was unable to work for 12 weeks in order to care for a child whose daycare facility was closed because of COVID-19 a total of $15,000, the employer could only claim a credit for $12,000.
Are any other costs recoverable?
The FFCRA provides for an additional credit based on the healthcare insurance costs related to an employee who takes paid leave under the FFCRA.
What other resources are available?
The Department of Labor has released the following:
A poster that must be posted or otherwise provided to employees.
The Internal Revenue Service has made some information available about the process for claiming credits against payroll taxes. Additional guidance from both is expected over the coming weeks.
This Q&A document is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal or tax advice. Organizations with questions about the applicability of the FFCRA to their specific circumstances should consult with a legal or tax professional.
 Whether or not an employer is engaged in commerce depends upon the facts and circumstances applicable to that employer. Churches and other religious organizations could be deemed to be engaged in commerce if they, among other possibilities, have unrelated business income or operate a camp, day care, school, etc.
 The FFCRA does allow for an exemption for employers with fewer than 50 employees if providing the paid leave required by the FFCRA would “jeopardize the viability of the [employer] as a going concern.” This exemption would be governed by regulations issued by the Department of Labor.
 If combined with the 80 hours of paid sick leave provided by the FFCRA, the employee would be eligible to receive up to $12,000 over a 12-week span.
In the best of times planning and officiating at funerals and memorials can be both very challenging and rewarding. In these times of Stay-At-Home and Do-Not-Gather orders the challenges and opportunities abound. The following suggestions and resources are offered as an invitation to consider how we can best support those in our our congregations and communities, who are grieving the loss of loved ones, during these especially difficult times. The following are recommended resources from Rev. Marshall Wattman-Turner, Abundant Health Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference and trained chaplain. Your comments and suggestions are welcome: email@example.com.
Find Out Who Will Be Involved in Making Decisions regarding Funeral / Memorial Arrangements. If several people will be involved or need to be consulted, it may help you to identify a primary point of contact.
If your congregation is already set up for online worship, consider how these resources might be adapted to livestream or record and distribute a Memorial Service.
You Don’t Need to Try and Re-Invent the Wheel The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship provides a wealth of resources related to COVID-19 and Funeral & Memorial Services:
Consider A Virtual Wake to provide an opportunity for sharing memories in whatever manner works best for those involved. It could be a live event via telephone or online, or an invitation could be extended to share personal remembrances over an extended period by mail, email, or online. If you are uncertain about how to proceed, ask your local Funeral Home / Mortuary for guidance or assistance. Reminiscing together can be framed by Scripture or Prayer.
A Memorial Service can be Postponed. Grief Can Not.
Amidst the shattering of life, as you’ve known it, grief is more than “just a feeling” It encompasses our whole being: Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. Grief may involve dozens of feelings—sometimes contradictory feelings—that are a response to losing someone you love. Because grief is such a complex experience that is different for every person, it is important to find support and take good care of your emotional and physical needs. While grief is a normal, natural, and fully human response to loss, it can be cumulative and complicated, when denied or delayed.
ACES Connections gathers resources for Trauma-Informed Care. Daren Casagrande is a Mental Health Therapist in Davis, Calif., where the first case of COVID-19 in California was identified. His recommendations include some Best Practices For Conducting Sessions Online.
Vanco, a partner of The United Methodist Church’s General Council on Finance and Administration, currently serves approximately 25,000 churches and faith-based organizations as clients. Hosted online giving pages from Vanco Payment Solutions are a great way for members and guests to give from their laptop, tablet, phone or any device with an Internet connection.
For any United Methodist church that enrolls with Vanco, the monthly fee for the Start Plan will be waived for a full year and for those that enroll with the Sustain Plan, the monthly fee would be waived for the first 3 months.
This service allows churches to accept recurring donations for weekly offerings, pledges or one-time gifts to an unlimited number of funds. Vanco does not work in a contracted manner and churches are under no long-term obligation and will not incur a cancellation fee should they choose to end services.
The website givingfees.com offers a chart with fee comparisons between a number of vendors serving nonprofit and church ministries. Vanco fees are listed under their GivePlus branding, and this offer is not included in the chart.
In addition to it being Lent,
there is a ton of work that typically goes on in the church this time of year —
everything from finance to administration to staff parish relations — and the
suspension of worship, along with state and CDC guidelines on group gatherings
means you’ll need to use your church’s Zoom account to keep things moving.
First, be careful with your Zoom account login information. By default, Zoom saves login information. Extra people logged into the account could mistakenly cause a scheduled meeting to be disconnected.
Your account is allowed to be logged in on one computer, one tablet, and one phone at the same time. (which can be handy for presenting or screen sharing on a second device. Just be sure to only have only one microphone active at any given time)
If you decide to share the account, use the email address of someone that won’t mind a few extra notifications. Typically, that person will get an email if someone shows up for a meeting before the host arrives. You can change the email address for the account in your settings by logging into the zoom.us website with your account.
When you have groups meeting remotely, it can be helpful for the person setting up the meeting to allow people to “join before host” in the Zoom account settings. When that option is enabled, meetings can proceed without the account “owner” present. Without the host joining, the meeting can exceed the 40-minute limit free accounts have but you do lose a few options only hosts can perform like recording and some management of the other attendees.
Scheduling meetings can be done in a web browser (https://zoom.us/meeting/schedule ) or by logging into the Zoom application on your computer or device. After a meeting has been scheduled, (or if you open any meeting you’ve scheduled in your account,) you can copy the invitation that will need to be sent to attendees via email.
Developing a regular practice of scheduling your meetings on Zoom in advance is critical if you plan to use the account to support multiple committees and the church’s pastoral work. During this time where the facility may be off limits, think of your account’s schedule as you would a particular room in your church building — one meeting at a time.
As your members use Zoom more, some may even grow to like it. Don’t forget to consider how to utilize the free plans Zoom offers. These plans can support unlimited 1 to 1 meetings between church members (40 minutes for groups up to 100 when a free account is the host), and could provide those physically isolated (with internet) some essential face time with family and friends.
Zoom actually has a fantastic support site where they’ve anticipated lots of the questions people commonly have. You can find it here:
Adapted for Response During a Viral Pandemic (COVID-19)
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” — 1 Peter 4:10
The Connecting Neighbors program was designed to prepare our churches to respond to disasters of all types including the current coronavirus. These guidelines are focused on the first part of the Connecting Neighbors program — ourselves, families and fellow congregants.
Take care of yourself and your family. Then you will be ready to reach out to others
We cannot effectively minister to others if we have not ensured our families are safe and prepared to take care of each other.
Plan and prepare for the possibility of self-quarantine. Establish your own family, friends, and relatives communication plan that includes how you will communicate with each other. This should include alternative means of communicating should regular communications be interrupted or overloaded if the virus worsens. Have another church member or neighbor be an interim contact for family members if your communication plan fails.
Arrange for mail delivery if you live in an area where your mail is delivered to a central location.
Arrange for wellness checks by a family member or friend, if quarantined.
Know your medical provider’s contact information.
Arrange for transportation to a medical facility, if needed.
Create a decision-making team (pastor, lay leader, worship, finance, trustees?) that can make decisions quickly.
Identify a leader (other than the pastor) who will coordinate a team of volunteers and be responsible for the church’s response to the pandemic.
List the church’s resources. Include physical and communication resources as well as the gifts and talents of the church members.
Establish or use an existing “phone tree” or other method of connecting with congregants. Consider and adapt to preferences and accessibility concerns as much as possible. Test your process to make sure all your regular members and frequent attendees can be reached.
Make a list of your most vulnerable members, shut-ins, and others with special needs. Check in with these individuals regularly by phone (don’t rely on text or email) to make sure they are doing well and ask the following:
Ask how they’re doing —
Ask permission from members to share information as needed.
Do they have someone to help them — a care giver or someone else?
Do they need anything they can’t get for themselves?
Do they use a grocery delivery system or a meals-on-wheels service, etc.?
Do they need groceries, prescription medicines, etc.? Don’t assume you know what they need and remember they may be isolated because of the virus.
Identify spiritual/emotional needs for additional follow-up.
Minister spiritually to congregants in need. Consider Lay Ministers, Stephen Ministers and others who have some training in caring for others.
Useexisting small groups to meet the needs of the congregation during the term of the pandemic.
Establish a communication strategy to keep members informed of the status of the disease, the needs of the congregation, and activities and events scheduled or canceled. Use existing teams already in place to carry the messages forward. For large churches, establish a communications team if necessary.
Continue to follow the recommendations of the state and federal health authorities to lower your risk of exposure.
Download the apps to get alerts or updates from these agencies.
As you plan, prepare and respond to the coronavirus, remember that we are also called to care for our neighbors. Please feel free to share this with your neighbors, with other faith-based organizations and others who may benefit from this information.