Worship in the midst of an outbreak

Worship in the midst of an outbreak

By Rev. David Valera & Patrick Scriven

Many faith communities are considering alternative ways of worshiping this weekend after guidance from both King and Snohomish Counties recommended canceling or postponing large gatherings of more than 50 people.

Faith communities with a practice of sharing parts or all of their worship online may feel less stressed by this, but there are still gaps that online worship can’t fill. Others may recognize this as an excellent time to experiment or jump right into some new form of online engagement.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for faith communities when it comes to connecting with people in meaningful ways. As you make decisions, consider what would work best for the people in your community and use this as an opportunity to stretch into a new practice, perhaps one that you will embrace even after some semblance of normalcy returns.

As you move to consider new ways of worship, don’t forget that the most important contact is still person to person, even if that may need to happen in smaller groups or over the phone. Keep in mind those who may be experiencing isolation and anxiety, and consider an audit of your congregation so that those who may be especially vulnerable to this virus have the support they need.

Worship Online?

If you have access to a recent smartphone and a decent wifi connection, you have most everything you need to facilitate rudimentary streaming. While specialized gear may get you better results, most smartphones are capable of more than most people realize.

If you are going online, you have some decisions to make, which we’ve broken into four basic parts:

  • What do you want to stream?
  • Will it be live?
  • What platform will you use?
  • Do I need to think about licensing?

What do you want to stream?

Even for churches that already stream their entire service, what to stream is still a relevant question. There is a difference between recording worship in front of a congregation and trying to produce something for a web audience with no one else in the room with you. You’ve got the equipment and platform, take some time to adapt to this new situation creatively.

For churches who only share a sermon or special music currently, how will you embrace this opportunity to up your game? Is there a way to make it more interactive than just hearing a message or piece of music? We’ll get into this a bit more when we talk about platforms.

For churches who haven’t yet waded into these digital waters, this may be the perfect moment to stretch into something new. Start small. Try recording a short homily and share it on your church’s Facebook page or another social media platform you have available to you.

Will it be live?

If this isn’t something you do regularly, why make it harder? Platforms like Facebook and YouTube allow you to upload content with relative ease. Facebook even permits you to schedule and release prerecorded material as if it is live

Unless you are planning to do something interactive, like verbally responding to questions in chat as you speak, there isn’t much to gain from working without a proverbial net. Prerecording your content allows you to do multiple takes and even a little postproduction of what you have filmed.

In any case, check out the recording tips, which you’ll find on this page.

Tips for making good online videos using just a smartphone

Inside a church or building:

  1. Camera – Smartphone with a good camera and lens.
    1. Make sure the lens is clean.
    2. Stabilize your phone/camera – make sure you don’t block your microphone.
    3. Keep the lens at eye level.
  2. Lighting – make sure you have adequate lighting. Find the best location in the sanctuary.
    1. Avoid harsh, direct lighting especially on faces.
    2. Try not to be constrained to the pulpit.
    3. It’s a great opportunity to be creative.
  3. Sound – test your audio by making a few short recordings, before you go live. Avoid echoes.
    1. Know where the mic in your camera is. You may have to remove protective casing.
    2. Stay within 2-4 feet from your mic/phone.
    3. If you have a headphone/mic for your smartphone, use it. This option can produce very good quality audio. 
    4. Audio quality is just as important as your video. The goal is to make sure your viewers clearly understand your message.

Bonus tip to Pastor/worship leaders – Don’t take too long to introduce what you are doing.

Write down your opening and closing spiel. Make your endings smart and connected to your message. Open well and end best!

What platform will you use?

Facebook Live, Zoom, YouTube. There are dozens of possibilities. My best advice is to choose the platform you are most comfortable with that is also accessible to the majority of your congregants.

For most churches, the Facebook Live option is a good one to consider. The majority of churches already have a Facebook page and may find themselves just a couple steps away from being able to go live. It also has a flexible definition of the word “live,” allowing you to upload a message and watch along with congregation members, interacting with them and even answering questions they might pose. Contrary to what some believe, Facebook videos are available to view by people without an account, and you can embed them on a church website.

YouTube might be the platform of choice if there is a preference for something other than Facebook. It is often easier to place YouTube videos as content in other places, but social engagement might take a hit.

A compelling option if you want to do something creative and interactive is Zoom. While there are other video-conferencing platforms, Zoom is the easiest to use in my experience. The basic free account will allow you to host up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. The same features are available for $14.99 per month with no time limits. For a few dollars more, you can host up to 300 people.

Do I need to think about licensing?

It depends on what you intend to stream, but the short answer is yes if you are planning to include live or prerecorded music. 

In the U.S., churches have a copyright exemption that allows the performance and display of copywritten work of a religious nature during religious services. If you read that carefully, the exemption is pretty narrow, and it is understood that it does not permit the broadcast of those works online live or recorded. Stanford University is one excellent resource for additional info on copyright.

If you intend to stream music, and you don’t want to limit yourself to the greatest hits of the 19th century, the solution is a streaming license. The WorshipCast Streaming license offered by CCS covers a range of songs, CCLI offers a solution as well as an add-on to their basic licensing. Each covers some things that the other doesn’t as far as the use of content goes. This document captures some of the differences.  

Got questions?

We hope that you find this resource helpful as you adapt to the situation we are facing. As you discern the best practices for you, remember that there is a wealth of information on many of these topics, just a short Google-search away. If you’ve got questions, send them to communications@greaternw.org, and we’ll try to answer them.

Finally, remember that you are a part of a connectional church. If pulling off an online service isn’t going to work for you, reach out to one of your colleagues, and encourage your congregants to join you online at their church. 

Coronavirus in our community

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear…
Psalm 46 1,2

United Methodists across the Greater Northwest Area,

News of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) within the United States is causing no small amount of concern. While this is particularly acute in the Seattle area, members of faith communities across the country are asking questions about how this might impact the ways they worship and practice their faith both inside and outside of their buildings. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the COVID-19 virus is a danger to individuals and our communities across the Greater Northwest and especially in King County, Washington, where it spread undetected for some time. The capacity to test everyone with symptoms continues to lag behind the need for this testing.  

Because of this, gathering as communities of faith may put people at risk of exposure to COVID-19. I am encouraging an abundance of caution in our churches, following the wisdom and advice of Seattle & King County Public Health.

Public Health Recommendations for Residents and Churches in King and Snohomish Counties, Washington

Yesterday the City of Seattle and King County issued temporary public health guidelines meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure. Describing the situation as “a shifting landscape,” King County Executive, Dow Constantine, discouraged large group gatherings of 10 or more people. This was later adjusted to 50 persons.

This morning, the Snohomish Health District followed King County in announcing that it is also discouraging unnecessary large group gatherings of more than 50.

Please read these guidelines as they are available online here: 

As your Bishop, I am strongly requesting that pastors of churches and other ministries within Seattle & King County follow the recommendations of Public Health. These guidelines — subject to change as the situation evolves — define vulnerable populations, encourage adaptive practices in our work environments, limit the size of public gatherings, offer guidance for schools and those who are sick, and give advice to those seeking to remain healthy.

Currently, Public Health’s guidance means that churches are being asked not to gather large groups of people for worship, concerts or shared meals. Additionally, the serious nature of the situation means we should postpone celebrating communion through the end of the month and give special care to the cleanliness of our facilities. For many congregations in King and Snohomish Counties, these recommendations are an invitation to find other ways of being in prayer and relationship with one another. 

Public Health Recommendations for Churches outside King & Snohomish Counties, Washington

If you live or work, or are involved in a church outside King or Snohomish County, I recommend that you begin now to develop plans for how you will identify and preserve the critical ministries of your local church when COVID-19, or some other disaster, arrives in your town. 

Interim Guidance for Faith Communities from the CDC was released this week which every leader should take the time to review. A checklist produced several years ago to prepare faith communities for a flu pandemic should still be a helpful guide. Those who have received the Connecting Neighbors program produced by UMCOR may be a resource for churches who are new to this sort of work. A list of trained individuals will be made available soon along with other resources on the Greater Northwest website.

Encouragement for all churches across the Greater Northwest Area

It is natural for people to become anxious in the face of an unknown disease that shows no symptoms for many days after it has infected a person. This is undeniably a time of concern, and for taking precautions, but it is not the time for panic.

When health and life are at stake organizations must cooperate with the latest information and guidance from county and state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)

We’ve set up a page on the Greater Northwest website providing easy access to these sites and links to several church specific resources which we’ll add to in the coming days. 

It’s in times like these that people of faith dip into the well of their courage and persistence and trust in God. It’s time to do what we can to promote health and wellness and to make sure that we and the people in the circles of our care are safe and have what they need as we live through this season of illness.    

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Changes in Practice for the PNW Conference Office

In response to the recommendation of Seattle & King County Public Health, employees working out of the Pacific Northwest Conference Office have been given the discretion to telecommute through the end of March. The office is not being closed but the number of employees working out of the conference center will be lower. While we hope this will still allow us to aide and assist local churches as needed, we ask for your grace as we adjust to this measure.

We intend to follow this guidance for the month of March, but we will evaluate on a weekly basis and make adjustments as we go keeping a close watch on the situation.

If you are scheduled to attend a meeting at the PNW Conference Office over this period of time, please be in touch with your staff liaison. Where practical, we will be moving meetings to Zoom to limit persons travel into King County. Some meetings may also be postponed or canceled.

Greater NW Area Lay Leaders gather to discuss common challenges, opportunities

By Patrick Scriven

Over the weekend, local church, district, and conference lay leaders from the three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church gathered at Des Moines United Methodist Church, 30 minutes south of Seattle. 

The 24-hour Lay Leader’s Retreat was initiated by the Conference Lay Leaders with the intent of bringing voices together from across the area to identify common challenges and opportunities to learn and work with one another. The event took place just a week after the Alaska Conference took steps toward becoming a mission district of the Pacific Northwest Conference (PNW).

An open forum encouraging questions and making room for common concerns was led by Directors of Connectional Ministries (DCM) Laurie Day and Rev. David Valera. Two sessions with the DCMs also served as an opportunity for lay leaders to know how to utilize them as resources for mission.

PNW DCM Valera shared that the task of a director of connectional ministry is one of alignment, adding that they strive to be advocates for the work of the laity. Day, a layperson herself, described the role as including “a lot of networking,” as they work to keep people connected to the many ministries across the conferences, area, and global church. Valera described it as one of “telephone operator” facilitating conversations between separate groups which have similar visions and conversations. 

Directors of Connectional Ministries Rev. David Valera (PNW) and Laurie Day (OR-ID) field questions from the lay leaders.

Participants also received a preview of the Greater Northwest Area’s Shared Annual Conference Session being held June 11-14, 2020 in Puyallup, Wash. The DCMs fielded a number of questions about the session while also providing insights into the legislative process and goals. The session will happen a few weeks after the 2020 General Conference takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Developing healthy working relationships with pastors was an undercurrent in several table and group conversations throughout the gathering. Day encouraged the laity saying, “don’t wait for the clergy, they are not the keepers of the church.” Several participants acknowledged that the consumer-model of lay participation, where laity receive a product the clergy deliver, was a self-imposed barrier to lay empowerment.

Multi-generational engagement in lay leadership was a theme that arose on several occasions as well. “How do we help our young people feel that they are called to action,” provoked Teri Tobey who works in the PNW Conference as Program Associate for Ministries with Young People. Laity discussed the importance of training people of all ages so they can be successful, in addition to inviting them into meaningful leadership work.

Lydia Henry spoke on Saturday morning to some of the challenges of the lay speaking/servant program, unearthing a desire for more training and some areas that need development. Along with Emilie Kroen, they shared efforts underway in the Oregon-Idaho Conference to try to envision how to provide coursework and a framework to make lay education more interesting, inspiring, and accessible. 

Lydia Henry sharing conversations underway in the Oregon-Idaho Conference on lay leadership development opportunities.

PNW Lay Leader Nancy Tam Davis and SeaTac District Lay Leader Andy O’Donnell led a session on strengthening relationships between district lay leaders and district superintendents. Davis noted how impressed she was with the collaborative presence O’Donnell had with SeaTac District Superintendent Derek Nakano during district events. Good, bi-directional partnerships were named as a strong gift when present. The need for a shared vision and good communication at each level of the church was essential to missional alignment.

The event concluded with group work at tables facilitated by Davis strategizing on priorities for next steps. During the conversation, PNW United Methodist Women President Ja net’ Crouse offered the anecdote, “we develop leaders, we train dogs” capturing the hunger for meaningful, smart resourcing that laity in the room named as necessary for a vital church moving forward.

Networking, leadership development, and building a culture of gratitude were identified with participants when asked to consider what they would personally consider organizing around. Davis closed the day with words of gratitude and encouragement of Sabbath for all those who attended. She lifted up in thanks Angelina Goldwell, the PNW Associate Conference Lay Leader for her work in providing some of the logistical support that made the event possible.

Patrick Scriven is a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary educated layperson working professionally in the church. Scriven serves the Pacific Northwest Conference as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries.

Keeping our communities healthy during the season of Lent

Traducción: español

United Methodists and friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who came so that we all might live life to the fullest. We know that life depends on spiritual health, and also on physical well-being.

As we enter the season of Lent, the world is watching a dangerous disease spread. We don’t know how widely or quickly the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will spread. I do know that United Methodists want to help limit its spread for the health of one another and the whole world.

Churches are places where people gather and care for one another. We welcome strangers, sit close to one another, join hands in prayer, give hugs of encouragement, and sometimes even weep together. This is a season when it is important for us to be careful and to develop intentional habits that can prevent the spread of this disease.

So, as Lenten practices, I encourage all United Methodists, wherever you gather, to take these reasonable precautions, consistent with the advice of the World Health Organization:

  1. Stay home when you don’t feel well. Model this behavior and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Download and post the hygiene advice (linked below) in all restrooms and kitchens.
  3. Be sure alcohol-based hand sanitizer is readily available throughout your facilities, for example, alongside boxes of tissue in sanctuary pews, and in every room. Encourage people to take the hand sanitizer with them when they leave. Then make sure it is replenished. Invite a church member to volunteer to monitor this throughout the Lenten season as a gift to the health of the church. 
  4. Encourage everyone to observe a 4 ft distance from others. Maybe suggest a new gesture of greeting, like folding your hands over your heart and then opening them palms out and down toward another person — in a sign of connection, rather than palms out and up, which might indicate separation.
  5. Check the World Health Organization website, and local health sites for new public notices, publicize them.

The spread of COVID-19 is a situation that we’ll be watching closely. I’ve asked our Directors of Connectional Ministries (DCMs) to be in conversation with our UMVIM/Disaster Response Teams to review plans and assess potential resources as these persons regularly network with community and governmental agencies.

The way John Wesley held spiritual and social holiness together is a mark of Methodist distinction. He studied and wrote extensively about medicine and the importance of maintaining a healthful life both spiritually and physically. Let’s follow his example. Let’s work for holiness of body as well as spirit this holy season.

May God bless you and keep you healthy and safe,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A big decision in Alaska and its potential impact in the Pacific Northwest Conference

United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,

I’m writing you from Anchorage, Alaska, where clergy and laity from 29 churches across the state will gather on Saturday to decide whether to ask to remove its status as a missionary conference and to become part of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. This proposal was developed by the Alaska Conference Leadership Team, in response to several considerations:

  • Financial and administrative support from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) has diminished over the years and is likely to be discontinued in the near future.
  • GBGM intends to discontinue missionary conferences within the United States altogether, which would require Alaska to be included in another Annual Conference.
  • A sense that United Methodist Churches in the Western Jurisdiction of the US should take responsibility for supporting the ministries in their area that are not self-sustaining.
  • A desire for Alaskan United Methodists to have a role in determining their own future, rather than waiting for others to determine their future.

If Alaskan United Methodists approve this proposal, it could have significant implications for the Pacific Northwest Conference. I want you to be aware of the important matters being considered this week, and their possible impacts on the Pacific Northwest Conference.

There are multiple steps to this process before it is final. The sequence of actions necessary for this change to occur is:

  1. February 22 – Alaskan United Methodists request to no longer be organized as a missionary conference.
  2. May 5-15 – General Conference approves this request.
  3. July 15-18 – Western Jurisdictional Conference redefines the boundaries of the Annual Conferences in the West to include the churches of Alaska in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Of course, depending on what happens at General Conference, we will have the opportunity to discuss these matters in June, when the three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest – meet together in a shared Annual Conference session in Puyallup.

I hope that as you consider this possibility, and as you talk with your friends about it, your interest and concerns will be for the future of Methodist faithfulness in the northwest, and how we can be stronger together than we are separate.

God is at work in the Greater Northwest in powerful and hopeful ways. We are invited and privileged to be invited to join God’s work as United Methodist disciples of Jesus Christ. I look forward to the conversations and deliberations as these possibilities emerge during the spring and summer.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Greater NW Cabinet continues to #ResistHarm with MLK reflection

By Rev. Erin Martin

The Greater Northwest Area Cabinet continued its commitment to #ResistHarm on Tuesday, February 11 during their regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting in Salem, OR.

In honor of Black History Month (and Valentine’s Day) members of the Cabinet dressed in red and read excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon entitled, “A Knock at Midnight” published in King’s book, “Strength to Love.”

Greater NW Area Cabinet members take time to remember the powerful words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while recommitting to pursue justice. Photos by Rev. David Valera.

The powerful sermon is based on the parable from Luke 11. It compares the story of a visitor who knocks on the door of a friend at midnight seeking bread — and is denied — to spiritually hungry people knocking on the door of the church and being denied. King equates midnight in the parable to the circumstances of darkness in our world to suggest that it is midnight for us as well.

Cabinet members took a moment to name the situations of midnight that surround local communities and society: climate crisis, increased gun violence, separation of immigrant families at the border and more. This was done to call on Cabinet members to recognize that darkness marks the world. Now, more than ever, the world looks to the church to offer the bread of hope in tangible ways.
After reading portions of the sermon, Cabinet members reminded themselves that King was clear that “darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky passes the light to Seven Rivers DS Joanne Coleman Campbell.

A light was passed between each of the Cabinet members. We then passed the light to each other as a symbolic gesture of their increased commitment to be light in the world. They did this while singing the South African freedom song by Archbishop Tutu that proclaims, “Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness and life is stronger than death.”

Both the Cabinet and the GNW Guiding Coalition are continuing to plan for a future of United Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the Church. Additionally, they are continuing to learn and to foster practices, each time they meet, that will help the Area to center voices that are younger and more diverse, recognizing that there is both wisdom and vitality around a table with distinct perspectives. 

Rev. Erin Martin serves as Superintendent for the Columbia District in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Leadership changes in Oregon-Idaho Conference, Greater NW Area Cabinet

Changes are in store for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area with a few changes in leadership positions in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, announced by Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky on Monday.

Wendy Woodworth

The first will be adding Rev. Wendy Woodworth of Morningside UMC to the GNW cabinet when she begins serving as the Cascadia District Superintendent July 1.

“I can’t wait to hit the road and visit the diverse churches and ministry settings across the Cascadia District: from the coast to the mountains to the painted hills, from urban settings to the small towns, and from large churches to smaller ones,” she said. “Each of you is called to unique ministries in your context and yet all of us are called to the vital ministry of bringing God’s love, grace and justice into our communities by following Jesus and being empowered by the Spirit.”

Woodworth earned her master’s of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion. She has served as an associate pastor at Portland First UMC, Pendleton, Portland Trinity UMC, Portland Fremont UMC, Salem Morningside UMC and now the Opeen Door Churches of Salem-Keizer, with primary responsibility at Morningside. She also served on the Conference’s Council on Finance and Administration for 12 years and currently serves as the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

“You know Wendy’s deep faith, broad experience and steady demeanor.  I know that you will celebrate with her this new responsibility and honor her for her seven years with Morningside and Open Door Churches. Please keep Wendy and her wife Lori, in your prayers during this time of transition,” Bishop Stanovsky said.

Tim Overton-Harris

Rev. Tim Overton-Harris, who has been serving as the Cascadia District Superintendent since July 2017, will begin serving the Columbia District (which encompasses the metro Portland area) on July 1, 2020.

Prior to his position as District Superintendent, Overton-Harris served as pastor of Vermont Hills UMC. He started his ministry in the Oregon-Idaho Conference in Oregon City as an associate pastor. He moved on to serve churches in Estacada/Marquam, Salem Morningside, La Grande and Christ UMC in Portland. He is a graduate of Boston University School of Theology.

“The honor and challenge of serving Columbia District is great. The many and varied ministries, innovation projects, new starts, and the diverse communities of the district offer a unique opportunity for me,” he said. “I will build off of the faithful work of Erin and know that my skills, gifts and graces will be well used in my work with Columbia District.”

Erin Martin

Rev. Erin Martin, who has served as the Columbia District Superintendent for the last five years, is to be appointed to Fremont United Methodist Church in Portland effective July 1, in place of Rev. Linda Quanstrom, who is returning to retirement.

Martin served at Wesley UMC in Eugene for nine years before becoming Columbia District Superintendent.

Greater Northwest Area Cabinet begins 2020 with pledge to Resist Harm as it continues to seed a vital, more inclusive church

By Patrick Scriven

Even as members of the Greater Northwest (GNW) Area Cabinet absorbed the implications of the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, they recommitted themselves to resisting elements of the Traditional Plan that took effect January 1. Meeting for the first time in 2020 last week, they joyfully reaffirmed their baptisms, pledging together to resist harm as they provide leadership to the Area.

Last November, the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction issued their Safe Harbor Declaration, explicitly refusing to implement the new provisions and prohibitions of the Traditional Plan. The GNW Area Cabinet welcomed this statement at the time and continues its move forward with the clear guidance it provides. 

While the Protocol mentioned above includes a moratorium against the filing of charges against LGBTQ+ clergy, and those performing same-gender weddings, if passed, it would only create a pathway down which full inclusion could be reached. Stopping the harm is only one step down the path.

Both the Cabinet and the GNW Guiding Coalition are continuing to plan for a future of United Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the Church. Additionally, they are continuing to learn and to foster practices, each time they meet, that will help the Area to center voices that are younger and more diverse, recognizing that there is both wisdom and vitality around a table with distinct perspectives. 

The GNW’s Innovation Vitality Team offered the Cabinet an update on projects that are underway across the Area, work that includes both New projects (new church starts or new campus/multisite) and Vitality projects (existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed). Of the 37 supported projects, 20 (54%) are led by leaders of color.

Rev. Kathy Neary provided an update on her work with smaller congregations in the PNW Conference, sharing one of her insights this week on the PNW News Blog. The GNW Cabinet also discussed the promising work happening in rural areas through the Rural Church Engagement Initiative. Lynn Egli provides a short progress report you can read here.

Continuing its work of assessing and preparing for the leadership needs of GNW Area churches and ministries, the Cabinet finalized its initial list of Clear Appointment Openings. The practice of sharing Clear Openings allows clergy the opportunity to express an interest in a particular appointment while also allowing them to share their gifts and calling with the Cabinet as the discernment process begins. 

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and members of the GNW Area Cabinet spent time with participants of the UMC LEAD Conference.

Plans were also finalized at the meeting for the calling of a Special Session of the Alaska United Methodist Conference on February 22 in Anchorage to ask the 2020 General Conference to discontinue its status as a missionary conference. The Alaska Conference will also vote to petition the Western Jurisdictional Conference to provide affiliation and oversight, possibly as a mission district of another annual conference. 

The Conference Treasurers provided the Cabinet with an end of year report on the apportionment giving of the Area’s three conferences. Apportionment receipts for the Alaska Conference reached 84.7% in 2019, down 2.03% from 2018; Oregon-Idaho Conference receipts reached 77.9% in 2019, down 5.4% from 2018; Pacific Northwest Conference receipts reached 93%, up .21% from 2018.

With the Cabinet meeting concluding late on Saturday, Cabinet members visited area churches for worship the following day. Twelve members were also able to attend parts of the UMC LEAD event that began later that day in Seattle, Washington. Bishop Stanovsky offered a greeting to attendees of the LEAD event, offering a word of encouragement and appreciation for The United Methodist leaders, many of whom had traveled across the country to participate.

Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Need an IV, Stat!

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Growing up, I loved the television show, EMERGENCY! The mid-70s medical drama centered on the heroic work of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51, Squad 51 — specifically two paramedics named Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto. It appeared that every time Johnny and Roy called in from a scene to Rampart General Hospital, they were always instructed to, “Start an IV of D5W, TKO, stat!” Without fail.

IV, of course, is the abbreviation for “intravenous.” And, “stat,” which comes from Latin origin, is often used as a directive to medical personnel. It means “immediately” or “instantly,” as in right now! Even today, when colleagues use the abbreviation “IV” referencing the Innovation Vitality Team, it makes me think of EMERGENCY! Could it be because the church often needs an IV infusion of life, stat?

On that note, perhaps it’s the perfect time to share an IV (Innovation Vitality) stat (or two) that represents the work our team has been charged to lead, particularly around the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. I am asked all the time about how much we are investing in existing congregations. And, I am always eager to answer that question.

There are several indicators for how we are all collaborating for a new vital church — one that empowers younger, queer, and people of color to innovate and co-create and help shift us from the status quo. For starters, consider these stats: 

  • 23 of the 37 projects supported across the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) are New projects, which represents 62% (a New project is a stand-alone new church or new campus/multisite project, led by an identified planter/innovator).
  • 14 of the 37 are Vitality projects, which makes up 38% (a Vitality project is an existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed to foster vitality and new movement).
  • What is the most exciting stat? Of the 37 supported projects, 20 are led by leaders of color! That’s 54%!

We believe it is an exciting time to be a part of the Greater Northwest Area. The IV Team has conducted several district trainings and workshops across the GNW, with more scheduled this winter and spring. These, again, focus on the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. The practices are cultivated through the resourcing of intercultural competency, faith-based community organizing, asset-based community development, and intentional multiplication.

Click the image to learn more about the natural practices of vitality.

To equip pastors/innovators to navigate culture shift within our local churches and to re-embrace our Wesleyan rhythm of multiplication, we have continued our Multiplying Ministries cohorts, first piloted in 2016. These have helped position multiplication of new places across our conferences from places like Bend, Oregon, to Olympia and Marysville, Washington, and all the way to Squamish, British Columbia. In the process, new conversations have ignited about ministry opportunities. In fact, we see new movement in a number of exciting areas that strive to practice Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. Here are some additional vital stats:

  • The importance of intercultural competency has been repositioned as foundational to vitality.
  • 13 churches joined in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative (RCEI) in 2019 from the Sage and Crater Lake Districts of Oregon-Idaho and the Seven Rivers and Inland Districts of the Pacific Northwest.
  • 20 churches are poised and ready for the 2020 RCEI cohort, which includes the Alaska Conference this year.
  • 13 new projects started over the last two years, six of which are vitality projects in existing churches.
  • 26 interns engaged and placed in ministry settings across the Area.
  • 7 people of color appointed to projects in 2019.
  • 13 candidates being assessed for 2020 in our new leadership identification process, of which eight are people of color.
  • 127 leaders trained to date in the last four cohorts of Multiplying Ministries, of which 91 are pastors serving existing local churches.
  • 23 planters/innovators in 6 new cohorts launched Area-wide for 2020, which focus on social enterprise and financial sustainability of both new and vitality projects.
  • Connected with thousands of leaders of color, building trust, new relationships, and opportunities, making way for a promising leadership pipeline.

The truth is there are a lot of indicators of life across the Greater Northwest Area, and that’s contagious. The thought of a vital movement on the horizon is generative, which can position the GNW to help shape something pretty special. As news of an impending split in the UMC populates the news feed, we need to stay focused.

So, while some folks across our connection might be declaring an EMERGENCY, take heart! It is important to remember that the Spirit is moving in fresh, new ways and that you are running a good race. That’s not to say that sometimes when we call in from the scene we might need an IV; stat! For now, let’s remember the new life that was recently born into our chaotic world. We know it as the “good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Right now, it’s vital. Let’s continue to embody it.

Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Innovation for a New Church for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area including the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences.

Greater NW UMC Rural Church Engagement Initiative going strong

An exciting new Rural Church Engagement Initiative launched in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church in 2019 among churches ministering in rural communities across Idaho, Oregon and Washington, will be growing in 2020.

“Our goal is to build competency and support with the local church for transformational change and new relationships with our neighbors,” said Lynn Egli, Crater Lake lay leader and coordinator of the Rural Church Engagement Initiative. “We’re reaching out to more neighbors, new neighbors and different neighbors. Our approach is very practical: learn by doing; learn in a cohort of learners that are ministering in a similar rural setting.”

There are currently 13 churches in smaller communities involved in this project, which has included 40 to 50 lay people, pastors, and leaders from the Greater Northwest Innovation Vitality Team providing resources and training opportunities for the pastors and lay leaders serving these churches.

Lynn Egli

The cohort regularly uses Zoom video conferencing technology to meet and study the Book of Acts in the Bible, discussing local community organizing efforts, sharing setbacks and what they’ve learned.

The cohort meets quarterly for remote training sessions on topics like social media, leadership development, creating change and community development. Each church gets an on-site visit from a nationally recognized faith-based community organizing consultant.

The churches currently involved in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative come from the Sage, Crater Lake, Inland and Seven Rivers districts.

Egli said next year the hope is to add another 18-20 church cohort, expanding into more districts, including Alaska.

Currently the Rural Church Engagement Initiative is being implemented in Ashton, Idaho; Coos Bay, Oregon; Chelan, Wash.; New Meadows, Idaho; Veneta, Oregon; Clarkston, Wash.; Gooding, Idaho; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Magic Valley Ministries in Idaho; Pullman, Wash., Sandpoint, Idaho; Toledo, Oregon; and Goldendale, Wash.

The current churches will join the new cohort of churches for a gathering at the Northwest Leadership Institute 2020 in March at Boise First United Methodist Church.

“Please pray for us as we continue to grow and serve,” Egli said. “We are so grateful for support of the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho conferences to launch this work in our rural churches that are serving so faithfully and, quite frankly, remotely.  We may be miles apart, but we know we are not alone. We are the church and we will move forward with hope, vision, confidence and courage.”


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