By MC USA staff
(Mennonite Church USA) — During widespread church closures and physical distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States, and its five program agencies have responded by educating, encouraging and equipping its conferences, congregations, ministry partners, constituents and staff.
“Our leaders are working together to listen and provide good information and helpful resources to our church community during this crisis,” said Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA. “Our priority is extending love to one another in these difficult times by offering programming that best serves our church while also preparing for the future.”
MC USA has launched the following initiatives:
- “Staying Healthy and Hopeful,” a web page dedicated to helping individuals and congregations cope with COVID-19. The site features links to health and wellness information, the latest news from the denomination, free worship resources and practical tips ranging from caring for others to livestreaming a church service.
- A blog series aimed at raising awareness of social justice issues impacting vulnerable groups during the pandemic.
- Weekly video conferences with MC USA conference leaders to hear, discuss and address specific concerns.
- A webinar series led by denomination ministers to help equip pastors and congregational leaders address pandemic-related faith formation topics, such as rituals around death and dying, youth ministry, and compassion fatigue, on Tuesdays at 4:00 p.m. EDT.
- News features highlighting creative ways that congregations are “doing church”
- Monthly Facebook Live messages from Guyton on the first Wednesday (next one: April 1) at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
- The Corinthian Plan, which provides healthcare access to many MC USA pastors and church workers, is offering a premium holiday to participants for the month of May.
MC USA’s five agencies also have responded swiftly and compassionately to provide resources and support for their members.
Everence, a faith-based financial services organization, is providing the following:
- Sharing Fund increase: For the remainder of 2020, Everence is doubling the amount of eligible Everence Sharing Fund grant money available to help churches assist those facing serious financial needs due to COVID-19 – including pastors who may be losing income due to reduced giving in the midst of the epidemic.
- Skip a Pay: For those who have a qualified Everence personal and/or vehicle loan or personal MyNeighbor credit card and are experiencing difficulty in making monthly payments, Everence offers the skip a pay program. Terms and conditions may apply.
- Corporate credit card payment skip: Minimum required payments for corporate MyNeighbor credit cards will be waived for April and May.2 Check your monthly credit card statement for more details.
- Student loan forbearance: Through its partner, LendKey, Everence is offering up to 90-days administrative forbearance for student loan borrowers experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. Terms and conditions may apply. To learn more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-549-9050.
- Church loan forbearance: Congregations with an Everence church loan may be eligible for a payment forbearance. Terms and conditions may apply. To find out if your church qualifies, call 800-451-5719.
- No ATM fees: Everence is no longer charging a fee for withdrawals at an ATM. (Please note that additional fees may be charged by the financial institution who owns the ATM.) Find an ATM near you.
- How Medicare covers coronavirus: For those on a Medicare health plan, learn how Medicare covers costs related to COVID-19 and get more details about telemedicine options.
- Six tips for financial wellness: For those feeling anxiety, worry and stress about personal finances, find some helpful tips in this article by Everence partner, LSS Financial Counseling.
Visit the Everence COVID-19 support web page for additional details.
MennoMedia, a joint partner agency of Mennonite Church Canada and a multimedia publisher of Anabaptist faith materials, has equipped the church with numerous free resources, including:
- Staying Connected + Staying Safe weekly resource emails that contain:
- Adult Bible study introduction, student text and weekly online supplemental column.
- PDF download of the Rejoice! daily devotional for the week. This is also published each morning on the MennoMedia Facebook page.
- Beyond Our Fears free curriculum download.
- Take Our Moments and Our Days weekly prayer download selection.
- Shine children’s Sunday school curriculum downloads and online resources.
- Regularly updated resources, such as pertinent Leader articles and free chapters from Herald Press books.
- Voices Together downloadable/streaming song and prayer resource.
- Special mini edition of Rejoice! daily devotional coming soon.
- Additional resources from around the church coming soon to weekly emails and social media pages.
Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), a faith-based organization that supports Anabaptist-Mennonite education, has been offering personal support and professional services webinars to school administrators on how to navigate the CARES Act. In addition, MEA is offering a congregational prayer resource to congregations in its April Prayers for Faith & Learning monthly bulletin.
Mennonite Mission Network, a faith-based mission organization that supports workers and ministries in the United States and over 50 countries, is taking the following measures to provide hope and healing to its partners and workers around the world, staff, constituents and the wider church:
- Mission Network has released $20,000 from its emergency fund to help ministry partners in the U.S. and abroad.
- The Mission Network Church Relations team has launched The Hope Series which includes several Facebook Live events:
- A daily prayer time Monday through Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT.
- A six-part Bible study on Jesus as healer every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. EDT from April 1 – May 6, 2020.
- “Hope Around the World” updates about responses to COVID-19 every Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT.
- Stanley W. Green, executive director for Mission Network, will host webinars to update constituents on Mission Network activities.
- Mission Network representatives are reaching out to constituents through email and phone calls to connect, hear from them directly and pray with them.
MHS, a faith-based organization that supports health and human services providers, is seeking to connect with members and each other to share best practices and hold discussions. Resources include:
- COVID-19 resource page with links to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- MHS e-Connections, a monthly resource newsletter featuring webinars, presentations, book recommendations and more.
MC USA and its agencies are ensuring they follow the latest state and federal recommendations and mandates for staff and volunteers during the pandemic. Even so, the church and its agencies will continue to seek new, effective and informative ways to communicate and connect, according to Guyton.
“Now, it is time for us to be the church,” said Guyton. “Let’s live into our identity as a peace church. Call your neighbors and reach out to those who are vulnerable. Together, we can get through this by demonstrating love and compassion for people in our community.”
Ongoing support of MC USA and its agencies enables the denomination to continue to help people in need. Additional updates and information can be found in MC USA’s various e-publications, including PeaceMail, a weekly newsletter for constituents; the Faith Formation newsletter for congregational leaders; monthly bulletin announcements for congregational sharing and Equipping, a monthly resource newsletter.
With offices in Elkhart, Indiana and Newton, Kansas, Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, Mennonite Church USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 86 countries.