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COVID-19 Resources from the Advocacy Team and General Agencies

 

Staying Holistically Well While Social Distancing (3/26/2020)

By Denise Rooks, Advocacy Chair, Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Staff

 

Our society has seen a remarkable social change that had not existed before in our lifetime. The COVID-19 virus is causing many changes in our behavior. We are social creatures. It has been said in the past that attending social events and having friends and families are good for our health and mental well-being. We gather for many reasons - for fun and entertainment, for family celebrations, and for church events. We also gather during times of crisis and family sorrow. Truth be told, we gather for any other opportunity that arises. Now we have been asked to change our behaviors to something that is against our upbringing and habits.

 

Many are at a loss as to how to handle the “social isolation” the medical authorities, along with our government, feel we must do. Hopefully, many of us are finding ways to spend our time. We now have more time to spend with our immediate family, and we can call other family and friends to keep up with our well-being. Some are finding ways to be useful within their given situation. Some are looking inward, meditating, and reading God’s word. Then we have others with no idea what to do with themselves during our nation’s crisis.

 

Members of the Advocacy team are working diligently to find ways to help our Christian family find ways to enhance their well being during this perilous time. Below are some ways to manage our mental, social, and health wellness during this time of social distancing, including resources from our South Georgia Conference Multiculturalism and Undocumented Neighbors Taskforces Guides that include books, films, and movies with diversity and awareness focus. 
 

For information on resources or to offer services, contact Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Connectional Ministries, Advocacy/Multiculturalism Ministries, earnestine@sgaumc.com.


Being the Church during the Coronavirus: advocating for those impacted (3/16/2020)

By Denise Rooks, Advocacy Chair, and Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Conference Staff

With news of COVID-19 invading many aspects of our lives, the stock market spiraling down, and the constant bombardment of negativity that occurs in our world, it would be easy to go into our homes and stay for months. In times of great stress and concerns, it can be difficult to discern how we fit into the many complex pieces. Many of us can and do feel defeated and helpless due to the uncontrollable circumstances that surround us.

As Christians, where should we turn when we feel out of control and helpless? In times of great stress as with times of peace, we must always remember it is our faith in God that will sustain us and keep us. There is no denying that the present season we are living is difficult and complicated. Governor Kemp has recommended school suspension for the state of Georgia. These educational systems closing down are a hardship for parents and a concern for meals for children. Please check with your local school system for assistance with meals and other services.

Yes, these are difficult times, especially when we are all advised to be cautious. Some are not going out; some are quarantined; and businesses are doing partial and full shutdowns, like Starbucks that is offering “expanded ‘catastrophe pay’ to workers amid coronavirus outbreak.” Job losses have included those of ports, bakeries, and travel agencies. Indeed, last week, President Trump spoke to the nation and declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency. 

In the midst of this chaos we must remember to whom we belong and what was spoken in Isaiah 41: 10, (NKJV); “Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand,” is still true for us today.

Have you ever wondered how this season might be affecting others whose livelihood might be directly affected from the many shutdowns that are occurring? What might this mean for those that are wage workers, like waitresses, custodians, entertainments, etc.?  It can seem too big an issue and too daunting a task when we look at the scale of all the people that this season of hardship has impacted and will affect negatively. 

In this difficult time, the House of Representatives passed an economic relief aimed to help many people that might be affected negatively. The bill, if passed by the Senate as well, will provide money for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing, and other measures to help Americans impacted by the crisis. The bill will be sent to the Senate for them to vote and pass. 

Should we ignore the cries of the world and keep to ourselves, or should we take up our cross and go help our fellow citizens? As Christians, we are called to love as well as help in difficult situations. We, who are followers of Jesus, must always be ready to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and go. Christians cannot afford the luxury of picking and choosing who we help; we, the body of The United Methodist Church, are called to be “alive together in witness” to each other in all seasons even when the season brings hardship.

Yes, Congress is taking steps to help our fellow citizens, but should we leave it all to them? It may take days or weeks for the money to get to those who need it. Now is the time to come to the aid of our neighbors. The question can no longer be how can we help, but will we help? What is our response when God calls us to help? It should be, “Here I am, Lord! Send me.”  

This crisis is an opportunity to represent Jesus in our neighborhoods and be alive together in our witness with our response. For those who hear the call to action and want to help, but aren’t sure what to do, the Conference Advocacy team has put together some resources that will guide you. For those who may be in need because  the present circumstances have impacted you and you need assistance, there are resources below for you. Whether your response is individually or collectively as a church family, there is a need for you. 

What can churches do to help?

  • Be aware of those that may be unemployed now or have less wages because of partial and full shutdowns. Consider helping to make sure they have what they need. 
  • Use Benevolence funding or other funding to help individuals with bills, medicine, etc., because they are not working. This includes those that are employees of the church that may not be working because worship services are suspended. 
  • List resources available at your church and in the community in the bulletin, online, social media, and other publications and outlets.
  • Allow staff in the church to work from home where applicable and, if hours are limited, still consider full pay for those staff members. 
  • Because schools are closed, if your church already participates in the Backpack Buddy program, consider expanding this ministry. If your church has never participated, please consider doing so to help those students who would benefit from having snacks at home. More info: https://backpackbuddiesga.org
  • If you have a food pantry, consider expanding distribution hours and regularity. Be creative in ways to distribute that are safe for the workers/providers.

Financial Resource Articles

United Way

Food Resources 

Utility Services 
Some local and national utility providers are suspending cut-off of services for non-payment for the next several weeks. Check with your local provider. Churches can encourage local providers to consider doing the same. 

For information on resources or to offer services, contact Rev. Earnestine Campbell, Connectional Ministries, Advocacy/Multiculturalism Ministries, earnestine@sgaumc.com.

 

Being the Church during the Coronavirus: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly (3/20/2020)

By Rev. Ashley Randall, pastor of Garden City UMC and a member of the Advocacy Team

Back to Basics

It doesn’t seem quite right that in the face of an “unprecedented” worldwide pandemic the medical experts are urging all of us to practice the most mundane, unsophisticated, and elementary practices of personal hygiene: wash your hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you are sick. I mean, if this COVID-19 pandemic is as threatening as the experts say it is, there must be something more that they – or we – or somebody – can do to defeat this pernicious enemy. Maybe hand sanitizer will protect me more completely. Perhaps a mask will keep the virus from invading my lungs. Surely someone is close to finding a cure – or at least, an effective course of treatment.

While there is some evidence that “special measures” may offer limited additional benefits, the truth is that the most effective way to avoid becoming a victim of this novel coronavirus is by practicing the habits we first learned when we were very young. Whether it was our parents, siblings, or preschool teachers who taught us how to wash our hands, cover our cough, and stay home when we are not feeling well, their instructions still hold the most promise for making it though this pandemic healthy and whole.

I hope that you have already embraced these basic habits to protect your physical health as you are responding to this global pandemic. Let me ask you to consider what you are doing to attend to your spiritual health in these trying times. Again, your impulse might be to look for some special practice, an elaborate ritual, or an extraordinary discipline. Perhaps you are seeing the proliferation of resources that are being developed and offered (for sale) to those who are feeling anxious in these times. (Is there anyone who is not feeling anxious?)

Unfortunately, what we all have to accept eventually is that life is hard. It is filled with challenges, disappointments, and setbacks, as well as injury and disease. The community of faith has recognized this reality and developed habits of life to encourage and empower people in the midst of difficult circumstances. They are simple ideas that are commended repeatedly throughout the Bible. Over the centuries, these basic principles have carried faithful people through periods of great trial. 

Embrace Humility

No matter what the circumstances, our first impulse is often to look out for our own interests. There are very few people who do not struggle with the temptation to put themselves first. Of course, we should be concerned about our own safety, but that does not give us license to rank ourselves as more deserving than others, to skip to the head of the line, or to hoard supplies that are in short supply. 

Unusual conditions often spark curiosity. Some dive into research to learn as much as they can about the situation and what has caused it. This new information can give us a sense of control. We feel important and powerful when we share our newfound knowledge with others. Unfortunately, this naive expertise can also lead us to second guess those who have invested their lives in understanding and responding to these conditions and even to dismiss or argue with advice and direction that could prove invaluable. 

Recognizing our own limits and acknowledging the gifts of others can free us from the burden of believing we bear the responsibility of being our own savior. This puts us in a much better frame of mind to cooperate with one another as we face the challenges together. Instead of feeling like time is running out, we find the patience to wait as solutions are tested and proven. 

Deepen Compassion

When we feel threatened, it seems natural to look for an enemy. Certainly, there is someone we can blame for disturbing our routine. We look at those who are different with suspicion, if not disgust. We start building a case for their prosecution and focus on the evidence that fits with our own preconceived ideas about their culpability for the current situation. 

When we embrace humility and begin to be less concerned about protecting our own interests, we often find that changes our perception of others and expands our capacity to care for them. Our hearts develop a tenderness to respond to the concerns of others as we see them as those who are also treated in the image of God. We are less likely to assign blame and more likely to offer forgiveness – even as God has shown us grace. We also discover that our individual interests can actually lead us into alliances that improve the conditions for everyone involved. 

Practice Justice

Jesus said, “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest” (John 10:10b). Unfortunately, there are many conditions in our communities and around the world that prevent people from experiencing life in its fullest measure. This COVID-19 pandemic is making that particularly clear. This virus threatens to wreak its worst impact on the communities and countries that are least able to withstand the shock.

While we do need to focus on meeting the current threat in our own communities, we have the responsibility to begin working and advocating for systems and structures that will not only protect us from future threats, but also improve the lives of vulnerable people around the world. Programs and organizations like PEPFAR, the Global Fund, the Global Vaccine Alliance and other organizations the United States supports have helped create and strengthen health and community systems in developing countries.

During the Ebola crisis, the U.S. led the way in building a coalition of nations to support pandemic response teams. Dr. Mark Dybul and Dr. Deus Bazira challenge us to advocate for greater cooperation and investment in the lives of others: “We should shift from disconnected programs, impactful as they may be, to develop plans for countries spanning economic growth and increased trade to health, education, agriculture, renewable energy, gender equality among others. Such an approach would put countries on a journey to self-reliance capable of managing a pandemic.”

You are not powerless in the face of this COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, any more so than the exiles were powerless in Babylon. So, what are we to do? How do you cope? It really is pretty basic. As the prophet Micah told the exiles, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Rev. Ashley Randall, pastor of Garden City UMC, is a member of the Advocacy Team who has done extensive work with the ONE Campaign.

The ONE Campaign has recently launched its ONE World Campaign. As a movement dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, ONE is uniquely positioned to stand with the most vulnerable whether they live across the street or across the ocean.

We are one world and it’s time to fight for humanity against this virus. Please sign ONE’s petition telling our government that a global pandemic demands a global response. To sign the petition, visit ONE.org.

 

Church and Society, GBCS (General Board of Church and Society)

Seminar Program COVID19 Virtual Series

 

Religion and Race, GCORR (General Commission on Religion and Race)

https://www.gcorr.org/realtalk/

 

GCORR Real Talk is a series of conversations with community and faith leaders to discuss and uncover the disparities of race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status that are deeply embedded in our social fabric.

 

SBC21 (Strengthening the Black Church for 21st Century)

https://sbc21.org/

 

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