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Trump Declares Churches ‘Essential’ as CDC Releases Reopening Guidelines

More than 1,000 pastors in Minnesota and California plan to resume worship by Pentecost Sunday, despite state restrictions.

President Donald Trump’s declaration that houses of worship are “essential places that provide essential services” comes at a precarious point in the national balancing act that pits the call of worship against the risk of coronavirus.

Even before Trump’s comments Friday, which came alongside the release of guidance for reopening faith organizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Christian leaders in several states made plans to welcome back congregants on the week of Pentecost, May 31.

The new CDC guidance could energize houses of worship that might want to reopen their doors, despite evidence of ongoing risk of the virus spreading through communal gatherings. While it suggests steps such as asking congregants to cover their faces and limiting the sharing of worship aids, the CDC document says it is “not meant to regulate or prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities.”

The guidance released Friday is similar to draft guidance drawn up by the CDC more than a month ago but shelved by administration officials. One difference: The earlier version discussed opening in stages, such as video streaming and drive-in services, with later phases allowing in-person gatherings limited in size and with social distancing. The guidance released Friday has no discussion of a phased-in opening.

Tension over when and how to reopen houses of worship has varied depending on the state, as different areas set their own pace for easing pandemic stay-at-home orders. Trump called for the resumption of in-person religious services repeatedly this week and said Friday that he would “override” governors that did not do so, though it's unclear ...

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Source: Trump Declares Churches ‘Essential’ as CDC Releases Reopening Guidelines

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[Cfamily]The Church Proved It Can Get Creative. Let’s Not Stop Adapting.
« Reply #1657 on: May 30, 2020, 01:00:22 AM »
The Church Proved It Can Get Creative. Let’s Not Stop Adapting.

How rethinking worship can improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Over the past few months, faith communities around the world have adapted to gather and worship remotely during the pandemic. While doing church online has had a learning curve, it has also removed barriers for some people with disabilities, allowing access to communities and spaces that were inaccessible before.

Yet, some disabled churchgoers have remarked how frustrating it is that it took a global crisis for many churches to offer more inclusive and accessible options for their full involvement and participation.

As the whole church is now reexamining what church means and how we do it, Christians have an opportunity to create communities of true access and welcome. This moment invites us to be flexible with how we structure our church meetings for the sake of including more members of Christ’s body.

When I (Bethany) worked as the director of a seminary’s accessibility office, I encountered people at all points in their disability journeys. Being a self-advocate and navigating unwelcoming structures are things many people with disabilities have to learn as a basic survival skill, but they can also take time to develop. Some students expressed what tremendous effort it took just to contact the accessibility office in the first place. Some did not have a disability you would notice upon meeting them and didn’t use mobility aids, but the need to walk on uneven terrain or climb stairs made some environments inaccessible to them.

Point being, there may be people in your community for whom meeting in homes (or potential other new spaces or models for gathering that church leaders may choose in the interim) will make it impossible for them to participate—because of literal steps to enter the space or another ...

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Source: The Church Proved It Can Get Creative. Let’s Not Stop Adapting.

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What Do Pastors Need Today? Assessing Our Status in Order to Move Ahead

Pastor, you’re not doing well as you want to be… and that’s ok.

This past week we hosted our Amplify Conference and my notepad is filled with ideas not only for evangelism but also how to think through conferences and gatherings during this unique season.

One thing that particularly emerged across multiple breakouts and plenary sessions was a thankfulness among those who joined at the opportunity to be refreshed. This refreshment came in many forms: for some it was the space to be vulnerable in their questions, while for others it was the recognition that they were not alone in feelings of exhaustion or loneliness.

We knew going into Amplify that this season had been particularly difficult for pastors and ministry leaders. In a study we conducted with Exponential on the impact of COVID-19 on the church, we found 3 out of 5 have reported a significant increase in workload with over a third adding that the pace has either remained or continues to grow.

Moreover, only 22 percent reported no increase at all. This is not surprising when we consider the many hats pastors wear not only in their organization but in their community. Consider the organizational, ministry, financial, and pastoral dimensions of leading a church in this season.

Like many other organizational leaders, pastors have had to move their staff online. Many leaders have found that the challenge of learning how to hold remote meetings, manage projects while disconnected, and install operating and communication policies that are healthy and productive is far more difficult than they believed.

Just as challenging has been the transition of church ministries and the Sunday services to online. More than just creating engaging services, this transition for churches comes with many complications in learning how to reinvent small groups, ...

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Source: What Do Pastors Need Today? Assessing Our Status in Order to Move Ahead

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[Cfamily]George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston
« Reply #1659 on: June 01, 2020, 01:00:25 AM »
George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston

As a person of peace, “Big Floyd” opened up ministry opportunities in the Third Ward housing projects.

The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a “person of peace” ushering ministries into the area.

Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, the 46-year-old spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward, where he was called “Big Floyd” and regarded as an “OG,” a de-facto community leader and elder statesmen, his ministry partners say.

Floyd spoke of breaking the cycle of violence he saw among young people and used his influence to bring outside ministries to the area to do discipleship and outreach, particularly in the Cuney Homes housing project, locally known as “the Bricks.”

“George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in,” said Patrick PT Ngwolo, pastor of Resurrection Houston, which held services at Cuney.

“The platform for us to reach that neighborhood and the hundreds of people we reached through that time and up to now was built on the backs of people like Floyd,” he told Christianity Today.

Ngwolo and fellow leaders met Floyd in 2010. He was a towering 6-foot-6 guest who showed up at a benefit concert they put on for the Third Ward. From the start, Big Floyd made his priorities clear.

“He said, ‘I love what you’re doing. The neighborhood need it, the community need it, and if y’all about God’s business, then that’s my business,’” said Corey Paul Davis, a Christian hip-hop ...

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Source: George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston

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Vulnerable Gulf Migrants Offered ‘God’s Karuna’ in Bible Society Outreach

In prayer, aid, and employment, Christian ministries struggle to adapt to the new coronavirus norms.

There is no social distancing in a labor camp.

Living in cramped conditions, sometimes 10 to a room, migrant workers in the Gulf are widely considered among the international communities most vulnerable to the new coronavirus.

Seeking a share of the region’s petrodollars as remittances for their poor families and communities back home, migrant laborers far outnumber the Middle Eastern region’s citizen population—as high as 80 percent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

And hailing primarily from Asian nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India, they make up the great majority of the region’s more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Yet from one of their languages emerges a homonym that may birth hope for the languishing workers.

“It is not corona, but karuna, which means mercy in Telugu,” said Prasad, a migrant worker from India, to the Bible Society in the Gulf (BSG).

“God is giving us the opportunity to turn to Him.”

There are 20 million Indian migrants worldwide, and 1.5 million are Telugu speakers working in the Gulf states. Many have lost their jobs or had their salaries reduced due to the economic shutdown.

The Bible society seized on Prasad’s observation to publish a new booklet in Telugu and English, appropriately titled God’s Karuna.

Its content reflects the upside-down nature of the COVID-19 world—and of God’s kingdom. There are frequent references to “humbled nations,” “greedy people,” and “exploitation of the poor.”

Though reputable Gulf agencies exist to recruit and employ migrant labor, the BSG has been a frequent critic of the “slave-like conditions” suffered by many.

“Even the strong ...

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Source: Vulnerable Gulf Migrants Offered ‘God’s Karuna’ in Bible Society Outreach

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Race, Gospel, and Justice: An Interview with Esau McCaulley, Part One

I don't know what it is to be a minority in America. That's why this series will focus on the thoughts of those who do.

May 25. Memorial Day.

A holiday set aside to remember with gratitude and pride all the valiant soldiers who lost their lives throughout history in service to the United States. But this Memorial Day, we watched a video that reminded us instead of the horror and shame of racism that continues in America—the horror of watching George Floyd pinned down, a knee to his neck, until he no longer had breath, and as bystanders called for the police to let him up, will not be easily forgotten.

Nor should it.

"I Can't Breathe"

Videos of the officers and their treatment of George Floyd have gone viral globally. We have since seen the termination of all four officers involved and the arrest of Derek Chauvin, the officer whose knee caused Floyd to cry, "I can't breathe." We pray for justice on behalf of a man who died needlessly and cruelly.

We saw the unrest that followed. Now, we see protests in cities across our country. Many of the protestors, seeking to do so peacefully, were also opposing others who invaded the protests, inciting riots as well. We heard articulate calls for peaceful marches from Mayor Bottoms of Atlanta.

She called on protestors: "What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is chaos."

Social distancing measures were quickly forgotten as thousands gathered in cities nationally, portending a potential spike in the coronavirus in the middle of the outcries for justice.

We saw Ahmaud Arbery killed in February, followed by the arrest and murder charge of father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael. On March 13, just as the pandemic's impact was beginning to be fully realized, Breonna ...

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Source: Race, Gospel, and Justice: An Interview with Esau McCaulley, Part One

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George Floyd Protests Mark a Turning Point for Minneapolis Evangelicals

From cleanup efforts to sermons against systemic racism, local pastors say an effective response requires they listen to the communities hurting the most.

Dozens of evangelical churches are joining together to help Minneapolis as protests against racism and police violence rock the city and destructive riots devastate minority neighborhoods.

In the week after the death of George Floyd, local evangelicals have participated in the citywide response, donating food and supplies and rallying volunteers for cleanup efforts. But as church leaders consider the long-term needs that will continue when the news cycle and national attention move on, they’ve realized how important it is to work together to coordinate their responses.

“People want to just do something, but that doesn’t mean we know what to do,” said Shawna Boren, the engagement pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul. “We’re really trying to be effective by listening to the churches in the neighborhoods that are affected and doing what they tell us to do.”

Boren was one of more than 250 ministers who joined a Zoom call on Monday to discuss ways that churches can collaborate. The call was organized by Transform Minnesota, an evangelical organization that brings pastors together to wrestle with social issues.

The church leaders heard about specific community needs, like baby formula and hand sanitizer. They shared their exhaustion after months of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. They talked about best practices for helping clean up after a riot, like checking in with community leaders before showing up in a neighborhood with a van full of people. And they discussed concerns about how helping could hurt.

“We don’t need saviors. What we need are partners,” Charvez Russell, a black Baptist pastor, told the group. “Yes, we need your help right now. Yes, we ...

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Source: George Floyd Protests Mark a Turning Point for Minneapolis Evangelicals

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Can Churches Reopen Like Businesses? In Minnesota, Yes. In Nevada, No.

  Despite Supreme Court decision, religious liberty advocates clash with states over varying rules.

In Minnesota, all it took was a letter to get the governor’s attention. In Nevada, it might take a lawsuit.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an executive order allowing restaurants, pools, fitness centers, and cannabis dispensaries to open at half capacity. But worship services were capped at 50 people, regardless of the size of the building. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is going to court to argue that houses of worship can’t be treated differently under the law.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued a similar order with varying rules for churches and for-profit businesses, but when he was contacted by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Walz made adjustments. Worship services can now open up to 25 percent capacity in Minnesota.

“Churches were happy to work with the governor to come to that solution,” said Diana Verm, senior counsel for Becket. “They didn’t want to litigate or buck the system. They wanted to open safely, cooperatively, and responsibly.”

In Nevada, things have gone another direction, according to Ryan Tucker, ADF senior counsel and director of the Center for Christian Ministries.

“There was a collection of churches that reached out via letter to the governor, and those attempts proved futile,” Tucker said. ADF has filed a suit against the state on behalf of Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Dayton, Nevada, outside of Carson City.

Tucker and Verm both said their clients don’t want to jeopardize the health of church members or the broader community. But when they see other establishments treated with less scrutiny than religious institutions, it is a clear violation of the First Amendment protections.

As governors develop and implement plans to end the COVID-19 ...

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Source: Can Churches Reopen Like Businesses? In Minnesota, Yes. In Nevada, No.

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