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Report of the Church Council and Ministries of Grace Hills
June 21, 2020
Purpose of this Report
On March 15, 2020, the church met for worship in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, the church’s gatherings have been restricted, both by a sincere desire to protect our congregation and our community, and by guidance from the state government. Due to this, we have been unable to meet for, among other things, our regular business meetings.
In the interim, the church council, deacons, essential church leaders, and church staff have led us in ongoing ministry and mission. This is the 3-month report of the activities of the church in this “scattered” time.
Report of the Church Council
The Church Council has communicated via e-mail and met (virtually) twice since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Much of our work was centered on scheduling of services and adopting plans for how to carry on the work of the church during this time of “scattered” instead of “gathered” church. The main focus was on prioritizing safety while also promoting the ministry of Grace Hills in new ways.
To help in this, we approved application for a grant from the BGAV to help with feeding children in our community ($1000.00), and added $1000.00 from our own Disaster Relief designated account. This combined funding joined the funds of several other churches in supporting a backpack feeding program.
The Council also endorsed (along with the deacons) applying for funds through the Payroll Protection Plan, available through the federal CARES Act, which helps small businesses and other organizations with payroll and utility expenses during this uncertain time. More information on that is included in the Treasurer’s Report.
The Council considered a request from the Appomattox County Public Schools about support for summer school (hosting a site at the church). After much discussion, the Council approved this; however, by that point the school system had found sufficient locations to host.
Due to the restrictions on gathering together, and wanting to encourage the church congregation to make their own decisions based on their own safety needs, the Council did not schedule business meetings in April, May, or June. July’s scheduled meeting is tentative; the Council meets Monday, June 22, and will consider the current and projected situation in our community before scheduling July events.
Report of the Pastor
I met on Monday, March 16, with our music minister, chair of deacons, and youth pastor to begin planning for the season ahead; none of us knew we’d still be in it on June 21! We made a plan for ministry when we couldn’t gather at the church, and took it to the church council and deacons. That plan, with suggestions and revisions, has helped us carry forth the ministry of Grace Hills over the past three months.
Connecting with God: We have made a huge effort at shifting our worship into new avenues these past three months. Nancy Williams and the choir and other musicians have been incredible at providing music for our worship services in new ways. We have adapted to streaming via Facebook, and it has gotten easier each week. Drive-in services on Easter, Pentecost, and June 7 were effective and well-attended. CDs continue to be available to church members who desire them, thanks to Ruth Perry’s hard work. Our worship team has worked hard and been incredibly flexible, and the result has been a quality and effective worship experience these past 3 months.
Caring for One Another: Led by our deacons, we have worked hard at staying connected to one another and encouraging one another in this difficult time. Our deacons have made calls and sent notes regularly, and then try to help with the needs they find among our church family. Our youth have also been involved in this effort.
Engage the World: While this has been more difficult during the COVID pandemic, the church has made significant effort in caring for needs around us. The funding of the feeding program has been a good work that our past generosity has made possible. Beyond that, the Good Neighbor Center and Deacons have done good work in supporting those in need, and the Youth have done mission projects as well (see the relevant reports).
Grow in Christ: This area was the biggest challenge for us in that March 16 meeting, since so much of our effort on Growing in Christ takes place through our small group gatherings (Sunday School, Bible study, prayer meeting, etc.). However, after much creative work, we were able to develop a multi-focused approach. Each week, we have a Sunday School lesson posted to our Facebook page, led by one of our excellent teachers or other gifted church members. On Tuesdays, we have a Zoom Bible study on the book of Philippians. Wednesdays include options for in-person prayer and Facebook prayer. And each morning, there is a shared time of daily prayer (through mail-outs and Facebook videos).
In all of this, I cannot praise enough the hard work of our staff and lay leaders, particularly the Church Council, Deacons, and core committee chairpersons. I especially want to thank Nancy Williams and Susie Thomas for their creativity and flexibility with worship, Lara Peterson for wearing many hats and wearing them all well, and Ruth Perry and Monica Ewers for their hard work in the main office these past three months. It has been a stressful and exhausting time for all of us, but it has truly been a joy to pastor this church through this COVID crisis, as I have seen members both old and new step forward and contribute in powerful ways to the ministry of the church. Thank you all!
Report of the Treasurer
NOTE: This information is available to church members offline. If you are part of the church and would like a copy of this report with the financial information included, please call the church office at (434) 352-8847, or e-mail our administrative assistant Ruth Perry at [email protected]
Report of the Deacon Council
The 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic provided rewards and challenges for Grace Hills and the deacons during the past several months. We are blessed with loving, caring servant ministers who have worked diligently to keep in regular contact with members and families to share Christian love and encouragement and respond to needs. Monthly Deacon Council meetings were held through Zoom.
During March, April, and May, funds in the amount of $2,618 were distributed from the Richard B. Carter Benevolence Fund to help with medical expenses, electric bills, personal/family situations, food, shelter as a result of a house fire, shelter as a result of traveling due to Covid-19, and care for others, with a total of more than 20 individuals and families served. Thank you, Grace Hills for caring for those experiencing significant challenges.
Report of the Music Minister
For worship music during the early days of Covid-19 limitation, we brought in soloists (vocal and handbell) and small groups (from April 12 through May 24). A small choir, those who were willing to take the risk, returned to spaced-out rehearsing at that time and began to sing for both streamed and drive-in worship. The faithfulness of each of these musicians is so encouraging to me. Handbells will return to rehearsing June 18 (duet) and 25 (full bell choir), in order to present worship music in July.
Most exciting has been the team effort to learn to stream worship and to use a low-power radio transmitter to present drive-in worship. Some equipment has been added to both the built-in sound system (sanctuary) and the portable sound system, and the benefit from all this is that we can continue to use these methods of presenting Grace Hills worship and Bible study during brighter and safer days in the future. Adam has led out in this work, and his willingness to learn these presentation methods is something we all value and appreciate.
Report of the Youth Pastor
The Grace Hills Youth Group has been active during this time of quarantine. We have had weekly Zoom meetings, which included Sunday school lesson and games. The Youth Group also treated the ELC workers with treat bags, as they provided childcare foe essential workers. The youth and children also participated in a family scavenger hunt around town.
Looking ahead, the youth will be writing notes and do goodie bags for the Appomattox 911 dispatchers and deputies. In the coming weeks there will be movie nights for the youth (Just Mercy) and children (Dumbo).
As we approach Vacation Bible School, Adam and I looked at the recommendations and guidelines surrounding gathering under COVID-19. After much consideration, we have decided for Grace Hills not to host a traditional VBS this year. Instead, we will use an opportunity provided by our partners at the Baptist General Association of Virginia for a virtual, free mission camp for children, Impact Kids. This will be streamed on July 13, 15, and 17.
Report from the Good Neighbor Center
The Good Neighbor Information and Help Center has continued to meet needs in our community during these months of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
During March, April, and May, funds from Good Neighbor met requests for car repair and medical needs of several individuals/ families. Good Neighbor also provided CARE boxes for the Appomattox County Rescue Squad, the Appomattox County Fire Department, and the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Department. Good Neighbor also provided funds to restock the Grace Hills Food Pantry during our time of not being in church together. Food from the pantry was distributed to several individuals or families.
Report from the Early Learning Center Director
Over the last three months, Grace Hills ELC has remained open during the COVID 19 pandemic. The center was able to stay open with the dedication of staff, a supportive ELC council, and parent cleaning donations. Although we remained opened a lot of changes had to be made such as daily temperature checks, new pick up and drop off policy, and smaller classroom sizes. With all the changes the ELC was able to continue our school year and help our school-agers finish the year with distance learning. The pandemic did not stop our Grace Hill ELC 2020 graduates from graduating with our first outdoor graduation.
Please keep our Grace Hills ELC family in your prayers as we prepare for our new school year doing these unpredictable times.
May grace and blessings be in your path,
Grace Hills ELC Director
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