This past week began with the annual meeting of the General Conference of Elders, which was conducted online on Sunday, May 3. This was followed by the Council of Elders meetings on Monday and Tuesday, May 4-5. A summary report of the GCE meeting can be found at https://www.ucg.org/members/news/update-from-general-conference-of-elders-sunday-may-3. The Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting report can be found at http://coe.ucg.org/council-report/council-elders-videoconference-report-may-4-5-2020-2020-05-06.
The results of the balloting for Council of Elders members are as follows:
• John Elliott — International
• Aaron Dean, Dan Dowd and John Miller — United States
When the new Council of Elders convened, Len Martin was chosen as its new Chairman, and Aaron Dean as Deputy Chairman.
We wish these men well in their new positions. I look forward to working with the newly constituted Council of Elders and, in particular, with the new Chairman, Len Martin.
Online Women’s Seminar for Elders’ Wives — Commitment to Our Faith
Sunday night was exciting and lively, as 98 ladies from around the world took part in our first online women’s seminar for elders’ wives. You could both see and hear the excitement as new faces populated the screen. Barb Welch set up the session by discussing how we are all part of a “circle of care”—that strong, compassionate support network of God’s people.
Carol Szymkowiak was our keynote speaker, and she shared about how being faithful is to seek God first, and how being committed is never giving up, regardless of the circumstances. Throughout our Christian walk, we need to be asking of God: In Your Will, In Your Way and In Your Time.
Afterwards, many commented on how wonderful it was to be “together” since we could not meet in person.
We have expanded our capacity to accept more participants, so please reach out to Lisa Fenchel at email@example.com if you are an elder’s wife and would like to attend at least 2 days prior to the seminar so facilitators can be in place for the breakout room discussions.
•Monday, May 11, 7:30 p.m. EDT — “Courage to Face our Doubts” by Barb Welch and Joy Jones
•Monday, May 18, 7:30 p.m. EDT — “Conviction to Forgive” by Barb Welch and Whitney Creech
Restarting In-Person Church Services and Activities
We are all anxious to start meeting again, where we can once again be with one another in person. Not a day goes by among us in administration where we don’t discuss this subject. As I said when we first suspended in-person Sabbath services in mid-March, our priority is for the safety and health of our precious brethren, many of whom are elderly. Our seniors are often among those who most want to get out and assemble with others; however, they are the most vulnerable to infection. As the nation and world are slowly reopening the economy and public assemblies, care must be taken not to put our brethren in harm’s way. I understand that we are tired of sitting at home and doing our work via computer and telephone, but let’s be patient. Some areas of sparse population may be the first to reopen. It won’t be long now.
Most of our meeting locations are in rented buildings. Since we need to make certain that where we meet is properly sanitized, we don’t always know about who else uses the premises. We are thankful that we own about a dozen buildings, and lease a few more that we have exclusive use of, and know who is in them throughout the week. All surfaces that people touch—door handles, bathrooms, children’s areas—all will have to be carefully cleaned.
You may be interested in reading the following two articles that I found helpful in understanding this transition back to our former state.
• ”The Things You Need to Think About Before You Reopen Your Church ” (https://churchleaders.com/news/374931-the-things-you-need-to-think-about-before-you-reopen-your-church.html)
• ”Churches Should Not Be the First to Reopen” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/churches-reopen-older-adults-coronavirus-risk-states.html)
Der Spiegel magazine from Hamburg, Germany, reported on the COVID-19 response of the Amish community in the USA. Efforts have been organized in large part by UCG elder John Miller, now a member of the Council of Elders and formerly a German office employee of the Worldwide Church of God. You can find the story here (in German) at: https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/corona-krise-in-den-usa-amish-gemeinde-hilft-im-kampf-gegen-das-virus-a-67e10791-ddc4-41e7-a28b-ca810ba589e1
Der Spiegel (“The Mirror”) is a German weekly news magazine with a weekly circulation of 840,000 copies and is the largest such publication in Europe.
John Miller’s company, Stitches USA LLC, has over 6 million masks in process, having just received a large FEMA order. They are subcontracting the work to Amish seamstresses, many of whose husbands have lost their jobs. They hate unemployment and other government benefits, so this project has become an important source of income. They will need to organize over 1,000 seamstresses for the FEMA project, which is a huge effort that can only succeed with God’s help—they have only 12 weeks to do the job. John Miller asks for your prayers for the success of the project.
This story first appeared in the New York Times at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/us/politics/amish-coronavirus-ohio.html
Finally, I want to thank you for the kind notes, emails and letters of support and thanksgiving to us at the home office during these times. Every day we ask God to guide us to understand His Will. Every prayer has been answered. Uncertainty quickly becomes certainty for that day. We pray that this experience can help us become ever more reliant and trusting in God.