Fostering Healthy Congregations

One of the most frequently offered pieces of advice throughout our scriptures include some version of, “Be not afraid.” We are convinced that this comment appears so often because God knows us so well. God knows that we are afraid. God is not swayed by our fear, nor is God bothered by our fear. God acknowledges that to be human is to be afraid sometimes, particularly when we encounter things that are new, novel, or uncertain.

We are living in uncertain times, with the spread of COVID-19. It is understandable to feel a bit afraid right now. Let’s use that fear as energy, not panic, motivation to care deeply and carefully for one another and ourselves. This time is offering us opportunities for direct action that reflect our values of love, safety, belonging, and dignity for all in a wide variety of ways.

Below you will find online worship resources, preparedness guides, news from the UCC, information from trusted sources, videos, and more. If you or your congregation have resources and ideas to share, please send them to Aidan Spencer at aidan@ucctcm.org.

Ministers’ Moments: A Space for Authentic Conversation About Ministry

Are you an actively serving authorized minister or lay pastor? On Tuesdays at noon CT you can join a Zoom call to connect with your Ministerial Staff and fellow clergy. These are public, non-confidential conversations for our active church leaders to check in and hold each other in a peaceful space, ask questions, and pray together in the midst of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. The conversation may focus on a certain topic as determined by the people present.

Clergy Coffee Hour

A program partnered with Ministers’ Moments, Clergy Coffee Hour is a time for clergy in our Conferences to connect and visit via Zoom on Thursdays at noon CT. Sessions will be hosted by Rev. Kate West, Rev. Les Parmenter, and Rev. Mark Lee. All Clergy in our Conferences are welcome to join the Zoom call.

Clergy leaders in our Conferences can meet for online discussion with our ministerial staff at 12:00pm CT on Tuesdays and for fellowship/coffee hour on Thursdays/ Visit www.ucctcm.org/calendar for the Zoom link.

Resources for Churches and Communities During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic

Important Streaming Copyright Information

1. Frequently Questions about hymns and copyright law/streaming

2. A message from Heather Kimmel, General Counsel of the UCC:

As you may be aware, our churches, Conferences, and other settings occasionally receive communications that claim they are infringing the copyright of particular works, usually photographs or other materials posted on the setting’s website. In today’s circumstances, however, we could also begin to see claims related to the streaming of music and other works as many churches are holding worship virtually. In many cases the setting has posted the material without knowledge or intent of infringing a copyright, but that is not a defense to a claim of infringement. In some cases the setting takes the risk that the copyright owner will never bring suit due to the large expense and simply ignores the communication. In some cases the church assumes the communication is fraudulent or a scam, and ignores it.  In other cases the setting may negotiate a much lower settlement. Rarely does a claim like this make it to the level of a federal lawsuit against one of our churches or other settings, and that is ordinarily in the best interest of both parties due to the expensive nature of litigation.

The CASE Act will make is easier and less expensive for copyright owners to enforce their copyrights. Instead of filing a lawsuit in federal court, a copyright owner will have the option of bringing their claim for copyright infringement, up to $30,000 in actual damages, to the Copyright Claims Board. A claim can be made without being represented by an attorney. Once a defendant is served with a claim has been filed with the Copyright Claims Board, the defendant will have 60 days to opt out of proceeding in front of the Board, and proceed in federal court if the plaintiff wants to pursue it there.

With the passing of the CASE Act, it will be easier and much cheaper for a copyright owner to bring an action. And, if a church ignores or misses the 60-day opt-out window, the church will be obligated to go through the Copyright Claims Board and give up the right to have the dispute heard in court with a jury trial, along with full appeal rights.

This new legislation makes it even more important for our churches and other church settings to ensure that they have appropriate licenses for any copyrighted material that they are using, and not to ignore any notices claiming they are infringing the copyrighted works of others. While it may be in the best interest of the church to agree to proceed before the Copyright Claims Board, that’s a decision that should be made with the advice of counsel, and not by default for not responding to a notice.

The U.S. Copyright Office is developing regulations around the implementation of the CASE Act, and I will keep you up to date.

Heather E. Kimmel
General Counsel
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Ave. East
Cleveland, OH 44115-1100
kimmelh@ucc.org

Iowa UCC Churches who Stream Services

Iowa Churches that Stream:

Nebraska UCC Churches who Stream Services

Nebraska Churches that Stream:

South Dakota UCC Churches who Stream Services

South Dakota Churches that Stream:

NE Conference Covid Relief Grant
The Nebraska Conference has exciting news! We know that the local church best knows it’s community’s needs. The UCC Nebraska Conference has ten $1,000.00 grants available to help you assist in mitigating some unique, unmet needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
We have a few ideas to help you brainstorm how to use these funds:
  • Financial support for a local food pantry (could they use a refrigerator or freezer?)
  • Financial support for a school food program (like a backpack program)
  • Reduce local school lunch debt         
  • Fund transport services for individuals to get vaccines
  • Provide some rent or mortgage payment relief
  • Provide utilities bill relief
  • Provide medical bill relief
  • Provide Mental Health care cost relief
  • Provide Funeral cost relief
  • Funding protective gear (masks, shields gloves, gowns) care centers and day cares
  • Funding cleaning supplies care centers and day cares
  • Or your own creative idea to help your community as we recover
There is a simple one-page Grant application.  All we ask is that you report how you used your grant funds – a story and pictures are best – to coralparmenter@gmail.com.
 
Thank you,
Rev. Coral Parmenter
UCC Nebraska Conference Disaster Coordinator
Low-Tech Ministry Methods

We sent out a survey to our churches with their ideas and strategies for low-tech worship and gatherings. This document is the result of their suggestions! We will continue to update it, if you have more ideas contact Aidan Spencer at aidan@ucctcm.org.

Other Resources:

Youth Ministry and Safety During COVID-19
The Insurance Board and Pension Boards

Resources from the Insurance Board:

Resources from the Pension Boards:

TELADOC:

All Health Plan participants and their covered dependents have 24/7 access to virtual office consultations with U.S.-licensed physicians through Teladoc. Virtual office visits allow Plan participants to receive general medical care from the comfort of their homes, reducing the risk of exposure to germs and viruses. We encourage any Plan participant with flu-like symptoms to contact Teladoc to discuss symptoms, travel history, and recent contact with anyone who may be infected with the coronavirus.

COVID-19 Testing:

UCC Medical Plan participants (both Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement) are covered for coronavirus testing at 100% when recommended by a medical professional. This means copays, deductibles, and coinsurance do not apply for this testing. Plan participants can call the Highmark Member Service number on the back of their ID cards (1.866.763.9471)for more information.

UCBMA Emergency Grants

United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance (UCBMA), the philanthropic arm of the Pension Boards, offers Emergency Grants to:

  • current Authorized Ministers in the United Church of Christ;
  • lay employees of a UCC congregation, Association, Conference, or National Setting with a minimum of 10 years of service;
  • surviving spouses/partners of the above; and
  • Members in Discernment for at least a year.

Emergency grants are typically used to pay living or medical expenses arising from unforeseen circumstances that have created financial demands, and may not be used to offset personal loans, taxes, or non-medical related debt. The Grants are funded by the generosity of individuals and congregations to the Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund.

How to apply:

  • If Conference staff become aware of a financial need that fits the above parameters, please contact Rev. Krista Betz, Director of Ministerial Assistance at kbetz@pbucc.org or 212.729.2716. Please provide the following information:
    • confirmation of UCC status as defined above;
    • brief description of what triggered the request for financial assistance; and
    • amount of assistance requested.
  • Conference staff and the Director of Ministerial Assistance together will decide on a response – including the possibility of the Conference also providing financial support if funds are available.
  • If it is determined that financial support is appropriate, a check will be sent directly to the recipient except in the case of assistance to pay UCC Health Plan premiums, which will be applied directly to the invoice.
Music Resources from Amanda Udis-Kessler

Amanda Udis-Kessler is a hymnwriter and composer in Colorado Springs, CO. She is currently serving informally as composer-in-residence at Vista Grande UCC where she is a covenantal partner. She has made available several works that are specifically for virtual worship and also has about 50 scores on her hymn website which are all fully and freely available for use.

“We Are Gathered” – a text specifically about the experience of virtual worship and to be used during a virtual worship service. It is to Nettleton (Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing) so that people who are already familiar with that famous hymn can sing this pretty much immediately.

“History and Mystery”

“Now, As You Leave This Assembly Of Lovers”

“Spirit Gracious Spirit”

“Spirit of Love”

“When Jesus Set His Table”