As United Methodists, one of the primary ways we live into our shared life and ministry is connectional giving through apportionments. Giving to support the connection allows the generosity of many churches to be compounded for the work of the kin-dom of God. In Acts 2, we read these words about the early church:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.Acts 2:44-45 (NIV)
Over the last nine months, churches have felt the impact of COVID-19, applied for a supportive grant from the North Carolina Conference, and received support for ministry. We know there are continued financial implications of being the church and being in ministry in 2020. You are invited to apply for a grant as these leaders have done.
In a recent Conference Connectional Team meeting, the Rev. Chris Brady, pastor of Wilson Temple UMC, shared how a pandemic grant offered a learning opportunity for the congregation. Wilson Temple applied for a grant to assist with their food pantry ministry and help offset insurance expenses. Rev. Brady said that it was “an opportunity to demonstrate to my congregation the importance of apportionments. They have seen the apportionments work in a way, specifically this year, that they have never seen before. It came as a result of me speaking and explaining, and them responding in kind to the fact that we are connectional. It works both ways.”
Other ministries are dealing with these realities. The Rev. Kelli Taylor, Vice President for Religious Life at Methodist University and the University Chaplain, applied for a grant to help make it possible for over 40 international students to stay on the campus when they were unable to return home. The Lion’s Share on-campus food pantry shifted its focus to helping these international students, and some of the grant money offset these costs. There was a benefit for local businesses as well – some of the food was purchased from local farmer’s markets. In describing how the grant was used, Rev. Taylor described the grant as “a beautiful example of the university, the church, and the community coming together for mutual benefit to all involved.”
At their recent meeting, the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) discussed the annual conference reserve levels and investments, the needs of the entire United Methodist Church, and ways that they could help. CFA voted to use reserves to fund General Church apportionments in full for 2020. They further voted to designate an equal amount to support the General Church for the COVID-19 Assistance Fund to provide more funding to assist NC Conference local churches during the pandemic. Looking toward the future, CFA voted to designate an equal amount to support Conference Disaster Ministries in future disaster relief efforts. This approach demonstrates faithful support for the denomination, local churches within our Conference, and people and communities impacted by natural disasters.
Anne Lloyd, chair of CFA, commented: “Our connection compels us to reach. Your Council on Finance and Administration, after thoughtful deliberation, continues to reach out to local churches supporting assistance grants to help meet financial needs during an unprecedented time; reach up to our General Conference and fully fund apportionments; and reach forward to prepare for future disaster relief. We also know none of these actions are possible without the connectional support of our local churches. Our church is blessed by and thankful for your connection.”
“We are all grateful for the visionary and generous leadership of CFA in this time of constraint and great need here and around the world.”Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
There’s still time to pay apportionments – churches have until January 13 for any apportioned giving that applies to 2020. The application process has been updated for COVID-19 assistance grants. Visit the Local Church Assistance page on the Conference website and fill out the Local Church Grant Request Form. Remember also the Coronavirus Resource section of the website, which is regularly updated to help you in your ministry.
We are grateful for all the ways our Conference continues faithfully to steward God’s gifts to us. John Hall, Conference Lay Leader, summed it up: “[This] announcement emphasizes the strength and importance of our connection. These allocations will help us continue to be the church in our communities and beyond. Thanks be to God for the creative minds and generous hearts of our Conference.”