Dear friends, As we write this letter, we are reflecting on the strange situation in which we now find ourselves. We have all been out of ordinary routines for 2 weeks. We have been living in some degree of fear and anxiety related to an unprecedented and yet unstoppable viral outbreak that threatens lives and livelihoods. When will it all end? And when will we begin again? The second question is related to why we write to you. In almost every aspect, the life and ministry of our church is on hold. We aren't meeting in person for worship. We aren't greeting each other in the narthex or the aisles of the chapel or sanctuary. We aren't occupying our seats in Sunday school classrooms. We aren't gathering for a midweek meal and fellowship. We aren't packing Snax Sax for Kids. We aren't hosting Cub Scouts or AA or other community groups. There are no children on our playground or teachers in our Preschool and Kindergarten classrooms. There are no Bible studies in our hallways. There are no youth making music together or handbell choir rehearsals. The choir is not in the rehearsal hall on Wednesday nights. There is no life in our darkened building. And yet, we are still the Church. We are looking for appropriate and substantial ways to serve neighbors in need. We are finding more ways for more people to participate in virtual worship. We are gathering by video-conference for Bible study, fellowship, planning, even children’s choirs! We are beginning to define what it means to be followers of Jesus in new ways In the meantime, there are bills to pay and other financial obligations to meet. Our 2020 budget requires that our total monthly income be about $56,000. While we were only slightly below this for the first two months of the year, income has fallen to about 40% of the required amount since suspending our in-person ministries. We are working to control costs wherever possible. Many of our expenses are fixed such as the quarterly $7500 insurance premium is due at the beginning of April. The building and grounds need continued maintenance and there are other basic operating requirements. Our utilities will decline since our facilities are closed but we will also lose rental income from outside groups that use the church. Our programming budget is a very low percentage of our overall budget, and those areas are not spending at the normal rate they would be at this point in the year as all in-person ministry programs are on hold. We also continue to have our monthly United Methodist Apportionments to pay: funds from our local church giving which supports mission and ministry inside the bounds of the North Georgia Conference and way beyond into our national and global contexts, about $5200 per month. Salaries continue as our staff continues to perform their normal functions while devoting more hours, primarily from remote locations. So where does this leave us?
We have the opportunity to prepare now for a strong return to face-to-face ministry when we are no longer required to practice physical and social distancing. We are already finding ways to act on our deeply held value of serving others and welcoming everyone we can into a nurturing community of faith--even when we haven't actually seen each other as a church in at least two weeks. We delivered 300 pounds of food to the NETWorks food pantry last week. We are calling and checking on each other. We are seeing real commitments to spiritual growth in folks working hard to understand how to use new forms of technology to participate in our bible studies and small groups. We are "talking" on social media about ways to add value to our community that have nothing to do with the walls in which we gather weekly, even while we miss those gatherings and those walls. We are calling on you to stay faithful to your financial commitment to Embry Hills UMC for 2020 or to make a new commitment to support the church financially if you have not already done so for this year. We know that some will not be in a position to maintain the commitment you made last fall for 2020. We also know that some are able to maintain that commitment and may be able to help with additional resources in this time of need. It is critical that we stay focused on keeping up with our expenses so that we can stay focused on finding new ways to live out our faith and ministry in our community and beyond. The best way to do this is to set up a recurring financial gift to the church. You can do this through your bank, through the church website, with text-to-give, or by mailing your check weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. If you give through several large contributions throughout the year, we ask you to consider consolidating some of those distributions into one or two gifts in the first half of the year. A recurring, automatic gift can give you one fewer thing to worry about right now as you think about how to keep up with your giving. It will also help us make up some of the financial momentum we are at risk of losing while our routine is disrupted. Every gift counts. Every giver counts. The finance team will continue the work of prudent decision-making and watching our expenses to do our very best to live within our means. We are committed to staying current with our United Methodist apportionments and staff salaries. We are looking into any expenses that can be temporarily deferred. You can help by providing the financial means necessary to meet our obligations and continue to offer valuable ministry right here in our local community. If you would like to learn more about setting up a recurring gift to the church online through our website, recurring giving through your bank, or text-to-give, please reach out to our Financial Secretary, Lori Cora: email@example.com or 770-337-3646. She can get you set up for recurring financial support of our church. You can do it on your own by using the instructions included below. Our mail is now delivered to a secure mailbox affixed to the wall just outside the entrance to the church office. We are checking mail several times per week and making regular deposits while our building is closed. And while we are not able to be together in person, tune in for virtual worship Sundays at 11 am on our Facebook page or youtube channel by going to youtube.com and searching for Embry Hills UMC. Be sure to subscribe to our channel. Our videos will be available in both places. We can tell you from personal experience that it feels good to know you are helping to keep the ministry of our church alive and thriving. We invite you to join us in this effort as we work to sustain a healthy financial position for our church through this difficult time. We hope to be back together with you in person very soon as we find new ways to begin again. Signed, Jim Deichert and Roger Lee, Finance Committee Co-Chairs Pete Eisemann, Treasurer Lori Cora, Financial Secretary Todd Messick, Administrative Council Chair Rachel Fullerton, Lay Leader Rev. Susan Allen Grady, Senior Pastor