United Brethren pastors were invited to share their church’s plans regarding reopening their church building. They were asked about changes they’ve made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and what restrictions they are putting in place upon reopening the building. There were no questions on specific topics—masks, social distancing, nursery, offering, etc.

About 90 pastors responded. The responses were compiled and categorized by Communications director Steve Dennie. This should give you snapshots of what other UB churches are doing, and perhaps give you some ideas as your church shapes its own course.

Bishop Todd Fetters has instructed churches, “Given the fluidity of the information and conditions regarding Covid-19, our local church leadership teams are encouraged to develop flexible plans that also give people the freedom to choose attending or not attending without stigma or shame.”


Seating

Seating, obviously, requires adjustments in the interests of social distancing. How to do that depends on whether you have pews, or moveable chairs.

Ten churches said they will space chairs apart, possibly with various sizes of groupings to accommodate family units (4 chairs, 2 chairs, etc.). One church is moving its service to the gymnasium, where they have room to space chairs six feet apart.

Twelve pastors said they will block off every other pew. One church is designating every other row for the 9:00 service, and the other rows for the 10:30 service.

Five churches are asking families to sit together.

Three churches are dismissing people by row, so that folks don’t bunch up as they leave the sanctuary.

One church took out its pews—which they’d been wanting to do anyway—and replaced them with round tables spaced six feet apart.

Two say they will use ushers to help seat people.


Capacity

Many churches are limiting attendance in some way, either on their own or to meet a state mandate on capacity (50%, 25%, etc.).

Because of the reduced capacity in a service to meet social distancing guidelines, a couple churches are adding more services and/or venues. One church, with only 10 people allowed in the building per service, is doing four consecutive services.

One church is limiting attendance to 40 people, plus 10 volunteers.

One church is asking people to come only once during June.

A couple churches are asking people to register to attend.

One church is offering two services, but the first one will be restricted to vulnerable people, with no kids allowed.

A half-dozen or more churches are doing drive-in services.

Four churches are making services shorter, to allow more time between services or between Sunday school and the service.

An idea from one church: “Started a new service that is the safest we can make it (limited attendance through sign-ups, first service of the weekend, required masks, social distancing, asking people not to sing along with worship). An on-ramp for people to start attending gatherings.”

One church is doing what they call a phased restarting: begin with a shortened service, and add elements as they go.


Sunday School

At least 15 churches said they will eliminate Sunday school for now. One church is moving Sunday school to the sanctuary so they have room for social distancing, as opposed to meeting in smaller classrooms.


Children’s Programming

At least 25 churches have suspended all children’s programming for now. That would include nursery, children’s church, and Sunday school.

One church said they will make the nursery available, but without staff.

One is continuing children’s ministry, but without self-checkin.

Two churches have closed access to the playground.


Distancing/Contact

Over 20 churches said they will encourage social distancing.

Fifteen will forbid shaking hands or hugging.

Only one church said they will check people’s temperature.


Socializing

No surprise: many churches are suspending the greeting or fellowship time as part of the service. One said they are replacing “meet and greet” with “stand and wave.”

One said they will have a “Walmart style” greeter.

One church said the pastor will not greet people after the service.

One will close the lobby and other gathering places, another will forbid gathering after the service, and a third church will forbid socializing in the sanctuary, foyer, and outside steps.


Refreshments

At least a dozen churches are eliminating any food and drinks (coffee, cookies, etc.).

Two churches are making the water fountains off-limits, but one of them will provide bottled water as an alternative.


Printed Materials

A larger number will not distribute the bulletin, but will make it available on a “self-serve” table for those who want a bulletin. Likewise for sermon inserts. Some churches are eliminating the bulletin altogether.

Several mentioned the goal of a “touchless experience” on Sunday morning: nothing to distribute, no Bibles or hymnals to hold, nothing to pass down the rows, no doors to open.

Two churches will forgo passing attendance pads.

Three are removing Bibles and hymnals from the pew racks.


Entrances/Exits

Entrances and exits are chokepoints where social distancing and touch can be easily compromised. Churches are implementing various measures.

Seven churches mentioned propping doors open, so nobody touches door handles or surfaces. Two churches will have a person posted at entry doors to open and close them for people.

Several are designating one entrance and one exit, so traffic flow goes in the same direction. Others are restricting the number of entrance and exit points in some way.

One church is assigning elders to observe people entering for signs of contagion.


Music

Not much was mentioned about music. Two churches said they will limit singing, one will have no singing, and another will use humming instead of singing.

One church is keeping the worship team small and 16 feet from the first row. Another church is using videos instead of a worship team.


Offering

A total of 41 churches said they won’t be passing offering places. Most will use a dropbox or basket somewhere, usually in the back of the church, where people can place their offering.

One church is using offering places, but not passing them. Only ushers will touch the plates.


Communion

As with the offering, many churches will not be passing communion trays—or, in one case, not doing communion at all.

Six churches plan to use prepackaged communion elements.

One church will keep people six feet apart as they come forward to get the elements.


Masks

Six churches are requiring masks. One church will require masks only for age 2 and above.

Thirteen said they will encourage masks, and 11 said they will make masks option.

Nine will provide masks. One will provide several masks in baggies for people who forget to bring one or don’t have one.

One church is encouraging masks “especially for singing.”

Some rules about masks apply to moving around. One church expects people to wear masks to and from their seats. Another encourages masks in hallways and entryways. Two encourage or require masks when moving around the facility.

One church suggests that people remove masks at intervals if they have difficulty breathing.

One church may designate the balcony and narthex as “mask only” locations.

Another church says the pastor and worship leader won’t be required to wear masks while serving in the service.


Building

Some churches are closing off access to parts of the building, to prevent possible contamination and eliminate the need for sanitizing those areas.

Two churches will use only the sanctuary, lobby, and restrooms. Another will close off its upper and lower floors.

One church is closing off the stairways.

One church will turn off the fan and air circulation, while another will open the windows at the door for cross-ventilation.


Bathrooms

Bathrooms can get crowded. One church will limit one person at a time in restrooms (unless it’s a parent and child). Persons using the restroom will need to use disinfectant on whatever they touched while in the restroom.

One church will assign persons to sanitize bathrooms and water fountains after being used. Another has bathroom attendants to guard against crowding and to ensure sanitizing.


Sanitizing

At least a dozen churches mentioned that they will provide sanitizer stations. In reality, most churches will no doubt do this.

One church will require attendees to use hand sanitizer before entering the building.

Two churches will require everyone to use hand sanitizer—in one case, before people even enter the building.

Four churches indicated that they will wipe down surfaces, pews, seats, etc., between services.

Churches are also organizing to do deep cleaning during the week.


Vulnerable People

In many different ways, churches have encouraged various people to stay home for now—if you’re over 65, if you have physical vulnerabilities, if you’re not feeling well, or if you just don’t feel comfortable returning yet.

Said one church: “Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable returning to corporate worship has the blessing of the board to stay home without any fear of being judged or looked down upon.”


Reopening Date

Churches also indicated when they reopened or plan to reopen. Here are the number of churches which have opened or plan to open on various dates.

1 — March 22
1 — April 5
2 — May 3
8 — May 10
13 — May 17
7 — May 24
12 — May 31
1 — June 1
1 — June 3
13 — June 7
1 — June 13
8 — June 14
1 — June 20
4 — June 21
1 — July 5
1 — July 11
2 — July 12
1 — August 2

Todd Fetters (right), Bishop
Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA

The fires of racial tension in our country have been stoked once again. After an initial sigh, which could be translated, “Oh no. Lord help us,” the scriptural words that rose within my soul were, “Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

My heart truly breaks for our African American brothers and sisters in the United Brethren in Christ. I mourn with you that race relations in the United States is not where any of us had hoped and would have thought it would be 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Earlier this week, I spoke with a personal friend and several United Brethren ministers who are African American. They graciously afforded me the privilege of listening to their thoughts and feelings. Despite a spike in frustration and a resurgence of fear and anxiety due to historic and systemic racism, each of them expressed an enduring and persevering love for the Lord and their fellow man. These men and women know that the real power to heal our pronounced relational divides lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we grieved together, but not as men and women without hope. Our hope is placed in God who created us without favoritism or preference, and who loves us unconditionally. Our shared hope for America and the nations firmly resides in the Holy Spirit who can free our minds from the chains of ignorance, bigotry, and hatred, compelling us to act with understanding, grace, and brotherly love. Certainly, I must say that it seems to me that God has our attention. I know He has mine.

With 250 years of history under our belt, I’m grateful that the United Brethren church has typically landed on the correct side of issues of race and the vulnerable. When most American denominations were compromising to allow room for slavery, we remained abolitionist. As the Civil War ended and other denominations were trying to figure out how to make room for former slaves, we pushed ahead to advocate for full citizenship. As we saw Native Americans and Chinese immigrants suffering abuse, we spoke out against it.

We emphasized this in 2001 when the United Brethren in Christ adopted eight Core Values. One of them, “We Demonstrate Social Concern,” says:

”We must not only seek the salvation of our fellow human beings, but show genuine concern for their total well-being. We recognize our responsibility to victims of poverty, prejudice, injustice, and other forms of human suffering.

“The poor will always be among us, and we cannot ignore their plight; the Bible clearly states our obligation to those living in poverty. But there are many others, whether they are poor or not, whose situation requires our aid. They include persons in prison, immigrants, widows, orphans, the unborn, the handicapped, the homeless, the elderly, and victims of abuse. We also respond corporately to large-scale tragedies, giving sacrificially to help victims of natural disasters or social strife.

“Demonstrating social concern also involves raising our voice against injustice and prejudice. We stand against discrimination, slavery, and injustice, insisting that equal rights be granted to everyone. We advocate fairness in the workplace, in the courts, and in all other settings, and seek the end of any discrimination based upon racial, national, economic, or social differences.”

This Core Value states some actions to take: raise our voice, stand against, advocate, recognize our responsibility, seek the end, insist, don’t ignore, help, respond corporately. As United Brethren, inviting anyone to “come with us…we will treat you well” (Numbers 10:29), we can apply these in various ways to society’s ongoing struggle with racial injustice.

Some of us thought 20/20 would be a nice metaphor for vision in 2020. Perhaps there is more for us to see. Perhaps 20/20 is a Divine prescription to see racism more clearly and do something to eradicate it.

While United Brethren can be thankful for our history, we do not take this moment to pat each other or ourselves on the back. Instead, we mark this moment by taking up the same mantle of our spiritual fore-brothers and fore-sisters, which is to follow the example of Christ and love our neighbor, regardless of color, as ourselves.

Amidst this tragic chaos, I have wondered and I’ve prayed, “What does the Lord ask of me? What does the Lord ask of the United Brethren church?” Micah 6:8 provides an answer from God himself:

“He [the Lord] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Let’s act justly. As individuals and as churches, we need to find our voice to stand and speak against discrimination and injustice. Our history shows that UBs know how to do this.

Let’s love mercy. Our Lord is patient with all of us, not always giving us what we rightly deserve. Just as we love receiving mercy, we need to love showing mercy.

Let’s walk humbly with our God. He created every man and woman of every nation, tribe, and tongue. None better than the other. All very precious to Him who sent His Son to die so that anyone might have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I realize that when it comes to issues of race, UB people are at different points. Some have spent decades working on racial awareness and understanding. Others have just recently been jolted awake to the problems. Wherever you are on that road, continue down it. And as you journey, remember to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

My prayer is, “Lord, you have our attention. Show us where to go from here.”

I joined with buglers across America at 3:00 PM to pay tribute to all who gave their lives for our freedom.

Posted by Mark Young on Monday, May 25, 2020

L-r: Mark and Kimberly Young; Kimberly; Airman Christopher Young.

At 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, thousands of musicians across the country stepped outside to play “Taps.” Most persons played the trumpet or bugle, but there were trombones, tubas, flutes, and other instruments. The “Taps Across America” idea originated with Steve Hartman, the “On the Road” correspondent at CBS News.

Among those musicians was one very talented United Brethren minister: Rev. Mark Young, Pastor of Worship and Music at Mount Pleasant UB church in Chambersburg, Pa. He has been on staff there since 2004, and helped lead music during the 2017 US National Conference in Lancaster, Pa.

Mark knows “Taps” well. For six years, 1989-1995, he played lead soprano bugle for “The Commandant’s Own,” the US Marine Drum & Bugle Corps in Washington D.C. For a year before that, he was a Presidential Honor Guard with the US Marine Corps.

Mark’s Dad, Rev. Paul Young, played and taught trumpet and baritone at the Navy School of Music before he became a Minister of Music.

“My Dad taught me to play the trumpet when I was four years old,” Mark says, “and I played it from middle school to college. He was my mentor all my life until he passed on to Heaven last year.”

Mark entered the US Marine Corps as an infantryman in May of 1988. Six months later, he became part of the Presidential Honor Guard, and served in that role until September 1989.

“In the Presidential Honor Guard, we stood in formations at the Pentagon for the President and visiting dignitaries. We did parades at the Iwo Jima monument on Tuesdays, and at Marine Barracks 8th & I on Fridays, where the Commandant of the Marine Corps resides. We were ‘professional marchers.’ All of our steps and M1 rifle movements were in complete synchronization. We marched for Presidential Inaugural parades and for other special events. We did 21 gun salute ‘firing parties’ for funerals at Arlington National Cemetery almost every day, and marched in formation for full honors funerals.”

They also trained as infantry platoons at Quantico, Va. In 1989, Mark switched to the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps. A month later, his platoon suddenly and unexpectedly went to fight in Desert Storm. Fortunately, all of his fellow Marines made it back safely.

“As a bugler in the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, I played ‘Taps’ at Arlington National, Lincoln National, and other cemeteries near D.C. with my friends from the Honor Guard (A Company) who did the firing parties. They called me ‘the Boogie-woogie bugle boy from company A.’ We also performed at the Iwo Jima monument on Tuesdays and at the Barracks on Friday. We traveled around the U.S., performing for several thousand spectators every year.”

Mark and his wife, Kimberly, met when Mark was in the Honor Guard, and they were married in 1992. Their son Christopher is currently deployed in Qatar with the US Air Force.

Kimberly, too, is a vet–a former major in the Army Nurse Corps. Interestingly, their fathers served together in the Navy at the School of Music in Anacostia, and their mothers grew up together, in both church and school, in Bladensburg, Md. Kimberly is now the Clinical Educator for the Summit/WellSpan Physician Offices. Among other things, she teaches new nurses how to correctly swab for Covid-19.

Thank you Mark, Kimberly, and Christopher for your service to our country, and for your ministry within the United Brethren church. And thank you, Mark, for participating in “Taps Across America” and sharing it with us.

UB Global invites you to a very special Zoom event on Wednesday, May 27, from 7:00 – 8:00 pm. It will honor the work and friendship of Jeff Bleijerveld (right). May 31 will be his last day as director of UB Global.

For the past 12 years, Jeff has provided faithful leadership and direction to UB Global. Many of us have stories and experiences with Jeff. So whether you would like to share a story, or would just like to support Jeff by listening, please join us.

If you’d like to participate, please RSVP using this form. Before the event, we will send the Zoom link to the email you provide.

Rev. Ernest Belella, an ordained United Brethren minister, passed away May 15, 2020, at age 94. Friends and family are welcome to leave their condolences on this memorial page.

A graveside service will be held on Saturday, May 30, at the Oakwood Cemetery in Stryker, Ohio. Social distancing will be recommended. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ernie’s name to the Stryker United Brethren Church.

The UB Global board appointed Frank Y (right) as acting director of UB Global from June 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020. This follows the upcoming departure of Rev. Jeff Bleijerveld, who has been the director since 2008. Jeff resigned effective May 31, 2020.

Frank has served as an associate director of UB Global since 2011. His niche on the UB Global team has focused around being the point person for work in two fields, supervising overseas staff, and engaging with domestic churches.

Frank and his wife are members of Emmanuel Community UB church in Fort Wayne, Ind., and have two young children.

Jeff Bleijerveld has submitted his resignation as executive director of UB Global, effective May 31, 2020. He has served in that role for 12 years. He submitted his resignation to the UB Global board on April 28, and on April 30 informed our missionaries and international partners of his decision. He remarked that, though coming from outside of United Brethren circles, “From the very start, I was made to feel a part of the United Brethren in Christ.” However, he and his wife, Charlene, have recently sensed God moving them in a new direction.

UB Global is the joint missions agency of the UB churches in the United States and Canada. Mark Wallace, chairperson of the UB Global board, wrote, “Jeff has served UB Global well for the past 12 years, and we wish to honor and celebrate the work that has been accomplished.”

On March 3, 2008, Jeff was appointed director of what was then called Global Ministries. At that point, he had been an ordained minister in the Missionary Church for 23 years, had pastored two churches in Ontario, had served eight years as a missionary in Spain, and since 2001 had been assistant director of World Partners USA, the Missionary Church’s international arm.

Under Jeff’s leadership, UB Global continued to expand its worldwide ministry. They walked alongside Sierra Leone Conference during the Ebola epidemic, and then launched a major initiative to put Mattru Hospital on solid footing. UB Global worked with Hong Kong Conference to assemble an international team to begin work in Thailand among largely unreached ethnic Thai Buddhists.

We added two mission districts–in Liberia (2011), and France (2018)—and the Haiti and Liberia mission districts are in the process of becoming national conferences. We launched partnerships in Turkey and Lebanon. And many new missionaries have joined the UB Global family, including persons now serving in South Africa, Ecuador, Jamaica, Togo, Kenya, Russia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Spain, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Jeff came to UB Global with a strong philosophical foundation regarding mission work. This came through in various policies and practices–regarding missionary recruitment and support, fundraising, our relationships with international UB countries, UB Global board operations, and other areas.

He has had help. Jeff grew a talented, experienced team at the United Brethren National Office: associate director Frank Y (2011), administrative assistant Jana Gass (2013), associate director David Kline (2014), and associate director Michelle Harris (2016).

Bishop Todd Fetters wrote, “Naturally, we are saddened by Jeff’s decision. He has always been a valiant champion for global missions. And to us at the UB National Office, he has been far more than a colleague–he is our friend and true brother in Christ.”

Please pray for Jeff and Charlene as they undergo this transition in their lives, and for Jeff as he considers new opportunities. And pray for the UB Global board, as they seek God’s will during this transition.

Rev. Richard E. Mose (right), 92, passed away Saturday, May 2, 2020, in Sharpsburg, Md. He was a United Brethren pastor for 40 years, and was ordained in 1979. His pastorates were all in Pennsylvania: Lurgan (Lurgan, 1973-1974), Mongul (Shippensburg, 1974-1981), Franklintown (Franklintown, 1981-1985), Ebenezer (Greencastle, 1985-1988), Criders (Chambersburg, 1988-1995), associate pastor at Ebenezer (1997-2003), and Lurgan (2003-2013). At the time of his death, he was a member of King Street UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.

Rev. Mose’s first wife, Ilene, passed away in 2006. He is survived by his wife Janet Mose, whom he married in 2007, along with three children, ten grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. There are also the families of five step children.

Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Rhodes Grove Camp, 7693 Brown’s Mill Road, Chambersburg, PA 17202.

You can read his online obituary here.

Nadine Louise Speas, 88, passed away April 25, 2020, in Grand Ledge, Mich. She is survived by her husband, George, to whom she was married in 1955. George was ordained as a United Brethren minister in 1987, and they served in the pastorate for many years in Michigan, including 30 years at Kilpatrick UB church (Woodland, Mich.). A private burial will take place in the Woodland Memorial Park Cemetery, with a public celebration of Nadine’s life to be held at a later date.

Condolences can be sent to Rev. George Speas at:

Rev. George Speas
c/o Jeff Speas
4173 Brown Road
Lake Odessa, MI 48849

You can read Nadine’s full obituary here.

UB Global missionaries Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin (right) are currently working at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in Central Park, New York. They spent the first few months of the year at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone, but were forced to return to Indiana early because of the pandemic.

Before the Toupins left for NeW York, UB Global spoke with them in a public videochat. The Toupins talked about how Mattru Hospital was preparing for the coronavirus.

Sierra Leone was among the last countries in the world to have Covid-19 cases, reporting its first case on March 31. As of April 21, there are 43 confirmed cases, and no deaths. Says Richard, “They are doing significant social distancing. The government has been very aggressive and proactive in closing the borders, preventing flights from going in and out, and restricting movement within the country.”

Around the end of February, they recognized that Covid-19 was spreading globally and would eventually come to Sierra Leone. So the hospital leadership began making preparations. The senior medical staff now consists of one physician being seconded by the Nigerian government, and three community health officials (CHOs).

Richard: “One thing the hospital has lacked for many years is a fence around the hospital. Community members take many different paths through the hospital grounds. So the first thing was to put a temporary fence around the hospital. About the time we began this plan, we received a $10,000 grant from the Southwestern Medical Foundation. Part of that money was used to build this fence. It has been completed, so now the hospital has borders, and people are not crossing through the hospital as much as they were.”

In 2014 during the Ebola epidemic, the hospital built a triage building. That has been rehabilitated. They also created an isolation unit for Covid-19 patients, using a ward built initially for tuberculosis patients. In addition, the government set up testing capabilities at the hospital to test for Covid-19. Says Richard, “There has been a very good relationship between the hospital and the district health medical team.”

Cathy: “When we had our meetings, the head lab guy said they would be able to test without taking the actual samples back to their lab, so that everything else wouldn’t get contaminated.”

Richard addressed the lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). “During the Ebola years, the whole world was focused on the three countries of West Africa affected by Ebola, so all of these supplies came into Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. That’s not the case now. While we were there, we were scrambling to determine where we would get PPE. It turns out there was a really good supply of masks left over from the Ebola days. They had thousands of masks, but some were damaged during their time in storage. The local government hospital on Bonthe island, downriver from Mattru, had lots of gowns but they didn’t have masks. So we exchanged that kind of PPE. Unfortunately, there’s a real need for gloves, and hopefully the government will be able to step in to supply that PPE when the time arises.

“As far as we know, there is one ventilator in the country. To put that in perspective, there are 10.6 million people in Sierra Leone, and just one ventilator at a private hospital. It is quite awful to think about the consequences of what will happen if this becomes widespread in Sierra Leone. About 85% of people do well with this illness, but 15-20% don’t do well and need to be hospitalized. Of those, a high number need to be on high-flow oxygen, and a smaller percentage, 3-4%, end up on ventilators.”

Richard said portable oxygen cylinders are uncommon in the developing world. At Mattru, they have large storage containers, and oxygen is piped into rooms. “So the only option in rural Sierra Leone is to use an oxygen concentrator. They require electricity, and over time they wear out. Part of the recent grant money is earmarked for oxygen concentrators, but the problem is getting them into the country, especially now that there is very little shipping coming into Sierra Leone.”

Cathy: “We have only one oxygen concentrator that is working right now. We used to have three, and we bought a new one while we were there, but it lasted a week and then broke. So at this point there is only one oxygen concentrator. We’re trying to get two more, but the whole world is needing them, and we don’t know if we’ll be able to get any more. We do have somebody coming to look at the old ones to see if they can be prepared, but they definitely need something to give oxygen to these patients.”

A solar grid was installed at Mattru Hospital in 2017. Some technical issues remain, but it has been a huge blessing to the hospital.

Richard: “Having 24-hour electricity is something we in the West take for granted. If the power goes out for an hour or two, we kind of freak out. In Sierra Leone, a significant portion of the country doesn’t have 24-hour electricity, and the same is true for the town of Mattru Jong. Having electricity 24 hours a day has been revolutionary for the hospital. It has allowed the lab to work 24 hours a day, and has provided lights into the maternity ward, power for the operating room, and power for oxygen concentrators when they are functioning. So it has revolutionized the care.”