The latest news specifically for American Baptist Churches of Ohio.
March 26, 2020
Just a few minutes ago two students from Jane’s neighborhood knocked on her door and talked with her through her storm door. They were walking around the community, checking on neighbors, and distributing a list of neighbors’ phone numbers in case anyone needed to call for help. We’ve been delighted and surprised to see the compassion and care that is being expressed during this time of crisis in our country and the world.
As the Coronavirus has become a reality in Ohio, a number of pastors and church leaders have begun seeking our guidance to help congregations take steps to keep their church families safe. The following recommendations or ideas may help you as you plan for the next few weeks.
• Protect senior adults and people with other health issues. They are probably the group that is most at-risk at this time. As much as they love being with the church family, it is important to give them your blessing to stay home and be safe during the danger period. If they are not among you in person, please organize a process to check on them regularly (that doesn’t involve in-person visits) to offer encouragement, to be sure they have the supplies they need, to check on their health, and to make certain they are eating each day. The church is a good safety net in times of trouble.
• Protect everyone by limiting personal/physical contact. Most obviously, avoid shaking hands, holding hands during prayer, hugging, etc. Waving may be a better means of greeting each other or passing the peace in worship. Avoid home visits, nursing home visits, and hospital visits except for urgent situations. A number of congregations that have decided to continue worship have cancelled activities such as Sunday School, youth and children’s ministry activities, church dinners, conferences, etc. so that people actually have less physical contact. Ask people who don’t feel well to stay home for their own protection and for the protection of others.
• Make changes in the way you serve the Lord’s Supper. Many churches have decided to wait until after the most threatening period has passed to serve Communion again. This is a disappointment to the family, but it is better than being exposed to the virus as the plates and trays are prepared or passed. Some have chosen to use the sealed communion cups that contain both the juice and bread in a single sealed unit. These are challenging to use, but they are safer than open cups and bread trays. Of course, this is not a time for using a common cup, a single loaf of bread, or homemade communion bread, as is the custom in many congregations.
• Keep facilities clean. Use disinfectants that specify they will kill the Coronavirus. Provide cleaning supplies in easily accessible places at the church so that they may be used on tables, light switches, door handles, restrooms, and other places in the church building that people touch with their hands. Of course, all cleaning supplies should be kept out of the reach of children. Make hand sanitizer available in public areas and encourage its use. Disable or put up signs on drinking fountains so they will not be used.
• Be aware of the information and directives coming from our state’s Governor. He is being recognized nationally and commended across political party lines for seeking good counsel from medical personnel and taking a proactive approach to address the Coronavirus concerns in Ohio. The available information is changing quickly, so keeping abreast of the public information is helpful. While the Governor is issuing orders for nursing homes, hospitals, schools, universities, etc., he has been careful only to make recommendations to churches, honoring the separation of church and state. He has ordered that groups of more that 100 should not assemble. This order isn’t binding on churches, which have the right to make their own decisions about meeting. But you may want to consider the concern that the assembly of large groups increases the possibility that the virus could be shared more readily and widely, even when their purpose is worship. Some larger (and smaller) congregations across denominations in Ohio have cancelled worship and other church activities for two to three weeks. Others have decided to continue to meet for worship, but have cancelled other activities and meetings. Still others are utilizing electronic means to bring people together in spirit but not in person.
You and your church leaders are the ones who best know your congregation’s needs. We encourage you to prayerfully consider the best answers for your church’s care, safety, and assembly during the next few weeks. The two of us would be happy to help you if you have more specific questions you’d like to discuss. We are in prayer for the people of ABC/Ohio as you go through this challenging and uneven time in life and ministry.
Rev. Mark Click, Executive Minister for Administration and Denominational Relations
Rev. Jane Gibbons, Executive Minister for Program and Ministry Development
American Baptist Churches of Ohio
Janet M. Burget Holtzapple, 88, went home to be with Jesus on Thursday, January 30, in her home.
Janet was born on July 20, 1931 to Walter A. and Ilo Staver Burget in Lima, OH. She graduated in 1949 from Lima Shawnee High School. After high school, Janet went to nursing school and graduated in 1952 with an RN degree from Lima Memorial School of Nursing.
In 1951 she married her high school sweetheart Rev. Donald Holtzapple who she was married to for 62 1/2 years until his homegoing in 2014.
Rev. Holtzapple served as an ABC Ohio evangelist in the 1960's. He also served as pastor and interim pastor of several ABC Ohio churches.
Janet is survived by a son, Philip (Barb) Holtzapple, daughter Laura (Jack) Martin, and daughter Carol (Jim) Underwood, 9 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and extended family. Please keep the Holtzapple family in your prayers.
Rev. Gordon L. Thomas, age 71, passed away at 4:25 p.m., Monday, November 4, 2019 at Justin T. Rogers Hospice Care Center in Copley. Rev. Thomas He was born May 16, 1948, in Sharon, Pennsylvania to the late Lewis and Alice (Wasilko) Thomas.
Rev. Thomas was a 1966 graduate of Hickory High School in PA, earned his BA in 1972 from Youngstown State University and earned his Master of Divinity from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He was ordained at First Baptist Church in June of 1976 in Sharpsville, PA.
Other churches Pastor Thomas served at were: First Baptist Church-Sharpsville Pa. as an interim Pastor from 1971-1972, Geneva Road Baptist Church-Wheaton, Illinois from 1973-1976, Waynesfield Baptist Church-Waynesfield, Ohio from 1977-1980, Trinity Baptist Church-N. Canton, Ohio from 1980-1993 and First Baptist Church-Alliance Ohio from 1993-2010.
He was a member of the Lions Club, and involved with Goodwill Industries in Canton from 1984-1990, volunteered with Quest Recovery Service in Canton, organized N. Canton Singles Club and Big Brother/Big Sister Programs in Lombard, Illinois, and N Canton, American Baptist Churches of Ohio Adjunct Staff Christian Education, Moderator at Akron Baptist Association, treasurer of North Canton Ministerial Association, Moderator at Trumbull Baptist Association and Board of Trustee at Judson Hill Camp in Camp Koinonia, board of trustee for Neighborhood Ministries in Youngstown and 12 years as Director of Junior Camp at Judson Hills Camp.
Please keep the family of Rev. Thomas in your prayers.
It is with profound sadness that we share with you the unexpected passing of Rev. Dr. Larry Swain last evening. He and Linda were visiting family in Kansas City.
Dr. Swain served as an Area Minister and later Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio until his retirement in December 2015. He returned last year to serve as ABC Ohio’s Interim Executive Minister after the death of Dr. Ernest Jones. He was serving as Executive Staff Coach for the Region at the time of his passing. Dr. Swain was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, outstanding leader, and man of God.
No information is yet available about calling hours or funeral. We will forward that information to you when it is announced.
Rev. Mark Click
Rev. Jane Gibbons