Denver, Colorado … “I feel like I am living on Zoom right now,” remarked Lonnie Hetterle, RMC Education superintendent. He was giving a report during the RMC Executive Committee’s March 31 meeting about how the schools in the Rocky Mountain Conference are faring as they provide virtual teaching in this time of coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Hetterle said that “for our educators, this is a complete paradigm shift. With a quick learning curve, we’ve all become like first-year teachers.” The schools are in a distance learning mode, challenged with technology, and with providing needed equipment and resources for some students. He summarized, that “the education system is actually stronger than before this crisis. The schools are doing better than anyone thought they would,” he said.

In his president’s remarks, Ed Barnett referred to decisions taken by the RMC leadership during weekly consultations which bring the team together on a Zoom call. In recognition of special regulations by the state and county administrators, RMC made a decision to close churches, schools and the Denver office until April 17 and recommend virtual meetings. This date will likely be extended in harmony with official government decisions. “We feel strongly about following decisions from our local and state governments,” he said.

Barnett shared with the committee that he is “encouraged to hear stories from pastors and teachers about how they are engaging with church members, coping with social distancing, and providing spiritual support.” He, Eric Nelson and George Crumley, VPs for administration and finance respectively, have been calling RMC employees with words of encouragement.

Barnett also informed the committee members that the officers issued a letter to all church members, mailed directly to their homes. In it, they referred to the Day of Fasting and Prayer, and wrote, “If you have any extra time under our unique circumstances, please spend quality time in God’s word. It always gives hope and encouragement. We are having a special Sabbath on April 4. We have set this day aside as a Day of Fasting and Prayer for the Church in the Rocky Mountain Conference. I believe this can be a day to draw closer to Jesus and a day to bring our Conference and each member into prayer.”

The committee was also informed that RMC 2020 Town Hall Meetings have been postponed. “We are exploring how best to fulfill this important interaction and expedite it during difficult times,” said Eric Nelson.

In his comments, Don Reeder, principal of Campion Academy said that it is “strange to see our campus with no students.” He also shared that a group of fourteen international students returned after the spring break and went into quarantine. “They could not return to their countries as international travel is restricted,” he added. The school is  “not sure about graduation if it will take place or not,” he remarked, and decisions will be made in accordance with what will be possible to organize in view of the restrictions.

“Pastors are doing quite well,” said Mickey Mallory in his ministerial report. “They are adapting ministry, evangelism and outreach in new ways. Many are doing live-streaming of church services. Some are doing zoom from home. Twenty years ago, we could not have imagined communication in this way.  But people’s lives are still being impacted by their pastors in these circumstances,” he commented.

Several churches are preparing to use It Is Written programs in their web-based online evangelism. The lay members would serve as virtual Bible workers. Mallory informed that training and class work is being provided weekly for the pastors via Zoom meetings.

The committee voted to impose a hiring freeze for any new employee positions that are being proposed. The filling of current pastoral positions currently under way, will continue. This includes the pastoral search for Newday, and Denver South.

El Refugio group, a multicultural Hispanic church, was voted in as a Company of Believers. Currently, there are about 40 members with 20 visitors in attendance, informed Eric Nelson.

Reporting on Northeast Colorado Catch 2020 outreach, Wayne Morrison, pastor from Brighton, shared that more than a dozen churches began evangelistic meetings at the same time. However, after the second weekend in mid-March, they had to be shut down due to the pandemic. Many interests are continuing via livestream, he said. “Some churches have not lost any of their interests. While it seemed like a disaster, it turned into huge miracle. Brighton had 10 interests that have not missed a single follow-up meeting. Attendance at church and Bible study has increased through the on-line services. It is felt that there is greater success in some of the churches. Some churches were not that keenly interested in the meetings but are excited now as they see the interest in those who are participating,” Morrison said.

In his Financial Report, George Crumley reported that total tithe is down 13.97 percent through February 2020 when compared to February YTD last year. The primary reason for this is a large windfall tithe amount that was received last year.

He went on to mention that “through February of this year, the RMC actual operations are tracking better than what we budgeted, but that as we proceed further into 2020, we could be challenged because of the impact of a slowing economy on operations.”

Crumley also said that many churches are signing up within RMC to utilize AdventistGiving, an online giving program developed by the North American Division. Church members can use this giving method for their charitable donations. Across the North American Division there have been close to 900 churches that have signed up or are signing up to use this easy-to-use giving method.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for June 2.

RMCNews; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski