Hello Grace Family,
What a year 2020 has been! There has, perhaps, been no year in Grace’s history where we’ve needed to adapt, create, and change as we have this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we gather for worship and ministries, how we use our buildings, and the finances that enable us to serve our communities.
While 2020 has certainly had its challenges, this Christmas, we are grateful that our doors are open and that we can serve Jesus Christ in the Capital District of New York. We are grateful for our health and the tremendous people at Grace. Grace family, it is an honor to live life with you.
As is custom at the close of each year, we are reflecting on where we are and where we’re going, regarding our response to the continuing pandemic and its ministry and financial implications.
COVID-19: Safety and the Supreme Court Ruling
As of December 17, the Capital Region’s 7-day rolling average positivity rate is 6.2%, compared to September 1, where the 7-day average was only 0.7%. Although we have hope for swift vaccine distribution and a partial return to normalcy in 2021, for now, COVID cases are spiking.
In 2021, Grace Fellowship will remain diligent and creatively structure our ministry methods so we can worship safely. We’ll continue to adhere to state guidelines, including a maximum of 33% capacity inside our buildings and 10 people in private residences where many of our small groups and ministries are hosted. We’ll continue abiding by CDC recommendations, maintaining social distance, masking, and sanitation protocols.
We will also stay up to date regarding the latest federal, state, and municipal regulations, such as the recent Supreme Court ruling on November 25, and the implications of those regulations on religious institutions. In any regulation change, we’ll proceed methodically and with patience, waiting to act until the data is clear.
Some sources and headlines have suggested that Supreme Court Ruling No. 20A87 allows all churches in New York State to disregard any and all guidance or mandates from Governor Cuomo. However, we’re urging Grace to proceed with humility on this topic. Contrary to some headlines, the Supreme Court ruling does not actually change much about how Grace Fellowship, or any religious organization, may function at this time.
Supreme Court Ruling No. 20A87 only gave an injunctive relief to areas in New York classified as “Red Zones” or “Orange Zones.” In these Red and Orange Zones, per New York Executive Order 202.68, religious services could hold no more than 10 and 25 people respectively. The Supreme Court found New York’s restrictions in these zones to be “overreaching.” Since we are not in a Red Zone or Orange Zone, this ruling does not have a direct effect on Grace Fellowship.
However, as we watch cases rise, and we anticipate reaching the numerical qualifications to put us in a Red or Orange Zone, we will still proceed with wisdom, safety, and discernment as we operate our campuses. We want to default to acting out of an abundance of love for our community, rather than demanding our rights. Love for our neighbor, love for the vulnerable, should be the driving factor in deciding how and why we do what we do.
Our primary emotion is gratitude for God sustaining Grace Fellowship during a financially tumultuous year in our country. As small businesses, non-profits, and churches are shutting down temporarily or for good across the country, we are praising God that our doors are open.
The pandemic has shifted how much people are giving, as well as how they are giving, and Grace Fellowship has adjusted to these changes.
Giving transactions are now primarily online, with 76% of our giving coming digitally – a change from the majority of transactions occurring via physical checks pre-pandemic.
The first four weeks after COVID-19 hit, our giving dropped 29%. Overall, since COVID-19, our giving has dropped 13%. We’ve taken the necessary steps to be wise stewards of our finances during a tumultuous season and have reduced our spending to reflect our new financial reality. We found non-essential line items that could be put on hold.
This summer, we made the agonizing decision to merge our Greenbush Campus with our Latham Campus. The decision to merge Greenbush was a difficult one to make, but we believed it prudent in preparing for future storms that would inevitably come as COVID-19, and its financial impact, continued to rage.
Despite our decreased spending, we did make the decision to honor our staff and are pleased to say that we did not reduce hours, reduce pay, or reduce benefits due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
Thank you to everyone who has given to Grace Fellowship – to those who have sacrificially given of their time and money – because you, like us, are passionate about making more and better disciples.
If you would like to be part of that mission of making more and better disciples in the Capital District of New York, you can give online at gracefellowship.com/give.
We serve a God who is sovereign and who will lead his church through prosperity and poverty, in times of peace and war, in pandemics, and in economic shut-downs. We serve a God who has a plan for Grace Fellowship, and we are committed to do everything within our power to fulfill our mission of making more and better disciples in 2021.
Grace Fellowship Staff