Church Update

Update From Pastor Ross
Dear Burbank Pres. Friends,

After more than six months of the Covid-19 sheltering, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with updates on the status of the church (structurally) and of its ministries.  If you have been able to join us for the various services we offer online or “Coffee with the Pastors” on zoom each week, then you will know much of the information below.  If you have not been able to be with us online, then “hold on to your hats”…a great deal has happened since we last gathered together physically.

First and most important, the church has never closed.  Our programs, ministries, and outreaches have continued without interruption. The only thing that has ‘closed’ is our opportunity to meet in person. After much prayer and thoughtful discussion, church leadership elected to follow strict and safe protocols during this pandemic.  We value each and every member and friend in our congregation and do not want to expose anyone to anything potentially life-threatening. Even by following strict guidelines we have had a couple of hospitalizations and one funeral (non-member) due to Covid-19.

Here is a recap of the past several months in 2020:
A timely legacy from Jane Mulder came to the church in February. Jane, a retired elementary schoolteacher in Burbank, was a faithful contributor to the church for decades.  She believed in our ministry and wanted to bless the Lord’s work after she was gone. Before her death, she designated a portion of her estate to First Presbyterian Church.

The amount of Jane’s contribution to the church was $297,000. When our Elders met following the receipt of the gift, we all committed to pray for ways to use this money for Christ’s glory, after tithing $30,000 off the top to missions and various missionaries. At that time, none of us knew that the Mulder gift would enable us to meet unexpected challenges…those which arrived along with the pandemic.

In mid-March, the sheltering order came to us from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Fortunately, because of Jane’s donation, we were able to make a transition in our technology to enhance our worship services and Bible studies online (via social media formats like Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom).  Since March, we have found that the number of people participating in our services has grown exponentially. I have received messages and letters from people across the nation and around the world who tune in to join us for Bible studies, worship services, children’s programs, and student ministries.  Many of these people participated with us, because their churches were not prepared to provide worship activities in online formats and they found themselves at home without a church or a pastor to help them. In a sense, we have become “church” for many people and, though some returned to their congregations as soon as they began using social media, several have continued to participate in our services and have shared with me that First Presbyterian Church is their new spiritual home.  In an unexpected way, we have transitioned from a local church in the community to a congregation that has become a safe harbor to those from other states and other parts of the world.

By April, there were a few opportunities that came to our church in the way of property issues. At first, I thought that these were crises, but now I realize that these “crises” were opportunities to move us ahead in ministry before we return to in-person gatherings:

  1. The church parking lot sorely needed renovation.  Prolonging the repairs to the lot would have caused terrible damage and it had already become a hazard (loose gravel had broken off from the asphalt and was becoming a danger for people to trip over). This project was completed in July. 

  1. The church office had structural problems for decades. The walls in the office were crumbling and there was severe water damage. Since church staff was now working from home for the most part, the office was available to be torn up and repaired (including parts of the roof).  That project is almost completed.

  1. The water pipes in the Christian Education building crumbled. We knew that the 60+ year-old pipes were a concern. In fact, the Property and Finance Committee was about to enter a Phase 2 project to renew the building (Phase 1 was the completion of the sanctuary building, elevator, and new room spaces in that section of the church). Last year, the committee had discussed a fundraising campaign of $1 million dollars to complete the renovation of the second phase (this was to include the payoff of our Phase 1 work in the amount of $390k).  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, since the timing seemed right with no one on campus), the water main collapsed in the Spring.  We were forced to re-pipe the entire unit. That project is almost complete.

I am excited about the near-completed projects. Now with new water and drainage pipes, the Church Kitchen can be used again.  Over the years, the kitchen had become the heart of our ministry, since central to the work of our congregation is feeding people and helping them to gain stability in their lives. If you'd like to see pictures visit burbankpres.org/covidimprovements2020

Financial needs: We will not have enough funds to cover all the costs of the renovations.  At this time, though we will have a solid and beautiful kitchen near completion to do our outreach to people, we will need to raise additional funds to make the kitchen workable. We still need stoves, sinks, islands to work on, a walk-in fridge, etc. We are counting on the Lord to provide the means for us to get back to work to serve food as the early Deacons did in Acts 6.  Might you consider a way to help us make this happen? Visit our church website to learn the ways you can give. (burbankpres.org/give) 

Our commitment to missions has grown stronger and more funding has been given to proclaim Christ to the world this year than in the church’s past 133 years of ministry. Jane’s gift was an addition to our giving to missions and missionaries, for whom we already tithe all that we receive from gifts and offerings. If you would like to know more about the missions and missionaries that we support throughout the year, just let me know and I will send you information and a budget for them.  

In the midst of this pandemic, here are ways that you can help the church:

  1. Continue to pray for our congregation and others. Pray for those who suffer from illnesses or mental challenges as they navigate the days of social distancing. Remember the staff who have not had many days off or any vacation time, but have seen their jobs increase in time and demand.

  1. Check in with the church on social media or by regular mail. If you have an idea or would like a call from our pastors and leaders, let us know.  I am available to you by phone or email as quickly as a text or a phone call [email protected] or (818) 437-0233.  We don’t want anyone to feel neglected or isolated.  It is our focus to love people and to help them feel that they are a vital part of Christ’s Church.

  1. Pray for our Deacons. They have been going through the list of members, visitors, non-members, and people in our community to check in with everyone to make sure that no one feels isolated.

  1. Pray for Pastors and Church Leaders:  Pastors throughout the country are searching for and trying new ways to provide spiritual support for both the churched and the unchurched. They struggle to meet the special needs of those who have loved ones in hospital and to find creative ways to conduct meaningful services including marriages, births, and celebrations of life.  These are challenging times for us all, especially those trying to lead us through situations previously unknown.

  1. Consider ways to help us reach our goals.  Like Jane Mulder who truly saved us in practical ways by her gift, we need others who recognize that the church is supported by the financial help of people who see their giving as a way to bless the Lord (not just to meet a need for the church).  Please pray about how you can give to help us reach more and more people for Jesus Christ.  As noted earlier, our ministry has grown beyond this community to reach people in other states and parts of the world.  Help us continue to reach out to them to share the Gospel of our Lord. Visit our church website to learn the ways you can give. (burbankpres.org/give)

As I end this update, let me say that like you, I miss the handshakes, hugs, and personal contact we share whenever we gather together on campus. I take comfort in the fact that it will not always be this way.  We will be together soon. But please know this: we will do it slowly. We care for your health and safety above all things. In the meantime, let’s connect by joining together via online services, Bible studies, zoom gatherings, or phone calls.

God bless you,

Ross

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