Lots of things have changed this week with the coronavirus situation. Every day seems to bring new information and new guidelines or orders. In light of this changing situation, I have convened a small task force comprised of some of our members who work or have worked in health care to determine the best course of action for us to keep everyone safe while also being true to our vocation as a congregation. We are working to put together some recommendations to be approved by council and, ideally, distributed to you early next week.
In the meantime, I have decided to implement some of the recommendations of this task force this weekend. Here's what you need to know:
- We are having worship this weekend.
- If you are in the vulnerable population (over 60, have an underlying health concern, have a compromised immune system, or are pregnant), we are encouraging you to consider staying home. The sermon will be posted online in print and audio by Tuesday at the latest.
- If you choose to remain home, do so with the blessing and the prayers of your pastor and your community. If possible, please let me know in a phone call, email or text so that we know you are okay and can make arrangements to cover any area where you may have been signed up to volunteer.
- We will serve communion as usual, but I would like to remind you that receiving the bread only is still receiving communion fully. If you choose not to receive the wine, you are still invited to pause at the cup and receive the promise "The blood of Christ, shed for you" with a bow or some similar sign.
- In accordance with the guidance from our synod office and in compliance with the Governor's order, we are asking people to space themselves out at least 6 feet apart when they sit in the sanctuary. We will share the peace with a respectful bow or by tapping elbows.
- We are suspending all Faith Formation activities: there will be no Cross-gen Sunday School, Confirmation classes or Forum.
Again, I hope to have more information for you early next week. For now, let me say that we are continuing to worship because worship is central to our identity as Lutheran Christians and as a Lutheran Christian congregation. Not all of our siblings will be able to gather with us physically, but it is important for us to gather with them in spirit around word and sacrament. Soon, we hope to have measures in place that allow folks who cannot join us physically still join us virtually or in some other fashion (e.g. radio broadcast, recording, etc).
Finally, although things have changed since last week, I stand by what I said in my sermon on Sunday. This is not a time to allow fear to govern us. Everything our congregation is doing doing is being done out of love: love for our most vulnerable members, in order to keep them safe and healthy; love for our community, to slow the spread of the virus; love for our neighbors working in health care, to prevent a crisis at hospitals; love for our all of our members who need a semblance of normalcy and to maintain a connection to God and one another in this time. We are not taking these steps because it is dangerous to be at church or to gather in a group; rather, we are doing these things to keep our gatherings from becoming dangerous so that we may continue to share fellowship and the peace of Christ with one another.
Look for more information to come. In the coming days and weeks, we will be working on new ways to do ministry among our community to keep us from becoming isolated and to care for those who need extra help in these anxious times. We all have a part to play in loving one another by keeping ourselves and those around us safe to the best of our ability and by helping our neighbors in need. Each of us will need to decide how best to balance those things. I invite you to pray with me for God's guidance:
Pr. Seth Novak
You alone are our refuge and strength. Give us courage, patience and wisdom in times of anxiety and difficulty. Calm the fears of your people, and reassure us of your salvation. Remind us that you have called us by name, and we are yours; neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation can separate us from your love poured out for us in Christ Jesus. Bless health care workers, public health officials, public servants with wisdom, strength and perseverance as they work to keep our communities safe and healthy, and remind us all of the promise of new life in the face of the fear of death. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, who died and yet lives. Amen.