A message from our pastors.
Siblings in Christ,
When we began this Lenten season, few anticipated the journey through the wilderness that is taking shape before us. It was difficult to foresee the details of how and how widely Covid-19 would impact our community. Information and conditions surrounding Covid-19 are changing quickly. Pr. Zorn and I are keeping abreast of the situation and working together to prayerfully discern how to proceed as a community of faith.
While the risk of infection is low for most of us, we are taking seriously the recommendations from health organizations about how best to gather and protect the more vulnerable in our church family. This call is prudent as well as faithful, a way to walk out our discipleship in care for one another. Given what we know now, we will be making some changes to our worship practices and programming for this weekend and suspending all worship services beginning Monday, March 16th.
We will hold all our worship services this weekend as scheduled; 5:30 pm Saturday and 8 am and 9:30 am Sunday. Fellowship time and the Sunday school education hour will happen as usual, too. There will however be some noticeable changes to how we have traditionally done things during worship.
We will not pass the offering plates. They will be placed near the altar instead for individuals to bring up their offering at the appointed time.
We will remain seated and not physically pass the peace with one another. Smiles and peace signs all around are ok though;)
We will discontinue the use of the common cup during communion.
We will gather in a circle around the altar for communion, but we will not join hands for the prayer after. We will still pray, of course. We’ll cross our arms or fold our hands individually instead.
Those who prepare and distribute communion will continue to use hand sanitizer before serving. Communicants are advised to use sanitizer also. There are many bottles and stands around the sanctuary. Please use them liberally.
Please take your worship folders home with you or discard them but don’t recycle them for further use at other services.
We know that people’s levels of concern and feelings regarding Covid-19 vary widely. We are taking these precautionary measures out of love and care for one another, especially for those that are at greater risk. If you are an older adult, someone with potentially compromising additional health issues, or if your level of concern is high, please stay home. You are loved and cared for exactly as you are.
Beginning Monday, March 16th we will suspend all worship services for an indefinite period of time. This includes Lenten and weekend services. This does NOT mean that we will not worship. Pr. Zorn and I will spend time next week preparing an online worship experience that we can engage in together using Facebook Live. We will send more details next week with information about how to connect and participate.
We began this Lenten season with a focus on Becoming Beloved Community. We anticipated learning and growing through devotional materials, reflection, worship, and educational opportunities. The changing terrain of Covid-19 is disrupting and challenging, to say the least. It also carries with it unexpected opportunities to actively and truly BE Beloved Community. In the coming weeks, we will need one another. This is a time of paradox, of self-separating while in deep need of one another. As Pr. Zorn and I seek creative ways for us to connect through other media, there may be times when it is appropriate for small groups to gather for prayer or the like. Please let us know if that is something you would be desirous of.
If you are looking for tangible ways to make a difference and be beloved community for one another, I encourage you to find your church directory. Reach out. Whom do you know? Whom can you check on? Who has been missing from worship that may need a card or a phone call? Might you be willing to provide a meal to someone who is sick or someone who needs help with childcare? It is likely that the disruption to life caused by this virus will result in financial struggles for some. Pr. Zorn and I have been doing a lot of helping lately so both of our discretionary funds are thin now. If you are able, please consider making a contribution so that we are able to help those in need in the coming weeks. We also ask you to be faithful in your stewardship to the church. Without regular services, feel free to mail in contributions or make contributions online through the church’s website. Your generosity makes ministry possible, and we are entering a time of deep ministry needs. Pr. Zorn and I are keeping close to this and close to the church family. As we learn of further needs and ways we can be beloved community, we will reach out. If you hear of needs that LCR might be able to meet, please let us know.
While none of us wants to distance ourselves socially or cancel programming and events, it does provide us space and time for sabbath keeping and prayer. Pr. Zorn and I will be sending the Taking Faith Home resources that are included in the back of our worship folders each week. They are a great way to use this time for Sabbath and for spiritual growth as individuals and as families, to take time for devotional and scripture reading practices. We also encourage you to be active in prayer. Pray for those who are sick. Pray for doctors, nurses, and all those who provide care. Pray for medical teams, hospitals, and doctors' offices. This is a lot and they need our support. Pray for our leaders and those who make decisions that we can move through this together well. Pray for one another and the challenges that arise from a new way of being, the disruptions of quarantine and of life significantly altered.
Thank you to all who have reached out with information to help Pr. Zorn and I navigate this as leaders. We continue to welcome your thoughts and concerns. Even as things change and are disrupted, we are here for you. We will continue to hold you in prayer, to make pastoral calls, send emails, texts, and cards. We will visit as is appropriate and as we are allowed (some facilities are not allowing visitors to mitigate the spread of the virus). Karen, Pr. Zorn, and I plan to maintain semi-regular office hours, but encourage you to contact us in advance if you need church access.
Southern Ohio Synod has provided some excellent resources about how we might respond to Covid-19 as Lutherans. If you’d like some more ideas of what you can do or are interested in Martin Luther’s response to health crises in his time, check out https://associationdatabase.com/aws/SOS/pt/sd/news_article/286254/_PARENT/layout_details/false
As we move through this together, remember “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Let us use good judgment, exercise the power we have, share the hope of Christ, and love one another as Beloved Community through this unexpected and surreal Lenten landscape. We do not go alone. We go together, with Christ.
Warmly in Christ,
Pr. Zorn and Pr. Nicole