by: Christian Ilten
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace and Peace in the Name of Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Thanks be to God for blessing all of our Christmas services! Although the wind and the rain of Christmas Eve presented a challenge, we as God’s people with His help rose to that challenge! Given existing directives from local health officials and staggering numbers in regards to new Covid-19 cases, we will continue worship in an outdoor setting, at least in the short term. While we are certainly heartbroken by the fact that we will not be joining together indoors, we are energized and committed to provide Word and Sacrament to God’s people gathered here, both in-person and online. It’s important to remember that we have not been ordered to cease worshipping our Lord; we are simply engaging in worship in a way that falls within the guidelines developed by our state and local public health agencies and maximizes the protection we are able to provide those who gather here. Our rented canopy on our front lawn has continued to be invaluable in regards to our having the ability to continue to engage in outdoor worship quite comfortably.
Our New Year’s Eve 5 pm worship service will be available livestreamed via the church website and Facebook page. We hope you can join us this Thursday December 31 at 5 pm as we look back on a challenging yet blessed year and look forward with joyful anticipation at what God has in store for us in 2021!
The offering envelopes for 2021 will be available for pick up at both services; they will be sorted alphabetically and placed on tables outside the narthex (as weather permits) so you can pick them up this Sunday!
Please know that we are keeping tabs on what public health officials, elected officials, our district, our synod, and what the courts all have to say about returning indoors for worship. We will continue holding two outdoor services this Sunday and each Sunday moving forward, at least in the short term:
• 8 am, with traditional hymns, and
• 10 am, with contemporary praise music
As we have done since we were able to come back together, we want to make two things clear:
1. This worship format is only temporary. We look forward to the time we can return to our regular worship with more songs and a fuller liturgy. That time is coming.
2. Although we have been cleared to worship together in this outdoor setting, there are guidelines that must be followed; also, simply because we can gather for worship does not mean everyone must gather for worship. We will deliver the live stream broadcasts of both Sunday morning services each week, so if any of the following circumstances exists, please stay home and join us from the comfort of your living room:
• If you or anyone in your family has been exposed to someone with COVID-19;
• If you are not feeling well (cough, chest congestion, fever, etc.);
• If you have a pre-existing condition that might put you at risk for contracting COVID-19 (compromised immune system, cardio-pulmonary condition, etc.);
• If you are simply fearful or apprehensive of the risk involved.
We will also continue to abide with the guidelines established by the CDC and local officials, which seem to be shifting constantly. In order to do so, we have to continue to place certain limits on worship, including but not limited to the following considerations:
1. Face coverings are required for the outdoor service. Please be sure to also wear your face covering when entering and exiting the worship space or when walking or standing closer than 6 feet to other worshippers. Also, if you would be more comfortable in your own portable chair than the ones provided, please feel free to bring one;
2. Social distancing protocol must continue be followed; to accomplish this the outside chairs will be set in such a way as we are able to maintain 6 ft. distancing between individuals and/or family units;
3. For the time being, the nursery will remain closed – there will be no child care available during worship and there will be no “in-person” Sunday School;
4. Without specific permission to have larger numbers in attendance, we will continue to limit the numbers of those in attendance due to CDC and local guidelines. Those attendance limitations are as follows:
• 8 am Outdoor Worship – 100 attendees allowed
• 10:00 am Outdoor Worship – 100 attendees allowed
The sign-ups will be the same format as the last several weeks, and you can find the sign-up link here:
Please be sure to sign up only one person/family per space, indicate the specific number that will be in attendance, as well as listing the names of all that will be in attendance. Please do not bring additional worshipers with you that have not signed up to attend; once we reach the limit of attendees at each service we cannot allow any additional people into the worship space.
Through this difficult time, we will continue forward with an abundance of caution, patience and love. Remember that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Please be gracious and understanding toward one another, since many of us may hold differing views regarding some of the guidelines we must follow. This is temporary, and God will lead us through it. So if we are to err, let’s err on the side of grace. Continue to pray that God’s Word be heard by a world that needs it so badly.
His perfect peace be with you today and always. Hope to “see” you in worship this coming Sunday!
In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Eric and Pastor Pat