PASTORAL LETTER IN RESPONSE TO PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY, COVID-19, Part 2
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This letter provides an update on gathering for worship services, how to connect to streaming worship services and a call to stay connected and reach out to love and serve our neighbors. It is lengthy, but includes important information and encouragement to keep close to Christ. Please read, share and feel free to respond if you wish. Because of the length of this letter, I will send additional information and links in another message. Later this weekend, I will send out a more traditional newsletter with resources for you, your friends and family as we work to sustain our life together in Christ.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
A couple of weeks ago I wrote to alert you to prepare for possible disruptions in our lives as we responded to the possibility of an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our area. It appears that we have reached the point where those disruptions are necessary to prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus. From the beginning, I want to make one thing absolutely certain. We will not cancel worship, nor will neglect our life of gathering around Word and Sacrament, the prayers and love and service to our neighbors. We may, for a brief time, be forced to move our gatherings online or meet in different ways and at different times, but the St. Paul’s community and fellowship is not closed and our services are not and will not be canceled. At times like this, it is even more important to devote ourselves to prayer, to scripture and to the love and service of our neighbor in Jesus’ name. Through greater devotion and service, I believe that the Spirit will also be at work in us to calm our anxiety
and quell our fears.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)
As baptized followers of Jesus, we have been commanded to ruled and guided by love for God and love for neighbor. It is my prayer that you see how we strive have love, not fear, guide and motivate our actions, including our response to the spread of the virus. It is also my deep desire that you will participate fully and deeply in the life of this community online, even if we do not see each other in worship or in person. A loving response to this new threat may call for distancing, but it doesn’t call for withdrawal or seclusion, and it certainly need not result in isolation. Now is a time when our calling to serve our neighbors in love means doing everything in our power to prevent and mitigate the spread of this disease. Starting this weekend, there were some changes to our normal patterns of gathering and worship. More changes may follow. But while our gathering and worship life may change, our call to love and serve all people, following the example of Jesus is growing.
Changes in our regular worship services and fellowship.
Here are some changes and guidance for worship life together for the next few weeks.
Protecting the most vulnerable.
Out of an abundance of love and pastoral concern, I am asking that those who seem to face the greatest risk from this virus refrain from gathering at the St. Paul’s worship center and instead use one or more of the alternative ways we will gather for worship, learning and prayer. Those who seem most at risk from this virus are elder members over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions.
If you are choosing to stay away from gathering for worship, please let me know! It is an important part of our ministry to continue to stay in contact while we work to fight against this virus, and I can tailor alternative means of pastoral and spiritual care to match your particular situation.
If you feel well and have no chronic health conditions, and if you strongly desire to attend services in person, please consider attending our Saturday evening service at 5:30 p.m. and whenever your attend, please observe suggested distancing precautions, such as no physical contact in greeting and sharing the peace and leaving space between each other when we sit in the sanctuary.
If you are feeling ill or showing symptoms of illness, please stay home, participate in our streaming or recorded services and let me know the reason for your absence.
Changes to patterns of pastoral care
Expect a phone call. Since Christian love and caution will keep me from visiting you in person, except in cases that are truly matters of life and death, I will reach out to you by phone and I will enjoy our calls.
If you need some face-to-face time for coaching, counseling or support, let’s schedule either a FaceTime call or set up a meeting using Zoom. I already use zoom for coaching clients around the country, it will work for us here too. If you are feeling anxious, fearful or if you are sick or in spiritual or material need, please give me a call on my mobile phone or schedule an appointment with me.
Hospitals and nursing homes are restricting visits, even from clergy, except in matters that involve serious illness or end of life care. In those most dire emergencies, I will find a way to be with you, to care for you and to accompany you.
Rely on each other for prayer, care and support and look to extend the people in your support. Pastoral ministry is the caring ministry we share. Reach out to each other. Be ready to first listen and empathize with one another. When possible, act to help and ask for support. This may involve bringing food and supplies to neighbors who cannot go out. It may mean praying over the phone with a friend who is struggling.
Look for opportunities to serve
God’s Work; Our Hands. What a wonderful way to understand our calling to love and serve all people following the example of our master Jesus. It appears that to adequately love and care for each other and our neighbors in the days ahead will require some of us to give more time and energy to serving our neighbors and responding to need.
We are committed to continuing to provide food anyone in our neighborhood in need of food. We are making changes to the way we distribute food through our food pantry, but we are in need of young, healthy volunteers to staff our food pantry. In the future, this may include picking up extra allotments of food from MCFOODS of Community Food Bank or a local drop site. It may include delivering food and supplies to homebound, sick or self isolating members or neighbors. It may include helping local agencies provide services.
If you are blessed with good health, look for opportunities to volunteer and serve. This means we will need every young relatively young and healthy member and their friends to be available to help. It means finding ways to include our healthy elders. It means drawing on the love of God to empower our love and drive out the fear that is gripping so many.
Read your emails. (Thank you for making it this far ... keep going).
Overcoming your anxiety
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Pray. The Spirit led us to focus on prayer this Lent for a reason. Fear and the constant barrage of virus news can paralyze us and leave us numb. The greatest way you can fight this fear and anxiety is by drawing on the gift of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit that God has given you so that you can come before the Lord in boldness and courage to pray and then join the fight against the spread and suffering this virus is creating. We, as Jesus’ disciples, are called to live in witness to the victory Jesus has won over the powers of disease and death. We are called to love one another. Our hope for resurrection and new life doesn’t lead us to escape, but leads us out to love and serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus.
Finally, keep these words close to your heart and mind and bind them to your hands to do the will of the Lord in all things.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this this way: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him”(1 John 4:7-9).
Pastor Jim Krombholz
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