Building Closed – But the Church Remains Open!

May 26, 2020

Beloved of God,

Our building is closed but the church is open. The most helpful words I’ve seen to describe this openness come from Tom Trenney, Minister of Music at First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska, and a friend of Luther College. (Thanks to Dave Judisch for sharing these words with me.)

Our church is open.
Open to patience and wisdom.
Open to science and common sense.
Open to discovering new ways to connect when it is unsafe to ‘do it the way we’ve always done it.’
Open to saving lives by giving up some of the traditions and sacraments we hold dear. 
Open to wearing masks to show we love our neighbor. 
Open to keeping the sanctuary closed so more of us can come back together safely when it is time. 
Our church is open to following Jesus who, himself, spent time in the wilderness. 
We will remain open, and someday, by the grace of God, we will be able to worship together again. 

I would add to this that we remain open to the Spirit of God at work in so many ways among us in this time!

Certainly, we do need to consider when and how we can reopen the building and resume in-person worship. Our COVID-19 Task Force, the Congregation Council and I are doing just that. The Task Force and I are working on our specific plan. We’re being guided by the phases of Federal Opening Up America Again document whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/ and a document from the ELCA https://bit.ly/ELCAreturn as well as a conversation Dr. Michael Osterholm held with ELCA bishops and pastors on May 7: https://bit.ly/2LQxn6L. The Upper Iowa River Conference Rostered Ministers of the NE IA Synod of the ELCA also drafted a statement based on the ELCA document that you can view here https://bit.ly/UIRCstatement

As the Task Force works on our plan, our Congregation Council is deciding on a month to month basis about whether to open the building and grounds and resume in-person worship. At the May meeting, the council voted to keep the building and grounds closed through June. Worship will continue to be online in June. We are being cautious as a number of in-person worship services, weddings, funerals and choir rehearsals have been identified as super spreader events. We are also wanting to wait to make any changes until we see the effect of the reopening of Iowa and Wisconsin.

We are exploring outdoor worship with physical distancing measures in place. However, many members in the high-risk categories would still not be able to participate in out- door worship. Families with children have reported they would struggle to participate as children don’t do physical distancing well. Since we are an inclusive and welcoming congregation, we don’t want to gather in ways that will exclude the vulnerable.  There is also a lot of activity happening around town in which people are not physical distancing. We don’t want to be in the position of policing people as they move into and out of the outdoor worship. Further, research is indicating that singing and speaking in unison, even outside, is still risky.

We will continue to explore outdoor worship options. However, given the limitations with outdoor worship, we are continuing to focus on ways we can serve the whole congregation well at this time. I am glad to report that KWLC will be able to broadcast our Sunday services again, at 9:30am on KWLC am beginning on May 31. The Worship and Music committee will be looking at how we can support singing at home in this time.  We are also exploring ways to offer a modified version of the service in which Holy Communion is shared with those who are homebound. We are considering offering this service for one household at a time outside the church building or outside your home. Watch for more information about this soon.

Please continue to keep the COVID-19 Task Force, the Congregation Council, all our leaders and me in your prayers at this time.

Peace to you today,

Pastor Amy