Dear members of Faith Lutheran Church,
When we resumed our worship services about two months ago, we knew there would be a lot of questions. What is the best way to worship? How much singing should we do? What will communion look like? What is the best way to demonstrate our trust that God will take care of us and yet use the wisdom he has given us? How long will this last? Will church ever be the same again? Is this still the best way to do things? How can we continue to serve those who don’t feel comfortable gathering for worship just yet? How can we help in the fight against Satan, who wants to use this whole situation to pull people away from regular worship? These are just a few of the questions.
Yet, in the middle of all these questions, we remember that there is one thing that is certain - Jesus Christ. God’s Word reminds us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Just think of the significance that has on our situation. It means that our Savior is still in control. It means he still guides and guards us with his love. It means that the forgiveness of sins – which is our greatest need – is still in rich supply. It means that he will continue to give leaders within our congregation the wisdom and strength to make wise and prudent decisions. It means that he will continue to fill Christian brothers and sisters with patience and love as we deal with one another. It means that all of his promises are true, including this: he will continue to work all things for the good of those who love him.
It was with that confidence that we resumed worship and implemented the safeguards we did. It is also with that confidence that we come to you with a few changes for our worship this coming August. These changes come after discussion at the church council meeting in July. At this meeting, the church council reevaluated our worship and ministry with help from a document from our WELS synodical leadership.
Another Worship Service Added
Since it would seem that COVID-19 has a greater chance to spread in larger gatherings of people in enclosed spaces, the church council has decided to add another service to keep individual services to a smaller size. This service will be held on Mondays during the month of August. The service will be at 6:30 pm and will be held at our Black River Falls location. We will continue having our Sunday services at 8 am in Cataract and 9:45 am in Black River Falls.
Studies show that different activities release different amounts of respiratory particles into the air. For example, breathing and talking release less particles while coughing, sneezing and singing release more. Since this is the case, and since studies show that COVID-19 seems to spread most easily through these particles, the church council has decided to scale back on the amount of singing done in worship. During the month of August, all liturgy portions of the services will be spoken and fewer hymns and hymn verses will be sung.
On Thursday, July 30, Gov. Evers issued a mandate that all people who gather inside of a building are required to wear masks. Since God tells us to submit ourselves to the governing authorities, we will do that here at Faith as well. According to the mandate, Pastor will be able to remove his mask during the worship service.
With these changes, we also take time to repeat these things that we continue to do…
- Responsible distancing will be practiced within the sanctuary and building. This means certain rows and portions of rows will be blocked off. Family units may sit together. Please use ushers to help you find a place to sit.
- The entire service will be printed in the bulletin so that no hymnals will have to be used. We would ask that you pick up your own bulletin and that you take your bulletin home with you.
- Communion will continue the pattern we have followed since resuming worship.
- Fellowshipping with one another is one of the blessings we have as fellow believers. However, at this time it would seem wise and prudent to avoid before and after service fellowship. Upon arrival, please avoid lingering in the gathering area and find a place to sit in the church sanctuary. Once service has ended and you are ushered out (starting from the rear of church), please make your way to your vehicle. If you would like to visit, the open air of the parking lot would be a good place to do this.
- Doors will be propped open to facilitate your entrance and exit.
- The offering plates will not be passed. They will be left in the back of church/gathering area.
- Door handles, chairs, and areas that are commonly touched will be disinfected before each service.
- Hand sanitizer will be available.
- Finally, we also leave you with this loving reminder. If you are ill, please do not leave your home. We would give that advice at any time. If there is a health emergency, Pastor will, as always, serve you to the best of his ability by coming to your home or the hospital, if allowed.
We recognize that when the church council meets in August to once again reevaluate our worship and service, some of these things may again change. That’s why we take such great comfort in knowing our Savior never changes.
Please continue to watch newsletters and bulletins for more information. Please call the church office (715-284-0772) with questions or comments. And please read the article that follows at the bottom of this page, it is take from the document provided by our WELS synodical leadership.
NEMO RESIDEO: OUR MOTTO MOVING FORWARD
That Latin motto is translated, “Leave no one behind.” It’s used in some way by every branch of the United States military. I remember watching my youngest son’s graduation from the US Air Force basic military training. I was moved as 600 young men and women shouted the Airman’s Creed. The last line of that creed states: “I will never falter. I will not fail.” The second-to-last promise in that creed: “I will never leave an Airman behind.” Nemo resideo.
In military training, that concept is drilled into young adults. I had a friend who served as a Navy SEAL. He told me how his unit was divided into training teams. Teammates were rewarded (or disciplined) not by individual performances but according to how the team
performed. Why? In the military, lives are dependent on a unit functioning as one entity. Everybody matters. You need to watch the back of the guy next to you. So, it is drilled into you. Nemo resideo.
Look after your brother in arms. Think of his well-being as your well-being. Leave no one behind. It is what our military expects of every serviceman.
Our Lord Christ expects this in his army too. Listen to your Commanding Officer. “In humility value others above yourselves”
(Philippians 2:3). “Honor one another above yourselves”
(Romans 12:10). What is Jesus telling us? He wants us to consider the needs of others ahead of our own needs, so that no one is left behind.
I believe that attitude is going to be vital during this next phase of the pandemic, as restrictions are eased. I promise you, there are vast differences in how your members believe your church should reopen. Satan is aware of those different opinions. He is licking his demonic chops, excited about the potential to pit member against member, to create dissension. If we are going to avoid that, we need to remember: nemo resideo.
Let me give you an example of how to carry out that attitude as we resume worship. Imagine three church members.
- Person A thinks COVID-19 is a big nothing. He believes worship should be conducted exactly as it was before the pandemic.
- Person B thinks COVID-19 is a threat, especially to at-risk individuals. So, while he wants worship to resume, he believes the church should take some precautions: social distancing, extra cleaning between services, etc.
- Person C thinks COVID-19 is extremely dangerous. He has at-risk individuals living in his home. He also wants to return to worship. But he feels that unless people are wearing masks, it is putting God to the test.
Do not focus on who you believe has the proper view of COVID-19. Instead, focus on how the principle of nemo resideo
would play out if your church were able to offer only one worship service. It’s a silly hypothetical, because your church could offer more than one service. But for the sake of the illustration, imagine that you could offer only one service. Whose view should prevail: Person A, B, or C?
If your church catered to Person A, won’t Person C be left behind? He could not gather with fellow believers around Word and sacrament. It would cause him to violate his conscience. But if your church catered to Person C, requiring masks in worship, would Person A be left behind? No. He could still worship.
Now, Person A might view the mask as a nuisance. He might initially grouse. If I were a leader in your church, I would ask Person A to meditate on three things: scourge, thorns, and nails. If Jesus was willing to put up with those
“nuisances” for the eternal benefit of Person A, it seems breathtakingly ungrateful if Person A cannot put up with the “nuisance” of a mask for the benefit of Person C, especially since Person C is someone Jesus loves an awful lot. Nemo resideo.
Again, this is only an illustration. A church could offer multiple services, one requiring masks and another where they were optional. I am not trying to make a point about masks. (We will discuss those later.) I am trying to stress how important it will be for us to exhibit a humble, sacrificial spirit as we reopen: nemo resideo.
We will leave no one behind. We need to think often about how Christ was willing to suffer any level of pain and die so that we were not left behind in a lake of eternal fire. Nemo resideo.
As we dwell on Christ’s sacrifice for us, his Spirit will then enable us to gladly self-sacrifice for others, putting the needs of others ahead of our own personal preferences. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had”
As you plan to reopen your church, remember, nemo resideo
. Realize that your people are all over the board. Leave none of them behind. If it means you need to continue to offer online worship and private communion, please do so. If it means offering different levels of care in different services, make that effort. If it happens that the service you prefer (e.g., one where masks aren’t required) is not offered at your preferred time, don’t complain. Be a good solider.
This side of heaven, we sometimes call it the “Church Militant
.” We are at war with dark spiritual forces. Let us look after the well-being of our brothers and sisters in arms. Let us love them as perfectly and selflessly as Christ loved us. Nemo resideo.