The coronavirus continues to spread throughout our nation, and we as a congregation must have a plan for response—especially as it gets nearer to us here in Arcadia. The purpose of this plan is so that we can move forward in a proactive posture of faith, rather than a reactive posture of fear. In these anxious times, it’s imperative that Christians be able to give a courageous and compassionate witness to the Gospel.
In that spirit, and in consultation with our Board of Elders, I’ve developed a plan that identifies four critical actions for our church to take moving forward—recognizing, too, that the coronavirus situation is evolving and this will by no means be the last word on this matter.
So, then, here are the critical actions that we have identified.
1. A commitment to maintaining Word and Sacrament ministry in flexible and creative ways
Gov. Whitmer has ordered that there be gatherings no larger than 50 people, and President Trump went further and advised meetings of no more than ten. As Christians, it is important for us to honor those put in authority over us. And moreover, in love we must defer to the care of the weaker and more vulnerable in our community.
Consequently, effective immediately we are suspending all on-site gatherings through Palm Sunday, April 5th. At that time the Elders and I will revisit this decision and determine a further course of action. Please understand that this decision was not made lightly, and I sincerely pray that it will be short-lived.
Nevertheless, we will continue to nourish God’s people with His Word and Sacrament in the following ways:
- Worship—A video sermon (from yours truly) will be made available for Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, and the latter will also include a home liturgy and links to hymns.
- Bible study—I’ll lead a live and interactive Bible study at 10 a.m. on Sunday (we’ll be picking up in Acts 4). More details on how to participate in this in days to come.
- Holy Communion—We’re going to attempt “drive-up Eucharist.” Parishioners will be able to pull up in their cars out front of church and receive the Lord’s Supper and be prayed with. I know it sounds hokey, but it is a way to receive God’s gifts without unduly endangering yourself or others. The first opportunity for this will be from 11 a.m. — Noon on Sunday. More details to follow.
Again, I know that this is not ideal. I hope that you understand that we are taking these steps in order to ensure the continued Word & Sacrament ministry of Trinity Lutheran in a way that honors our temporal authorities and cares for the most vulnerable in our midst.
2. Redoubling our efforts to care for the homebound, isolated, and needy
The last thing that we want to have happen as a result of this pandemic is that the least of these among us are overlooked or disregarded exactly when they need care the most. In conjunction with our congregational Elders, I will continue to ensure that these saints are receiving adequate spiritual care in a safe and responsible manner.
3. Cultivating community amid social distancing
One of the greatest challenges of this crisis will be to our fellowship. We need to find creative ways to connect, while also honoring the social distancing requirements. To the extent that we can safely gather in small groups, I think that we need to find ways to do so—perhaps in get-togethers at the park, prayer walks, or service projects (being outside in general is advisable!).
And while I’ve not always been the biggest fan of social media, now is a time when it can be to our advantage. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, I encourage you to sign up. And let’s not forget the more old fashioned means of phone calls and—dare I say it—letters. Perhaps we will emerge from this crisis with a more robust and well-rounded approach to communication!
4. Caring for all our Arcadia neighbors in need
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, our congregation must be prepared to serve all of our neighbors in need. To that end, we’re organizing the Arcadia Care Team (ACT—catchy, right?) in order to coordinate and mobilize care for our community. I’d like to invite anyone from our community, not just church members, to help with this effort; we need all people of good will to link arms for the sake of those in need. We’re also going to seek to partner with others, like BACN and the Manistee Council on Aging, that are already doing good work in our community. If you want to be part of this effort, click here to sign up now—and spread the word. Furthermore, if you yourself are at risk or in need, call the church office (889.3620) or e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to fill us in on how we can help.
Look, friends, it may yet turn out that this pandemic peters out with a whimper. I hope and pray that that will be so! In that case, we will have been well prepared for naught; so be it. But at this point, it frankly doesn’t look like this thing is going away any time soon. And so this is a time for us as Christians to look to Christ Jesus alone and not be dismayed. We need to be courageous, compassionate, and creative to meet this challenge in faith. By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will do so.
When we as the people of God courageously and compassionately band together in a time of crisis, not only does our faith and fellowship grow stronger, but the world gets an unmistakable witness to who God is and what He has done for us, and for all.
May He grant us courage and wisdom for the facing of this hour. The Lord be with you!