Tag Archives: covid-19

HOW TO CLOSE YOUR DOORS AND STILL BE CHURCH: COVID-19 Pastoral Letter

Here is a Pastoral Letter that I shared with my congregation, which you are welcome to adapt and use in your congregation in the face of suspending public gatherings.

Dear friends,

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ.

I am sure you have been listening to and reading the news. Each day brings more restrictions on our daily lives. School classes suspended, more workers working from home, the closing of public places like libraries and recreation centres, and now restaurants and bars in some jurisdictions. 

I am sure you feel anxious and nervous as I do. We don’t know what is coming next for us and we don’t know how long we will be here. 

Here at the church, we are not immune to the changes either. Our leaders have been offering guidance over the past number of days, as the Bishops distributed pastoral letters that encouraged us to change our behaviour and worship to limit the spread of COVID-19, particularly to those who are most vulnerable. 

As this Pandemic situation progresses, we are learning that this is not enough. That the best way to combat the spread of the coronavirus, is to practice social distancing. And the best way to social distance, is to stay home as much as possible.

Following the recommendations of our Bishops, with the care of one another first and foremost in mind,

The time has come for us to enact a suspension of all our public, in-person gatherings. 

Beginning immediately, there will be no public events at the church, no committee meetings, or other types of gatherings with many people in attendance. Our worship services will be moved entirely to an online streaming format. Our meetings as they are needed, will be done over zoom. 

We do not know for how long these measures will be enacted, but at a minimum we will not be worshipping until Holy Week and anticipate the suspension lasting longer. 

It is a hard decision to make. Gathering as a community is so central to our identity as people of faith. I already am missing seeing you and it is only been 48 hours since we last met. And yet, suspending our in person gatherings does not mean we are closed, does not mean we are no longer a community, does not mean that we stop being the church, the body of Christ. 

So what can we do?

Streaming 

Well, as has already begun last week, worship services will be streamed on our Facebook Page. Anyone can access our Facebook Page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. www.facebook.com/sherparkwpg.

Our Sunday morning, services will continue to begin at 10:30am. 

Mid-week Lenten services will continue on Thursday evenings. 

All streamed services are available afterwards, so if you are late there is no worry, you can still start from the beginning. 

Giving

As I mentioned in my last Pastoral letter, this will be a time when so many will have affected incomes, including the congregation. 

I encourage you to continue to give to support the church. 

I will do my best to maintain a presence in the office, and to make the church available for drop-offs. 

Additionally, the mailbox will be monitored daily. So offering can be mailed or dropped of (Remember no cash, just cheques). 

You can also consider donating through our PayPal account, which is found at www.sherpark.ca/donate

There you can make one-time donations, or set up a recurring donation. 

Finally, many of you already give through Pre-Authorized remittance. Consider increasing if you are able. Get in touch with the church office and our treasurer team if you would like to begin. 

In this weeks and months in particular, those with fixed incomes will be an asset to the congregation,  beyond.  

But giving offering isn’t going to be the only way to give. 

Caring

There are many in our community who will be affected by this time of social distancing and isolation. 

Those who use the services of the food banks and shelters that we support will need extra support. So Consider dropping off extra food a supplies if you are able. Call head or make an appointment to come at a time when someone can be here to receive the items. 

Others will be without transportation, many will be self-isolating because of age or compromised immune systems. Consider helping by picking groceries, perscriptions and supplies. Get in touch with the church if you need help in this way or can help in this way. 

Checking-In

Finally, we are community. We are connected and belong to each other, even if we aren’t gathering. Phone, text, email, Skype, FaceTime, write letters. Being at home doesn’t mean we cannot connect. 

If anyone would like a regular phone call or check-in, let me know and we can make arrangements!

We are living in strange and unprecedented times. No one knows where will be next week, next month, next year. But we do know that this is going to change us. Our part is to let that be a change for the worse or the better. 

Thankfully, we also have a God who has something to say about this time of hardship and suffering. The isolation and distance will not define, we will remain children of God. The possibility of sickness will not change to whom we belong. The One who names we bear will always be the one who brings us from death into life, from seemingly hopeless graves to rolled away stones and upper rooms. 

We are Christ’s. No virus, or enforced time alone will change that. 

And so Almighty God

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Bless, preserve and keep us

This day and forevermore 

Pastor Erik+

A Pastoral Letter During the Days of COVID-19 – How Churches Can Respond

Here is an adapted pastoral letter that I sent to my congregation, which hopefully will give you some ideas of how to respond to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic:

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Dear friends in Christ, 

Grace and Peace to your from our Lord and Saviour

As each day brings us new changes and adaptions to our lives as our community, nation and world attempts to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by it all. 

Everything and everyone feels hysterical. As the world closes down, people also rush to find ways stock up on provisions and supplies, including an abundance of toilet paper!

Let us be mindful of the urging of Public Health Officials and leaders to remain calm. Nearly all changes being made to how we conduct our lives are precautionary and preventative. They are efforts to slow the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm health care workers and hospital capacities. 

Churches are also adapting and changing as seems prudent. 

Church Services Streaming and Online

On Sunday March 15th, we began live streaming our worship in addition to our in person gathering. Many Churches already live stream, and many began last Sunday too. 

(You can access our live stream from our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/sherparkwpg )

NOTE: You do not need a Facebook account to access a Facebook page, just an Internet capable device. Anyone can watch!

For those who know members who aren’t online, help them to get online as much as possible. Now might be a good time to teach email, basic social media, video calling and more. At the very least, share with them the information that the church is sending out during this time!

Alternate Ways to Give

As is being regularly reported, there are going to be economic effects to the closure and shut down of many places that rely on the public to gather. Many small business will suffer lost income. As we all try to stay home more, consider ordering delivery or take-out, consider calling local stores to see if they will deliver their wares to you, consider supporting businesses in whatever way you can. 

The church will also be affected, as services anticipate smaller numbers for worship, or the likelihood that public gatherings will be suspended (in person). Please consider as you are able, ways that you can continue to give and support the churches during this time. 

And many churches will try to keep their offices open as much as possible: checking phone messages, picking up the mail and being present. Consider dropping off or mailing in offering. Consider sending post-dated cheques if possible. 

Many churches also have ways to give online. A good time to begin using online tools! 

Thank you to those who are already giving through Pre-Authorized remittance, that choice will make a significant difference in the weeks and months to come. 

Changes to services and programs 

Expect that the churches will have changes to programs and worship services. It difficult to imagine, hard to change and anxiety inducing. But it doesn’t mean churches are closing. We still belong to each other and we still belong to God.  

Community Care Plans

In the coming days and weeks, we will have the opportunity to care for one another. Churches are unique communities who already practice communicating and organizing on a large scale. We can work together to help out those in need, delivering supplies, picking up mail or offering etc…

If you need help with getting groceries or other supplies, please email or call the church. If you can deliver or pick up things, let the church know so that you can be connected with those in need. 

As well it will be important for us to remember those in need to continue supporting the food bank programs that the church supports. Many churches will be making plans to collect extra food and supplies to be passed on to food banks.

Finally, I offer this prayer for our use at this time:

We pray to you almighty God, in this time of anxiety and apprehension. You are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Do not let us fail in the face of these events. Uphold us with your love, and give us the strength we need. Help us in our confusion, and guide our actions. Heal the hurt, console the bereaved and afflicted, protect the innocent and helpless, and deliver any who are still in peril; for the sake of your great mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

From Evangelical Lutheran Worship Pastoral Care

Yours in Christ, 

Pastor Erik +

The woman at the well, fleeing deadly plagues, and the era of social distancing

GOSPEL: John 4:5-42

5[Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (Read the whole passage)

In 1527, Martin Luther wrote an open letter entitled “Whether One May Flee a Deadly Plague” as the Bubonic Plague passed through Wittenberg. In it, he gives detailed advice on how to care for oneself and for our neighbours in a very difficult and trying situation.

He wrote: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person I shall go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

As you many of you have likely read, the letters coming from Bishops and from myself are not new ways of churches addressing a situation like the one we are facing with the outbreak of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The Church has been here before, many times over the past 2000 years.

And yet, there is something eerie and disconcerting about our Lenten journey this year. Usually, as spring encroaches on us, and we enter into this season of Lent, the wilderness is a primarily spiritual one, one of devotion and practice, prayer and personal piety. Yet this year, over the past days and weeks, we have entered into a Lenten wilderness of a wholly different sort. A social wilderness, a time of enforced distancing and isolation.

I cannot help but see a connection between where the world seemed to be last Sunday, or at least where we seemed to be last Sunday as we heard the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night, with questions that one would only whisper in the dark to today. Today, where we meet Jesus in the middle of blinding noon day sun. The light has been flipped on revealing to us the Coronavirus and the widespread panic, fear and hysteria that come with it.

As we hear this story of the woman at the well on this third Sunday in Lent, we see a woman who seems almost familiar to us in the midst of our situation. A woman who has come to the water well alone, in the middle of the day. She seems to be practicing social distancing, maybe even self-isolation. She has come to fetch water at a time when no one would be at the well. Women normally come to the well first thing in the morning and again in the evening, and they came together. It was a social event.

Yet this woman is at the well alone, in the middle heat of the day. As we discover, her story, her circumstances are tragic or difficult. She has been married five times, and now under the care of one who is not her husband. Now, don’t make the mistake of reading some kind of impropriety into this woman, the punishment of adultery was stoning. A woman married 5 times, was almost certainly a victim of tragedy. A woman who had had 5 husbands die, or who could not produce children as a proper woman should. And the fact that she was with one who was not her husband likely meant that she was being cared for by the brother of her deceased husband who was probably already married.

She was dead weight in her world. An extra mouth to feed, a cursed wife whose husbands kept dying, a cursed woman whose body would not let her become a mother.

She was at the well alone, not by her own choice entirely. She may have felt like a cursed person, but the rest of the community around her almost certainly agreed.

Sounds familiar these days doesn’t it.

Cough and people stare at you with distain and fear. Happen to have some toilet paper from a shopping trip a week ago in your front entry, and dinner guests look at you like some kind of hoarder (that may or may not have happened at our house). Get back back from an international trip, and you are now required to self-isolate like a pariah.

Even in regular life, circumstance easily defines us. Lose your job, and you are an unemployed burdensome statistic. Spend time the hospital, and you become a body in a bed in a gown. Become a public official or celebrity, and you become the larger than life persona that you portray in your work.

We know what it is like to be defined by our circumstances, to become only some event, to be only some job, to be only some characteristic that is but one part of our lives. We know what it is to make the people around us that.

But Jesus just strolls up to the woman at the well in the middle of the day and asks for a drink.

When no one even wanted to go to the well with her, Jesus asks her for a drink.

It is so shocking that the woman cannot believe it. Here she is, a woman, a Samaritan, a social pariah and this man, a Jew, a rabbi comes and asks her for a drink.

So Jesus offers her a drink! Of course he does!

He says that she should ask him for living water.

Jesus refuses to be defined his circumstances. He refused to define this woman at the well by hers.

Instead, he offers his real and true self. He offers the incarnate God made flesh, the source of all life found in the waters of baptism.

And then he sees the woman, even though knowing her circumstances, her five husbands, and current living situation, her social isolation… he treats her as a human being, as a person needed dignity and respect, needing love and care, needing the gospel.

Jesus breaks through circumstance, and sees the woman as she truly is.

Sounds like just what we need these days too.

As our world and communities succumb to fear and hysterics, as we begin to see one another as simply the circumstances that surround us, as we retreat further and further away from ourselves, Jesus continues to break through to us.

Jesus breaks through to see us as who we are, to see the real us beyond our circumstances, beyond our fears and anxieties, beyond our disease and isolation. And Jesus is breaking through to us in the ways that Jesus has always done – in Word, Water and Bread and Wine.

But also in these days to come, in phone calls and texts between neighbours and friends, in groceries drop offs and mail pick ups by those who can do those things for those who cannot. Jesus is and will be breaking through to the real us, as we comfort one another in this time of heightened fear and anxiety by the care that we show for another, by helping us to see beyond circumstance to ways in which we can be good neighbours and good siblings in Christ.

Today, we worship not knowing if we will gather again next week, or for a while after that. And yet the church has been here before. This is not out first plague and it won’t be our last.

And so Jesus reminds us that we do not stop belonging to one another, we do not stop belonging to God. Jesus reminds us to break through circumstance, and to see and care for another, as we are able.

And here on this third Sunday of this extraordinary Lenten journey, Jesus strolls up to us in our moment of social distancing and self-isolation and ask for drink of water, knowing that what he has to give and what we will need is the water of life.

Amen.