“The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid … One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27: 1, 4).
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
To be sure, God’s Word directs and encourages his people to gather for worship of him and to receive from him his good gifts through his Word and Sacraments. This has always been true, and now perhaps especially true, as we need mutual encouragement from fellow saints and assurance from God’s Word that he is with us and for us and that he has destroyed the greatest pandemics–sin, Satan, and Death–through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Gathering for worship is not “just a social thing,” it is a biblical encouragement and expectation of God. It is what God’s people in Christ do.
With that said, we encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to continue in prayer, worship, hearing the Word of God, and receiving the Sacrament as might be provided in a responsible way, even during this time of uncertainty with the Coronavirus (COVID 19).
AND we encourage the use of “sanctified wisdom.” Please consider the following:
If your church gathers a large number of worshipers
Recognize that Governor Whitmer has given an executive order that “gatherings over 250” should be suspended or postponed until April 5, 2020 at 5 p.m.
- Does this affect your worship gathering?
- Might you consider adding services to your congregation’s schedule to spread out the numbers of worshipers?
- You may want to make use of live streaming opportunities for home use by individuals and/or family groups. Our Communications Department, with assistance from Rev. Nikolai Gibbons, has put together a how-to live stream videoto help you set up live streaming your services. If you have a small group ministry, you may want to leverage its use during this time especially.
If your church gathers a small number of worshipers
As you gather for worship, we offer the following out of love for one another and our neighbor(s):
- Hand sanitizer “manned” and mandatory use at each entrance to the worship space.
- Use of disposable individual cupsfor Holy Communion is encouraged along with “continuous flow” distribution.
- Although it may be your custom, avoid greetingeach other with a hand shake, hug, or “holy kiss.” Simply greet one another with a smile and words of blessing.
- Respect “space”between fellow worshipers (6 feet) when possible.
- Encourage members to frequently wash their hands.
- Pastors and other worship leaders make use of hand sanitizers before “setting the table” for Holy Communion.
- DO NOT pass the plate for the offering, but have it in front or in back of the sanctuary for worshippers to give their offering to the Lord. Encourage the use of electronic giving.
- Direct custodial staff to pay special attention to “high touch” items like bathroom counters and faucets, door handles, stair rails, light switches, and the like.
- Consider providing means of hydrationother than drinking fountains.
- Communicate to all that those members who, because of health or age, are at greatest risk, may choose not to attend public worship. Hold them especially in your prayers.
- Encourage those who are “not feeling well” to stay at home for the sake of their brothers and sisters.
If you are not gathering for worship
Should your congregation choose to suspend worship for the next couple of weeks, we offer the following:
- Work to provide live streaming of your worship service.
- Communicate with members often with printed devotions and prayers.
- Leverage the use of email and other social media in order to get the Good News out.
- Provide excellent pastoral care and encourage members to care for one another and their neighbors in the Name of Jesus.
- Encourage smaller gatherings of saints for prayer and reading of the Scriptures.
- Make use of electronic giving.
- You cannot over-communicate with your people! Keep them informed and connected as the Body of Christ.
Pandemic resources are available in the online Resource Library on the District website. The document links provide resources for addressing key issues in congregations and schools that impact the delivery of essential services and operations.
DISTRICT OFFICE SERVICES WILL CONTINUE; STAFF WILL WORK MOSTLY FROM HOME
Out of care and concern for our families and those that we serve, and by way of example, all Michigan District Office staff will work from home as much as possible (staff may come in to the office as needed) from March 16 through April 6. We will continue to evaluate as the situation unfolds.
All services provided by the Michigan District will continue without interruption, and you will be able to reach staff members by phone or email. This statement applies to the Michigan District Office only and does not apply to the Church Extension Fund (CEF) office. If you have questions for CEF, please contact them directly at 800.242.3944.
Photo © CDC/Unsplash