The Covid-19 pandemic has made the possibility of our in-person worship very tenuous at best. Your leaders met on Tuesday evening, July 21, to discuss their thinking about next steps for our worshipping communities.
Each person was given the opportunity to express their hopes and their concerns. In general, the hopes of all were that things could be normal again. Unfortunately, the concerns shared indicated that normal is not possible at this time. While we here in Nebraska have been spared the uptick found in many of the other states, we are not seeing a decline in cases being reported. While consistency is often thought of as good, it would be better if there was a consistent decline in the reported infections.
Therefore, your leaders have decided it is best to not meet in-person for worship through the bulk of August. It was decided to try an outdoor worship on the west lawn of St. Luke’s on the last Sunday of August, August 30, 9 am. The hope was expressed that if there is a decline in reported infections through the month of August, we will be able to begin in-person worship in September.
There is much that will be different when we do return to in-person worship. The CDC guidelines promote that we will need to wear masks, stay appropriately distanced, use hand sanitizer regularly and limit our music to humming or a soloist. The guideline indicates that group singing is highly discouraged.
As we look forward to the outdoor worship on August 30, please note that we ask that those attending bring their own lawn chairs. We will not be bringing any chairs out of the building. We will have a small table for the offering plates. One for each congregation. You will be asked to drop your offering into the appropriate plate. It is likely that we will not share communion on that day.
We ask for your prayers as we continue to discern what is best for our worshipping communities. Please continue to support the ministry of Christ in our midst. Please be safe and know that you are important to God. May God bless our efforts at being church for the sake of the world.
These four people are only the most recent of a long list of individuals, God’s own beloved ones, who have died violently because of their race. Because they were black.
Arguments about the specifics of how each died are simply distractions from the reality of racism and its consequences. Their race contributed directly to their deaths.
As I watch protests in the media I see expressions of grief, rage, frustration, and despair. I also see and hear and feel those same intense expressions as I listen to people I know, to friends, to people I care about, who because of the color of their skin have lived with the reality of racism all their lives. And who are exhausted in their wait for change.
As a white man with a very privileged existence, I can’t pretend to know their experience, their pain, their frustration. I know only that it’s real and I know I cannot ignore it. The time for words alone has passed. It passed a long time ago. Now is the time for honesty and for action.
My honesty is in confessing how ill-equipped I am for such work, how overwhelmed I am when I acknowledge the pain I see in the streets and in the faces of people I care about. My action—my action is to step into the pain, ill-equipped but trusting God will get me, get us, where we need to go.
I don’t know what form that action will take. I am seeking the help of others in determining what it will be, so that it is not yet another half-step that lets us pretend we’ve done something. My commitment is to doing something soon.
In the meantime, I ask for your prayers. Pray for those victimized by racism. Pray for those whose lives and communities are torn by its consequences. Pray for the protestors and the police and for all who strive to stand as one with those who are suffering. Pray by name for the loved ones of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and James Scurlock. And pray that our church seizes this moment to confront the reality of racism, ready for the hard, hard work that that’s going to be.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body,
though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. —I Corinthians 12:12
May 13, 2020
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am encouraged by your resilience and creativity in our witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am also inspired by your generosity. Through the ELCA COVID-19 Response Fund and our Daily Bread grants, we are providing critical support to struggling yet vital ministries across this church. Through Lutheran Disaster Response International we have intensified our accompaniment of global partners. We are church together.
This is a trying time for us all. At the same time, we know that a disproportionate burden of illness, death, discrimination and harassment falls on communities of color. This pandemic has exacerbated racism and racial inequities deeply entrenched in society and across the church. We see this in the growing anti-Asian racism and the disproportionate number of deaths in black, American Indian and Latinx communities. I have been learning from the leaders of the ELCA’s ethnic associations how the data we see on the news is experienced in real life. I have listened to leaders of color share the impact of this pandemic on their communities — on their lives and on their ministries. These stories are difficult but important, so we are launching a special series on LivingLutheran.org to lift up these voices for us all to hear. We also seek to ensure that our COVID-19 response more effectively tends to the realities of racism and racial inequality. We are church together.
Recently, in cities across this country, we have seen horrifying anti-Semitic and white supremacist messages displayed during public protests against government orders that are intended to protect lives. No matter our politics or opinions about our elected leaders and their policies, all of us must come together on the basis of our church’s commitments to condemn racism against indigenous people and people of color, white supremacy, sexism, and anti-Semitism whenever they occur. Whether our churches and communities are racially diverse or predominantly white, our work for racial and economic justice for all people is work for all of us. We are church together.
Just as God has joined us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in baptism, we are joined to each other. Paul helps us to understand this by speaking of the one body of Christ, with many members. While this is always true, perhaps we feel it more acutely in this time of physical distancing. In our longing to be church together, let us be even more intentional in sharing with each other, easing each other’s burdens, consoling each other in our fear and grief, condemning what is contrary to the gospel and living out our baptismal covenant “to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, ELCA
To learn more, visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
ELCA social statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture” http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/RaceSS.pdf
“Explanation of the Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent”
ELCA social policy resolution “Condemnation of White Supremacy and Racist Rhetoric” https://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Condemnation_of_White_Supremacy_and_Racist_Rhetoric.pdf
ELCA social statement “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action”
“Declaration of the ELCA to Jewish Community”
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
Public Relations Manager
The council members of Grace and St. Luke’s shared a virtual conversation on Sunday afternoon to address plans for resuming worship. It was a shared feeling that we wait and not immediately resume our regular gatherings. The shared feeling was that we don’t know enough at this time to feel comfortable bringing all of us together. We are grateful that everyone continues to be uninfected by the virus.
So, we will look toward the first Sunday in June, June 7th as the potential date for resuming worship in our buildings.
Councils will meet during their regular meeting time and talk over further the details of when and how to safely manage our shared worship experience.
Some concerns that need to be addressed are: do all of us need to wear masks; do we have the ability to maintain 6 feet of separation during worship; what kinds of things do we need to do to be able to share communion; what do we do with fellowship time; how do we handle the distribution of the bulletin; how do we handle the gathering of offerings; do we have sufficient supplies of masks and sanitizer to feel safe; do we need to limit access through one door only. These are some of the questions and practices that we need to discuss and make plans for safe conduct. There may be other concerns, too.
Please know that all of us desire to share worship and fellowship together, however, it is most important at this time that we err on the side of safety. Please hold our leaders up in prayer and hold one another in prayer, too.
On behalf of our council leadership,
This is a hopeful message shared by Bishop Maas as we await the opportunity to gather once again in worship. Here is the link to his message: https://t.e2ma.net/message/mmxaoc/u0dvsr