The time has come. On Sunday, June 7th, both Faith Lutheran of Harrison and St. John Lutheran of Clare will resume in-person worship at the normal worship times. How will it look? A set of guidelines is included in this cover letter. (For those who receive paper materials, the guidelines were sent out Friday [May 29th]. For those who receive email, the guidelines were sent out digitally Friday [May 29th]). Please read through these as they discuss the Governor’s exemptions for churches, the rationale for reopening, and guidelines for safe re-gathering.
This re-gathering will be different. Some familiar faces might be present, others might not. Please be assured, these guidelines seek to accomplish two very important things: (1) Allow you to worship in person and (2) Keep you healthy and safe. Still, you may not feel quite ready to return. Personal health weigh heavy on your mind. By all means, stay home. Be safe. Worship materials will still be provided for you. You might be ready to return. Great! And I look forward to worshipping with you again! Please allow a word of advice: Remember the purpose of the guidelines: (1) Worship God and (2) Keep each other safe.
National reopening has become quite a politicized issue. Sadly, it can (and has) infected congregations too. Some worshippers cautiously protect themselves, others wear minimal coverings. Some chide others for not wearing masks, hand sanitizing, etc, and the other side chirps back. When the focus turns onto ‘self,’ division reigns. That’s why Jesus teaches:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Think of how Jesus loved others. When arrested, the disciples flee. When soldiers abuse his body, no one steps up. When the world mocks him, Jesus dies. Here is One fully justified to open his mouth and criticize and condemn those who hurt him. Instead, he died for them.
Jesus died for you. He died for me. He died for the times when we cared more for ourselves than for others. He wipes away our harsh words and careless attitudes. He blots out the times we get frustrated at others for not doing what we want. And wonder of wonders! He daily forgives—even when we return for the umpteenth millionth time. Jesus still says: ‘I love you. See the cross. Find forgiveness, peace, and life.’
Yes, re-gathering will be different. Pastor might act different. Familiar faces might act different from us. Yet, let the focus remain on Jesus. Let his selfless, self-giving love motivate selfless love for others. And where disagreements appear, let us treat each other in Christian love. For that is what we are, people connected to the same Savior. Let us have open ears and open minds when talking with each other. Because the point of worship is not to discuss politics or to divide. The point of worship is to (1) be with God and to do so (2) in a safe manner. God bless us in this effort.
PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING CHANGES
Again, you are receiving a set of reopening guidelines either by mail or email. Pastor Ewald will reach the email recipients Monday and Tuesday in order to confirm that the materials have been received, as well as to handle any questions, suggestions, or comments. He will reach out to the mail recipients Tuesday and Wednesday for the same reason.
The set of guidelines is by no means a finished product. It may have to be loosened or tightened. We will not know until it goes into action. Please help in this matter. If you have questions or concerns, please let Pastor Ewald or a councilman know. Please be patient with us and pray for us.
If you do not wish to return to in-person worship quite yet, please let Pastor Ewald know. Digital and paper worship materials will still be provided, but he needs to know who needs them. Making him aware of your intentions allows him to reach you.
Pastor remains available by appointment for devotions and private communion in his office during this time of restrictions. (This type of activity is allowed under the current Executive Order, 2020-92, pt. 16.) Please call to schedule. He holds steady office hours (8:00am-5:00pm) at St. John, Clare He will be at Faith Harrison Wednesday afternoon (1:00pm-5:00pm). You may reach him afterhours at the parsonage (989-339-6716).
Finally, the current set of Meditations devotionals is set to expire May 31st. New copies are available at each church for pickup. They will also be distributed upon reopening the church Please contact the church office should you have difficulty picking up essentials or are experiencing hardship. We will do our best in meeting reasonable requests. Also, fabric facemasks have been donated to the church by Jim, Ann, and Betty Schaeffer. If you have need of one, please reach out. We will make sure to get one to you.
God bless you and keep you this week.
Rev. Andrew G. Ewald