Dear Members of St. John’s Lutheran Church,
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
These past two and a half months have been very difficult for me as your pastor and I am sure as well for all of you as we have walked unchartered paths from the impact of this pandemic. Even with all of the changes and restrictions, we have received many new and refreshing blessings from our Lord. Many of you have followed our online sermons and Facebook page, worshiped online with other LCMS congregations, and have had your own at home Bible studies, devotions and hymn singing. The work of our congregation has been able to move forward as you have continued to faithfully and generously support our church with your offerings, lawn mowing and clean up, and reaching out to one another in love and concern.
The council and I met this past Tuesday evening to discuss a path for our church and all of the precautions that will need to be followed for worship to safely resume. Recognizing the spiritual impact that this crisis is having on the people in Minnesota, we have studied the guidelines for resuming in church worship services. We have the blessing to again gather together in our church building and we are planning our first worship service on Sunday, June 7, 2020 at our usual summer time of 9:00 a.m. I want to emphasize that no one should feel that you must attend worship services if you want to continue at home quarantining. If you are in a high-risk category because of underlying health conditions or advanced age (65+), or for any reason you feel uncomfortable returning for public worship please wait until you are ready. Your health and well being is important and we plan to continue to put the sermon online each week at this time. We encourage each person to respect the Christian liberty of others and not try to influence or judge others by how they decide to respond at this time.
Though I desire to go back to the way we used to proceed for services before the pandemic, we must move forward carefully out of love for one another and concern for each other’s health and well-being. The church council and I and decided to put together a list of safety measures and protocol for us to follow. It may be that some of the measures seem unnecessary, awkward (for example sitting in a pew other than your favorite) or burdensome. We ask that you work together for the good of all. I will enclose the list of guidelines that we will be following at this time. As time moves forward, we can adjust our practices. Your input, suggestions and feedback are always welcome.
Please reed the list of recommended guidelines (see below) before our worship on June 7th. Let us rejoice, for once again we have the opportunity to gather together in God’s house for worship and praise. Remember that it is our desire for the spiritual care of our members and guests to continue with a conscientious regard for the physical care as well. As difficult as it might be for our close-knit congregation, we need to observe “social distancing” before, during and after our services! Let us continue in the joy of our Lord, lifting one another up in love and prayers.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. As our new normal begins let us encourage one another and have patience as things unfold and change.
“l love the house where You live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:6-8)
Peace and Joy in our Lord,
Pastor Gary Ruckman
Health Protocol for Public Worship during the Pandemic
St John Lutheran Church
- Those who are ill, those who have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who are particularly vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus will be urged to stay home. People will be encouraged to check their temperature before they come.
- People will be encouraged but not required to bring and wear their own cloth face masks and other appropriate protective gear. A limited number of masks will be available at church to use and take home. Any extra supplies you can donate would be appreciated.
- Doors will be propped open and physical distancing upon entering and exiting the building will be maintained.
- Hand sanitizer will be available at all entryways. Please bring your personal hand sanitizer to church with you if you have some.
- Signs will be posted concerning distancing and sanitation requirements and reminders will be offered.
- People will be instructed to greet each other without touching and not to remain in the narthex for socializing before and after the service.
- Ventilation will be increased as much as possible (open windows, ceiling fans).
- Use of the restrooms will require physical distancing.
- Worship attendance in the sanctuary will be limited to 25% of seating capacity (50/200 in the nave, 10/50 in the balcony). In the event that this number is exceeded, worshippers will be given seating in the narthex or directed to the basement.
- Households will be seated in a way that ensures physical distancing of at least six feet from others.
- Collection plate will be at the door.
- If someone should become ill during worship, they will be assisted in leaving the building first, then the rest of the congregation will be dismissed, and the building will be closed.
- Once learning of a person with confirmed COVID-19 who has been in the facility, local health officials will be notified immediately. These officials will guide us in determining a course of action, which may include tracing contacts of that person.