NOTE: This congregational letter is also being mailed out to all our members and prospective members as not everyone sees this blog, looks at the email blast, or has Facebook.
Greetings in the name of our Savior!
It was strange to have to suspend our Divine Services a few weeks ago. We have made the most of it by offering Facebook Live broadcasts of our services and by putting recorded services on YouTube (search for “Good Shepherd Novi” and they will pop right up). I also encourage you to make use of your time with your family to have home devotions. God's people should make it a priority to talk about God's word, and by making it a part of the family conversation (perhaps after supper) you get to build each other up. While we often use our busy schedules as an excuse for failing to do this, most of us have the time to do it now. Make the most of this time! For an order of service you can follow, look to www.GoodShepherdNovi.org under the COVID-19 quarantine resources. Tweak it as you see fit. If you should desire other materials, call the church office and request it.
If it is strange to have services suspended in general, it will feel especially out of place during Holy Week. Based on the input of several nurses who are seeing first-hand the effects of COVID-19, based on the fact that we seem to be adding 1,000 cases of COVID-19 to Michigan on a daily basis, and based on the fact that I am not willing to risk the spread of COVID-19 to our members no matter how bold they feel, I cannot in good conscience open the doors to everyone who desires to be in God's house throughout Holy Week, even on Easter Sunday. We are continuing to observe the 5th Commandment: “We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.” But we will most certainly honor the 3rd Commandment: “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.” Therefore, we will still have Holy Week services (schedule at the end of this letter) on Facebook Live and posted to YouTube, but we will not be able to meet together as a whole congregation. Bulletins and hymns for each service can be found through links on our church's web site: www.GoodShepherdNovi.org .
While we must endure this cross for the foreseeable future, how glorious it will be when we all gather together again! We will keep you informed about when that service will be, and we will make it an exceptional day of thanksgiving and celebration.
Our services are centered on Word and Sacrament. I am able to administer the Word over the internet (although it is a weak substitute for real, personal proclamation), but not the Sacrament. Therefore, many of us are observing a fast from the Lord's Supper. This is not done by our choosing, but out of difficult circumstances. Still, there are ways you can partake of the body and blood of Christ for the strengthening of faith and for the assurance of forgiveness. Your pastor is here to serve you, as best as he can, by administering the sacrament to you in a small or even private setting.
There is a schedule for you to come for Holy Communion during Holy Week at the end of this letter. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 as much as possible, we will adopt the following protocol.
– Call me from the sidewalk when you arrive. I will open the door for you so that you do not have to touch the handle. The door to the chapel will already be propped open. If you choose to wash your hands as soon as you come in, use the kitchen sink. This will enable you to wash your hands and avoid touching a door handle immediately after you have washed.
– I will limit the number of people who come in for a service to no more than ten who will be asked to space themselves out in the chapel. If you happen to arrive and see a number of cars in the parking lot, please be patient and wait until the previous visitors leave. Understand that I will not be able to take your phone call if I am conducting a service. If you want to come inside and wait, you may go to the fellowship hall. I will try to keep the door handle disinfected, but if several people choose to come in together while a service is going on, I will not be able to wipe the door handle down while I am conducting the service.
– Take a bulletin labeled “Order of Service for Shut-Ins.” This order of service will be only 7-10 minutes. The bulletin you take will be strictly for your use. Take it home when you leave.
– When you come for Holy Communion, we will limit the tables to three people on each side of the altar. Spread out. You will take the host in your hand. You may choose between the individual cup or the common cup. Studies have shown that the risk of spreading disease through the common cup is minimal. It will be washed thoroughly after each use.
– When you leave, I will either open the door for you, or you may back out to avoid touching the door with your hands.
– Any handles on doors, faucets, toilets, etc... which would have been touched during someone's visit into the church will be disinfected after they leave. As much as possible, I will do what I can to limit any risks to people who come in for the Lord's gifts.
If you receive this letter in the mail, you will find some self-addressed stamped envelopes which you can use to send your offerings into church. While we may not be meeting together, expenses have not ceased. We especially want to remember that the work of our synod continues with training of future pastors and teachers as well as with missionaries in the USA and around the world. Huron Valley Lutheran High School is also continuing with online classes. Your generous offerings are always beneficial and pleasing to our Lord who remains generous and faithful to us even in challenging times.
If there is anything in particular that I can be doing for you during this COVID-19 isolation, please let me know. I am willing to come and see you—whether at home or in a hospital. God bless and keep you.
HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE
Palm Sunday April 5 at 10 AM
Maundy Thursday April 9 at 7 PM
Good Friday April 10 at 7 PM
Easter Sunday April 12 at 10 AM
Private Communion is available by appointment at any time.
Private Communion is available during Holy Week without appointment at these times:
Monday, April 6 8:00 AM – Noon and 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Thursday, April 9 8:00 AM – Noon
Friday, April 10 8:00 AM – Noon
Saturday, April 11 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM