Pastor Szep's emails to the congregation from 5/15:
The Safer at Home directive has been rescinded. That means we can have services again. I want to stress that we will be open for worship services but that we do need to use a common sense approach to gathering to worship.
Based on recommendations sent out by Outagamie County these are things I would like to stress:
1. the virus is still around
2. wash your hands
3. consider wearing a mask, if you choose not to do so, be considerate of others and maintain distancing from them (do that even with a mask)
4. coughs and sneezes should be covered (into sleeve or elbow, not your hand)
5. avoid shaking hands
6. only families should sit together
7. maintain a distance between others in church - let's use rows 1, 3 and 5: We will remove some of the chairs in the choir area so there is more separation for those who like to sit in that area
8. We will continue to record the service and post the videos and we will continue to use Facebook Live so if you feel uncomfortable attending a worship service at this time, you can still use those methods of worship
9. We will have Wednesday evening and Sunday morning worship services
10. the council will be discussing how we will distribute communion at its meeting next Thursday
11. We will have hand sanitizer available
12. we will have a limited number of masks available
13. We will do our best to wipe light switches and door handles on a regular basis
14. If you feel ill, please stay home
15. use common sense, which seems to be a bit uncommon in many circles these days
There are other things I probably didn't think of. If you have suggestions, please send them my way.
We are confident the Lord can and will take care of us, but we also want to use the intelligence he has given us to be wise about the things we do.
The way this is unfolding it could change again. So this is where we are right now.
The Lord be with all of you,
I pray all of you are well. The questions continue about when and how we can join together in a worship service. Those are things that are affected by the information from health departments. Even though the state's Safer at Home directive is no longer in effect since the Supreme Court ruling, we are now under the guidance of Outagamie County. There are a couple things to share:
1. the boards and council will meet this Thursday, following social distancing guidelines, to discuss the business of the congregation. Among the things that will be discussed are what action will be taken for worship once the limitations currently in effect change. That will include worship services, communion distribution, Bible classes, social distancing, sanitation practices and anything else we can think of. We will also discuss the proposed budget and how we might share the proposed budget as well as elections for board and council members if we still cannot have more than 10 people gather together at a time by the end of June when those things would normally be discussed and acted upon by the voters.
2. If you choose to come to a worship service, we still need to stay under 10 in attendance. Give careful consideration to wearing a mask. It isn't necessary, but some people feel more comfortable if they and others are wearing masks so give that some thought as you decide. We do have a limited number of disposable masks at church. We also have hand sanitizer.
3. Whether or not we agree with guidelines for dealing with the pandemic, we will follow the guidance of government and health officials.
Remember that we are citizens of two "kingdoms." As citizens of this world we follow the laws of the land and will only disobey them if they are contrary to the clear Word of God. As citizens of our Lord's kingdom, we listen to what he tells us in his Word. Among the things he tells us is that we are to respect those whom he has allowed to have authority over us in the government. But as citizens of his kingdom, we also know that our Lord will take care of us. We need not fear what takes place in this world. Trusting God to take care of me does not mean I fail to use a seatbelt. It does not mean I choose not to stop at a red light trusting that the Lord will allow no other vehicle to be coming through the intersection. It does not mean I willfully place myself into a situation that is dangerous to my health and wellbeing because I expect God to take care of me. When Satan tempted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple with the reminder that God would take care of him, Jesus responded that Scripture also says we are not to tempt the Lord. There is a difference between trust and "seeing how far we can go" with God's promise to care for us.
You and I can be sure of God's love. Remember, St. Paul pointed to Jesus' work and said this is the proof God will meet all our needs (Romans 8:32). Give some thought to Romans 6:16 - 18. We either serve God or we serve sin. There is no in-between. Read 2 Corinthians 5:14 to see what St. Paul says about the reason Christians have for living to serve their Lord. When you think about how you can serve your Lord, think about what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 - 40. How do we show we love God above all things? What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? How does that affect the way to speak to and treat other people? Read Romans 12:1,2. What does the apostle say about the way Christians have been changed in their attitude toward the world and its way of doing things?
Christians have a different way of looking at life and the world around them. That is not our doing, it is God working in us through his Word.
Rejoice in the Lord. Find your peace in him. Share the good news with others.
The Lord's blessings to all,
Words of Encouragement from Pastor Szep
(5/8 email to the congregation):
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If I were to ask you for your impressions of what is happening in our country and the world right now I think I would receive a much different answer than you would have given to a similar question 4 or 5 months ago. Few people had any thought about a virus that would affect a large portion of the world. For many the thought of a disease that would affect the world probably was the thing of history books. Other than some people in the medical world a pandemic was something that happened before society had become as sophisticated as we have become. But the Lord knew what was going to happen. He knew that shiny hospitals and a sophisticated medical system could be brought to its knees by a microscopic piece of protein. That virus has brought out the best and the worst in human beings. There are heartwarming examples of people helping others and being willing to put themselves into dangerous situations to help those who are ill. There are frustrating examples of selfishness, back-stabbing and finger-pointing that remind us of the source of all that is wrong with people and the world. The greatest problem is sin. It has ruined creation and it has an iron grip on human hearts.
There are differing reactions to attempts to contain the virus while trying to preserve not only the lives of the ill but also those whose lives are turned upside down by attempts to deal with the pandemic. I don't know whether anyone can sort through it all and come to the conclusion that they know what is true, what is false and what is putting a spin on information to try to bolster one's own ideas. I do know where you and I can turn for the truth. Not the truth about the virus, but the truth that will not fail. We turn to God's Word.
God tells us how sin ruined his perfect world. He tells us how he has addressed sin. It is not in a way that will take away all the anger, fear, confusion and despair. It is addressed through the work Jesus carried out to remove the greatest curse of sin -- eternal damnation. Jesus paid for every sin. Everyone who trusts in him as Savior can look at the mess in this world and know that all of it is temporary. Christians can be confident God will use everything for his purposes. Christians can find comfort in God's promise to take care of them. Christians can go to their heavenly Father with every concern. They can go to their heavenly Father when they fall into the temptation to fail to respect those in authority, when they become angry with others, when they forget their Lord's promise to always be with them and with their words of praise as they recognize that their heavenly Father continues to watch over them and that he will take care of them.
Spend time with God's Word. Read Matthew 6:25 - 34; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 37:3 - 7; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 91:1-2 and Isaiah 40:28 - 31. Give thought to God's promises. Take not only your concerns and sorrow to him, but remember to thank him for his blessings. Look for opportunities to encourage others with God's promises.
Thank you for continuing to support your congregation with your offerings. The boards and council are beginning to discuss what we will do when the time comes that we can return to church to worship. Life will be different, at least for a while. Even though life this side of heaven may change our Lord's promises remain the same.
May the Lord keep each of you safe in his care.
Hear God's word through song with these virtual
choir and band pieces by our Lutheran high school students.
Divine Savior Academy - Doral, Fla.,
sings Who You Say I Am
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School - Jackson, Wis.,
sings Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled
Luther High School - Onalaska, Wis.,
sings Be Still
Manitowoc Lutheran High School - Manitowoc, Wis.,
sings Luther's Morning Prayer
Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School - New Ulm, Minn.,
streamed their last rehearsal before schools closed.
Nebraska Lutheran High School - Waco, Neb.,
sings In Peace
St. Croix Lutheran High School - West St. Paul, Minn.,
band students play Abide with Me, Croixaliers sing Home
Winnebago Lutheran Academy - Fond du Lac, Wis.,
sings God's Word is our Great Heritage