Pastor's email to the congregation July 31
The state mandate for masks in a public gathering begins tomorrow, August 1. Some people applaud the mandate, others don't. The reality is that we will follow the guidance of our government unless something we are to do is contrary to Scripture. Wearing a mask is not contrary to Scripture.
I will wear a mask when greeting people both before and after the worship service. I will not wear one when conducting the service because I am far away from the congregation. In addition to that, members who have hearing difficulties benefit from being able to read lips even while listening to someone speak.
If you are a person who cannot wear a mask for some reason, please be sure to distance yourself when you come to church, or consider joining us on Facebook Live just as some of our members who were uncomfortable attending the worship service as fewer and fewer in the service chose not to wear a mask joined us on Facebook Live. Masks will be available at church, as is hand sanitizer.
Beginning next week, we will return to the shortened orders of service that we used when the Safer at Home order was in effect. That will reduce the amount of time we will be in the public worship service.
The uncertainty associated with this pandemic cannot compare to the confidence we have that our Lord will take care of us. We pray that he will keep us and our loved ones from falling ill. We pray that he will allow an effective vaccine to be developed soon. We pray that he will be with our leaders and the citizens of our land and remove the anger, frustration and even hatred from hearts that is showing itself in so many places. Only one thing changes hearts so that people deal with each other in true love and concern, that is God's Word. Use the Word and share it. Then alone will hearts be truly changed. Paul wrote it, we take it to heart, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Lord's blessings to all,
Pastor Szep's email to the congregation 7/1/20
We have not yet received a date for Asphalt Seal and Repair to carry out the maintenance work on the parking lots. Their sales rep is supposed to let us know where we are on their schedule. They have been told they must not come on a Wednesday. Special offering envelopes have been put into everyone's mailbox for any who would like to give a special gift to help pay for this necessary maintenance. If you are not yet comfortable coming to church, call the office and all the information in your mailbox can be sent to you.
WELS Aid and Relief has been helping many people in areas around the country and the world as natural disasters bring loss of property and other hardships into people's lives. The help offered is given through local WELS congregations, if possible, and can serve as a way to show people our Christian love even as it presents opportunities to tell others about Jesus' love for them. Anyone who would like to give a special gift, whether it is now or later, can use the special offering envelope in your mailbox at any time.
St. Luke's Mission Festival emphasis will focus on the work being done through Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services, also known at WLCFS - Christian Family Solutions. Pastor Jim Mattek is scheduled to be our preacher on Wednesday, August 12 and Sunday, August 16. He will bring material to share about the many ways WLCFS, which we help support as a congregation, helps people by using God's Word as they work through the difficult times in their lives. He plans to conduct a Bible class after the Sunday service and share an example of online counseling that has proven to be very helpful for people who cannot go to a WLCFS office. We have a special offering envelope in the mailboxes for that ministry as well.
A concert by the Christian band, Branches, is planned for Tuesday, August 11. It will be that evening, beginning a 6:30 p.m. The outreach team is discussing ways to share the news in the community. The option of an outdoor concert, with a tent, is being investigated to help people feel more comfortable about social distancing. If health concerns increase, the concert will not be held.
The many questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19 continue to disrupt our lives and the life of your congregation. We have had a few more people in worship services. Many people continue to watch Facebook Live or the recorded video of the worship service. The technical problems this past Sunday, June 28, seem to have been on Facebook's end of the attempt to have a live broadcast of the worship service.
We will continue to distribute the Lord's Supper with the modification of prepacked bread and wine and continuous communion. The procedure will be reviewed at the beginning of each worship service to remind any who have communed with this new approach what we are doing and to inform those for whom it will be the first time they have communed this way. Time will tell when we can return to the way we were accustomed to celebrate the Lord's Supper prior to COVID-19.
Sunday Bible class is meeting after the worship service. We have been able to maintain social distancing. Plans for an online Bible class have not yet been finalized. As soon a that is ready, information will be sent out.
As we approach the 4th of July weekend we keep our nation, its citizens and our leaders in our prayers. These truly are unsettled times. Through it all we have the confidence of God's love for us in Christ. The message that all people are sinful by nature and deserve God's punishment is a reminder of the reason for all the problems in this world. The message that Jesus paid for every sin and whoever trusts in him as their Savior has the forgiveness of sins is the one message that gives people peace. Only the message of God's love in Christ can lead people to value other people, respect authority and change hearts so people live in a way that reflects God's will rather than follow their sinful desires and attitudes. Live your faith. Feed your faith. Share your faith. You have the only message that brings true comfort into troubled hearts and lives.
Spend some time considering the following Bible references:
Psalm 139:1 - 3
Isaiah 40:28 - 31
Isaiah 43:1 - 3
John 15:1 - 5
Romans 8:38, 39
2 Corinthians 12:9
Think about what you read. Ask how it applies to you. Ask how it comforts you. Think about how that comfort and the lessons God has for you in those verses can be a message you share with someone else.
I trust the Lord will care for all of you giving you strength, patience and peace.
The Lord be with all of you,
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 - pews in each section of the sanctuary have been tagged "do not use": 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. pre-packaged bread and wine portions have been purchased to ensure safety while the Sacrament is distributed
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,
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