I would like to begin by thanking the faithful of The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd for their patience during these challenging days. After weeks of Zoom, our congregation plans to resume worship services in our sanctuary on Sunday June 28, 2020 at 10:00a.m., by the grace of God. So, as we begin to reopen and adapt to a new normal, it’s unlikely that any parts of our former lives, including the way we did church, will ever truly be the same again.
In these days when everyone is at risk of contracting COVID-19, there is abnormal panic and hopelessness with towering ramifications on human health, financial security, social life and future goals. Fear, loneliness and stress have become companions in homes--even Christian households. When social and spiritual interactions are thwarted by circumstances beyond our control, we are forced to adjust. Consequently, doing church in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed for all churches.
But God never changes for He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. God is still in the business of protecting his own and we are encouraged to stay strong until the Lord’s delivering power is fully exerted over the coronavirus outbreak. God’s word assures us that He will never leave us nor forsake His own. Genuine faith dares to trust God in times of difficulties and does not look at circumstances but looks solely to God. The Christian’s faith is tested during storms. Scripture says in Colossians 1: 17, “God is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
It is with great care that we look at the COVID-19 pandemic in light of God’s actions. Human history is filled with instances of epidemics, plagues, and pandemics. The Bible speaks about plagues and widespread diseases in accounts of our future. Deadly disease is nothing new, neither is the greater threat to mankind.
Any quick theological reflection fails to do justice to the complexity of the Scriptural witness to God’s character. God describes the purpose of the ten plagues clearly: they are not punishment. They are an invitation to know God: “The Egyptians will know that I am God when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them” (Exodus 9:15-16). A catastrophe is no time for the Church to begin straining its unused vocal cords in the public square. The Church’s response then, must be through the witness of our actions--actions resulting from our responsibility to witness to God’s love of the world through our participation in Christ’s ministry.
The government mandate to go home and stay home is a kind of imposed civil sabbath: no church services, no shopping, no running around, and so on. It is meant to be a time of rest not only for God’s creatures but for the land. (Already air pollution is down in many parts of the world). A time for God’s distracted and self-absorbed creatures to remember that we are first and foremost recipients—and not the creators—of all that is good in our lives: the land, rain and sun, family, friends, work, and most of all God’s grace and provision. We receive this imposed civil sabbath as such, letting go of the illusion that we can control our lives and futures. In the middle of our anxieties we do pray, sing, and give thanks.
We pray that things will not get as dire as many foresee (second wave), that lives will be spared, and that the shutdown of society will level the spread of the virus so the medical system is not overwhelmed. But whatever the next few months bring, we are called to witness to God’s provision through our provision for those most harmed by the virus. To do so is to recognize God at work in this plague. We do not let fear have the final word. With the Psalmist we say: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the Lord, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you.” (Psalm 91:1,2,5,6,9, 10),
Because we believe these things, prayer should be our default. When a concern comes to mind, release it with prayer. Meet each fear with the truth of Scripture; recite God’s promises each time worry tries to interrupt your thoughts. We all carry a testimony of God's faithful provision in our lives. Remember how God has cared for you in the past. COVID-19 has caused fear on a global but also on a personal level. As we reopen, let's make sure to take practical steps—as outlined below. Most importantly, let's take this opportunity to build faith and hope instead of fear.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
This pandemic is not over, so it is important to remember that, while we adapt our traditions for the time being, we remain patient for the sake of everyone’s health. Our new procedures have been researched and discussed carefully, understanding the awkwardness of putting them into practice. Information signs and our full policy will be posted in the narthex. Please speak with Pastor or any member of Council if you have questions or suggestions.
The building capacity allows for all our membership to attend, but if you are in the least apprehensive about returning to public worship, please join our Zoom service which will continue as a necessary part of our fellowship.
As in all public places, we must promote the safety of our members through the following measures:
If you are feeling unwell or suspect you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, please stay home.
Our members are encouraged to wear their own non-medical masks, if possible.
To maintain social distance, greeters will be allowing one family group at a time into and out of the building.
Seating groups will be arranged to allow for 2m distance on all sides. Please do not rearrange seats.
Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the sanctuary.
An Offering plate will be placed in the entrance to the sanctuary to receive your donations before worship.
Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit advises that singing is a high-risk activity and discourages congregational singing.
Communion procedures will be modified to allow for distancing and sanitary precautions. These new procedures will be explained during worship.
Access to the office, kitchen, sacristy and Open Arms will be restricted.
Washrooms will be open and users are asked to clean all handles (toilet, door, soap dispenser, faucet) with the supplies provided before leaving the washroom.
We must refrain from handshakes and hugs for the time being.
All fellowship before and after worship must adhere to 2m social distancing guidelines.
If, after attending services, you test positive for COVID-19 or learn you have come in contact with someone who has tested positive, you must inform the church so we can contact all others who attended the same services. No names of positive cases will be shared.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate the complicated circumstances of resuming public worship of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ