Hello, Shepherd of the Valley Faith Community!
We haven’t talked like this in a bit, as I’ve been concentrating on video and podcast that reach people outside our walls easier than the written word. I wanted to take a few moments to talk about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, sharing where we are.
We recently sent out a survey to members, asking them to rank themselves on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being, “Can’t/won’t come back until there’s a vaccine and COVID is no longer and issue” and 10 being, “I’d come back immediately if you opened the doors”.
The results for the survey were split, with no clear consensus. Around 25% of people said they’d come back now. A few less than that said the exact opposite, that they can’t or won’t come back. The rest were spread throughout the middle. As with so many things nowadays, we’re all over the map.
In the meantime, COVID has surged around us in yet another wave across the country, particularly in Idaho. Positive return rates are spiking to all-time highs. Hospitals are filling rapidly, many full or overburdened. Governments are considering re-instituting isolation protocols. Some already have.
We talk about these things nearly every church council meeting. Watching what is happening around us, understanding that we serve a God of compassion who cares about the health of the people around us and setting an ethical, just example for the world, our course and resolve remain clear. As difficult as it is, we do not foresee re-opening in-person worship under these circumstances.
We have resolved to take several measures during this interim time. Please read them and take a moment to consider each one.
1. We understand that, after multiple months of separation, feelings of distance are real among us. Beginning this Sunday, we’re opening up a Zoom meeting every Sunday afternoon at 4:00 for you to come and talk about the worship, gospel, and sermon for that day. Wednesday nights in Advent will be led by the Treasure Valley Cluster of Lutheran churches, but after the new year, we’ll also be opening a Wednesday night Zoom meeting where SoV folks can meet and talk about whatever they wish...almost like a virtual fellowship hall.
2. The sense of loneliness and loss will be particularly pronounced for some of us around the holidays. We are opening up opportunities for you to participate in our virtual Christmas Eve experience this year. We’re asking confirmation students to share some thoughts with us. We’ll be distributing luminaries to anyone who wants one, for you to light on your porch on Christmas Eve. We’re also going to ask you to record yourself lighting up a candle at home, so we can make that part of our service that evening. Along with music and a couple other things, we hope this will make us feel closer on that night.
3. Very soon, we’re going to be mailing and emailing you an update of all the things we’ve been doing this year, plus a couple yet to come so you can see that even though we haven’t met in person, your church and many people in it have been incredibly active.
4. We’re going to schedule and provide you instructions for our annual meeting in January, during which we’ll have important future plans to discuss.
5. We will pledge that, barring anything but a complete national disaster, we will assemble for an Easter Morning service in person. We may not be able to be back inside by then, but we will either rent a park, gather in someone’s field, or use our own parking lot and remain in cars. Whatever it takes, we’ll gather on Easter morning. (If we can gather safely before then, we will.)
We hope that these measures will provide comfort and assurance, if not hope.
Tomorrow in this same space, I’m going to talk about some of the theological rationales underpinning the COVID discussion and our stance on it. Watch for that if you’re interested in a deeper discussion of what’s at stake here for church people. Also watch your weekly emails for instructions on joining Zoom meetings and how you can help out for Christmas Eve!
Blessings on your Thanksgiving week. We’ll see you on Wednesday for our Thanksgiving Eve service!