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Please find attached the letter sent from Pastor Bruce
Dear Friends in Christ:
Christians have always sought to care for “the least of these” (Matthew 23:31-46). Throughout church history, healing and bringing comfort to the sick has been of vital importance. Our faith is defined by how we extend the love, grace, and care of Christ that we have first received from God. While I am new to Frist English Lutheran Church, I am certain that you take the health and well-being of our congregation and the community of Tyler seriously. Your church council and I are closely monitoring the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Minnesota Department of Public Health and the ELCA. In addition to the multitude of ways we seek to maintain a safe and healthy environment, First English is also implementing temporary measures at this time. Additional measures may be taken in the future should they be necessary.
The following steps are being taken at First English Lutheran Church:
1. As we are already avoiding handshakes and hugs at this time, we are also not printing bulletins. The weekend bulletin may be found online at https://www.firstenglishtyler.com and more time will be given in worship to lift up announcements so we can all be aware of what is happening in our church.
2. We have chosen to not serve Holy Communion through the end of March as a precaution. This measure will be reevaluated towards the end of the month. Additionally, when communion is served, we will only use individual cups for wine. We will not use Intinction (dipping) style of distribution. Servers will sanitize both before and after serving communion.
3. Since we are not printing bulletins to cut back on casual contact, we will also not pass the offering plate. Offerings will still be taken at services, but we will have baskets by the doors for individuals to make their offering. Offerings can also be given online through our website at https://www.firstenglishtyler.com Or, perhaps your personal bank offers a Web Bill Pay or similar service.
4. Those with vulnerable immune systems and those who have close contact with persons that have vulnerable immune systems may consider staying home. I am working on alternate ways to deliver the message through Social Media, more to follow.
Please regularly check back with the church website https://www.firstenglishtyler.com and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/firstenglishtyler/ to learn more information. In addition to what is posted online, emails will be sent out through the church’s general email account. If you do not already receive that email, please call the church office and leave a message including your email address so we may add it to our list.
As you personally respond to the spread of this virus, please consider the following:
1. Pray for all those affected by COVID-19, including the health professionals working to contain the virus and treat to those impacted.
2. If you or a family member is sick, have been directly exposed to the virus or have traveled to a high-alert area (currently South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan), please follow the CDC guidelines and refrain from attending church services during the 14-day incubation period. While First English does not stream on-line worship services, there are churches that do. I encourage you to seek them out and worship at home.
3. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. One anecdote suggest that you sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing as good timer. I suggest say “The Lord’s Prayer” instead. The soap breaks down the virus. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
4. Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
5. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider in advance to tell them about your symptoms before arriving at a doctor’s office or hospital.
6. Make sure you check in with your family, friends, and neighbors. Social distancing does not mean that we stop interacting with one another, but it does mean that we have to be more thoughtful and intentional with how we care for one another.
The continued spread and concern around COVID-19 invites us to consider, in a new way, what it means to care for one another, as Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you…”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers that the ethic to define their lives is love. Our goal, as people of faith, should be to spread love in all that we do, which means we should take necessary and tangible steps to avoid spreading a virus. We will continue to ensure that our facilities are as clean as possible with soap and hand sanitizer available. As stated above, if necessary, we will take further steps to ensure the safety of our community.
Call your friends and family, check-in on your neighbors. If you’ve overstocked on toilet paper or soap, share with a friend in need. Many persons in our community do not have the luxury or ability to prepare or stockpile supplies.
As a person of faith, I cannot believe in a god that would create a virus to punish their creation. The poetry of Genesis 1 tells us that God created a blessed and beloved world. The scope of scripture and much of the Christian tradition, has pointed to a world that is beloved, even when it feels broken. God is not punishing us, God is not angry, God is not vindictive, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Through Christ, we meet God in the flesh and see how this love, this God, reaches out to the margins, blesses the sick, and cares for those who are not in a position to care for themselves. This is the same love that we are invited and called to live out.
There are reasons to fear, there are reasons to prepare, but above all, we are called to love.
May we love another enough to stay safe, for our sake, for the sake of our neighbors, and especially for those that are most vulnerable. May we love one another, may we love our neighbors, enough to reach out, to share what we have, to not only be but tangibly offer grace and peace to one another. You never know when you’ll be the one that runs out of toilet paper. As a community of faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love one another as we love ourselves, to treat one another as we would like to be treated. May it be so, now and always.