Dear Fellow Member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church & School,
Grace and peace.
Who knew 7 months ago, we would find ourselves in this position with the pandemic? This pandemic has been some of the most complicated and demanding days of my 25 years of ordained ministry. I am writing to you today to share an update on the church & school and what I hope will be our path forward as pastor and people.
Once the teachers came back to the building, I reopened my church office back in August. I am here Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Tuesday remains my day off. School is going very well. I am reading in all of the classrooms which I am pleased to do. Our students are displaying their resiliency as they have adapted easily to mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing. Our teachers, associates and administrators have become front line workers. Their creativity, love of their students and dedication has never been stronger. I am proud of all of them.
I am also deeply grateful to the church staff. We are mastering livestreaming, providing online content, teaching confirmation and providing in person instruction for our St. Paul’s students with Saint’s Alive. Sadly, it is not best practices to mix other schools for Saint’s Alive but we are providing online content.
If there is one question that is asked over and over again it is, “When will we have in person worship again?” It will take time. Our sanctuary only uses recirculated air for heating and cooling. It is a space that could foster a super spreader event.
Council has approved a process to reopen. It involves consultation with our doctors. I am grateful to Dr. Dave Rathe and Dr. Courtney Bochmann. They are helping us to make good decisions. We will return to in person worship one day when the risk is reduced. When we return to in person worship one day, we will focus upon safety. Masks will be worn, there will be no singing and we can safely seat 14 to 16 families in the sanctuary. This model will be in force until a vaccine is created and distributed.
Given these protocols, we are providing for small private funerals of 50 to 60 people. We have physical distancing, mask wearing, no singing and no funeral lunches. These services are only 30 minutes long so exposure is cut short. The student body is quarantined in the school building ensuring the funeral attendees and the student body will never mix. Then all spaces are sanitized before the space can be utilized by the school.
We are living through a historic moment. Just like the pandemic of 1917 and 1918, we are facing a two-year event. 2020 will splash over into 2021. COVID-19 has led to more than 7.5 million people being diagnosed and over 210,000 people who have died. The death toll, which will continue to go up, is already higher than the death toll of the last five flu seasons combined.
Whenever we find ourselves as an organization in a crisis like the 2008 flood, for example, shared sacrifice is needed. The shared sacrifice was all the people who donated time and money in the massive clean-up efforts.
It is my hope that we will embrace this model of shared sacrifice as we move deeper into the pandemic. The church and school staff’s shared sacrifice include interacting with our student body which increases potential exposure to COVID-19. St. Paul’s membership’s shared sacrifice is keeping distanced from those of us with increased exposure. Simply put, you are safer at home than being in St. Paul’s building. This is why we urge you to enjoy St. Paul’s virtual offerings including our livestreamed worship. Lastly, I encourage all members to watch our treasurer’s video on the state of our finances which can be accessed on our website. Thank you for ongoing financial giving which fuels our ministry.
We live in a culture that is growing weary and fatigued with the pandemic, yet we must not lose our focus. If all of us embrace shared sacrifice, we will prevail. I urge all members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church & School to think of this historical moment as an opportunity for shared sacrifice. Like many of you, I find myself wishing this time away. I miss seeing all of you. I prefer preaching to faces and not a camera. But the moment calls for shared sacrifice from pastor and people alike.
Be safe. Be well.