Response to other churches choosing to go against the directives of MN Governor Tim Walz and hold in-person public worship inside sanctuaries.
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Dear MAS pastors and deacons,
I am so grateful for you and your faithful leadership in God’s church.
The past 24 hours have brought a new complexity to our leadership. Our siblings in the Missouri Synod and Roman Catholic Churches of Minnesota have chosen to permit in-person public worship inside sanctuaries by Sunday, May 31, if congregations limit attendance to one-third of the seating capacity of the church and comply with strict protocols for sanitation and social distancing.
As your bishop, and in alignment with both Presiding Bishop Eaton and Governor Tim Walz, I strongly ask congregations to refrain from in-person worship for the foreseeable future (in certain contexts, drive-in worship is allowable).
You will certainly be questioned, and maybe even challenged, by members who want to return to in-person worship. I hope that these individuals express their desires in ways that are supportive and encouraging of your leadership; but I am experienced enough in parish ministry to know this won’t always be the case. I pray for your ability to be present and empathetic in those conversations. But, I also pray you will have the courage and wisdom to hold firm in refraining from in-person worship at this time.
I quote my colleague, Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister, Minnesota Conference of the UCC:
The question here is not whether our faith and faith communities are “essential” to our lives as people of faith; we know they are! The question is whether [opening] our church building doors is ‘“essential” to practicing our faith and advancing the recovery of our communities. We know our churches provide life-giving, Spirit-nurturing meaning to our members and communities as well as often important services. Consider whether or not resuming in-person activities is necessary [while infection rates are still high] to the fulfillment of your mission and purpose. Can you still fulfill your mission and purpose while worshiping, meeting, and planning virtually? What, if any, in-person activities are “essential” to the operation of your church life that you would feel confident about resuming given all known factors?
We entered the time of pandemic saying that our desire to love the neighbor would guide us; that we would respect the best thinking of our elected and healthcare officials. This understanding and commitment has not changed.
As hard as it is to encourage you not to return to familiar practices, I am confident that this is the right decision. We can continue to find creative ways to be in relation to each other and to deepen our relationship with God.
It is tempting to say we want to “return to normal.” Instead, let’s spend time and energy discovering a deeper commitment to justice and health for our neighbors, offering gracious invitation to all, and building life-giving Christian community.
Rev. Ann M. Svennungsen
All worship services, activities and gatherings at the church remain suspended until further notice.
Dear TLC Family,
As we enter these uncharted waters, it is encouraging to see many in our community stepping forward with offers of help and ideas for strengthening our bonds. We may be physically disconnected, but we are still bound together spiritually and have many means at our disposal to care for one another.
Here are a few invitations to connection:
- Pray. Feel free to use the church directory as a prayer list. Extra copies are available in the church office.
- Online worship. There will be no physical gathering for worship. Worship will continue at tlcGo.LIVE at 10:00am on Sundays and other designated times for special services. Please join us and feel free to share with family and friends. Many churches do not have online capability. We have a great gift to offer.
- Check in with one another by phone, email (or social media. Alert the church should you become aware of anyone in need. (952-884-2364)
- Volunteer. We have a list of those willing to help with grocery shopping, or other errands for those who are vulnerable. Contact the church to help or to be helped.
- Purchase non-perishable food items, hygiene items or diapers for those in need. Drop off at the church. We will deliver to VEAP.
- Meet online. There will be no in-person meetings or gatherings of any kind at the church until the situation changes. The church has a Zoom account which is available for use by any TLC small group or ministry team. The Council and Leadership team retreat took place this past weekend via Zoom and we found the tool worked very well. Team leads, please contact Pastor Arthur or Deacon Renee for access. Watch for a future email listing small group gathering opportunities online.
- Support the church and other businesses and organizations financially to the extent that you are able. We expect the coming months to be challenging for all of us as we seek to care for one another in new and creative ways. And we also know that God will provide all our needs.
- Follow TLC on Facebook. Watch past TLC programming at tlcgo.live
The church office will be minimally staffed for business operations only and open this week from 9-3pm M-F. The chapel will be open for prayer during these times. For all pastoral concerns please contact Pastor Arthur, Pastor Ed, Intern Pastor Grace, or Marilyn Erickson directly by phone or email. Contact info at tlcmn.com. We are all maintaining regular hours, though in different locations, and will respond promptly.
Marilyn Erickson sent out the following message to our prayer chain this morning. I think it would be good for the whole church to “hear”:
“At this time of lots of fear and unknown, we need to pray for each other and stay strong in our faith. While we are asked to stay in our homes for our protection and others, I suggest that we make more phone calls to those who are homebound all or most of the time and friends. I found the following prayer in an email I received from the ELCA. It is intended for Caregivers but we are all caregivers in some way.”
God, our refuge in strength, our present help in time of trouble, care for those who tend the needs of the sick. Strengthen them in body and spirit. Refresh them when weary; console them when anxious; comfort them in grief; and hearten them in discouragement. Be with us all and give us peace at all times and in every way; through Christ our peace. Amen (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 85).
May God bless you and keep you. Stay safe. Stay connected.
Pastors Arthur, Ed, Grace and all the TLC Staff
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From Pastor Ed:
I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come? --Psalm 121
The writer of these words was speaking to our ancient ancestors who worshipped all kinds of different gods. They would pray to a particular god to solve a particular problem. There was an assortment of gods for every human need—food, prosperity, fertility, weather, healing, love, war, (toilet paper?) and on and on.
Those hilltops the psalmist lifts his eyes to have temples top of them for each of these gods. People would climb those hills to pray for what they needed. The Psalm writer is making a claim about these hilltop temples and their gods. He is saying there is only one God, only one hope, only one place to look for all we need.
We will all be going through the next many weeks facing some very real fears and anxieties about what this crisis will mean for us. There is the very real threat of losing people we love. There is the very real threat we will suffer some painful financial losses. There is the very real threat of chaos and breakdown of society. What will happen? We just don’t know do we? And is there anything worse than not knowing what will happen?
We are in a time of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. Who will save us?
We lift our eyes to the federal government. We look to the hospitals. We look to the media. We look to local leaders and institutions. From where will our help come?
There is only one place to look.
In the days ahead we can hold onto each other (figuratively), support each other, and together we can look up to the one who saves.
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.