Grace's Response to COVID-19:
Suspension of In-Person Gatherings, Continued Ministry of the Gospel including through our Radio Broadcast
From Pastor Mark to all of you in Christ Jesus, grace and peace.
In partnership with the widespread effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Grace's executive committee, ministry staff, and I have prayerfully made the decision that we must suspend all in-person gatherings in our building through April 4. We resolved to resume in-person worship on Sunday, April 5 (Palm Sunday), but this will be contingent on how the public health situation develops over the next weeks. Since our leadership meeting yesterday, we have since become aware of the CDC's most recent recommendation that in-person gatherings of 50 people or more be suspended for the next eight weeks, so we recognize that this fast from physical togetherness as church may need to extend longer.
This closing of our building is effective immediately and will include the suspension of Lent soup suppers and midweek worship, confirmation, Sunday School, regular church groups and meetings that take place in our facility, and use of the building by outside organizations. Grace Christian Preschool has cancelled for today and, per usual, will follow the same closure schedule as our public schools.
Our office doors are closed but our office is reachable during the normal hours by phone or email. Your pastor can be reached directly at by cell phone or email. We are working with Office Administrator Karla Vogel and the rest of our ministry staff to determine how to shift work and enhance our communications and outreach from offsite.
Vicar Heidi and I, along with our homebound visitation team, will also be putting a hiatus on in-person visitation ministry, save for emergencies and care around the time of death. We are working with our local funeral directors to determine a plan for graveside services with delayed sanctuary memorial services, should the need arise over the next weeks.
Please know we are taking these strong measures out of sincere faith in Christ, an abundance of care for those in our community most vulnerable to COVID-19, and a desire not to overwhelm the capacity of our health care providers and emergency responders.
How We Will Remain Together in the Spirit: Continued Radio Ministry Sundays at 8am on WDMP, Live Video streaming and More
We are more grateful than ever for our partnership with WDMP 99.3FM and will continue to broadcast a radio service at 8am each Sunday. We will also feature this service via livestream video on Facebook, and video will be available later as well for watching including on our YouTube channel. Please join us for Radio-and-Video Church and invite others to participate in worship in this way. If you can serve this ministry by working a camera or offering a musical gift, please contact me or Quinn Christensen.
Let's also resolve to be together in prayer. At noon each day--upon the sound of the "lunch whistle" for those in range to hear it--we will covenant to pray as a community from wherever we are. Our health and care facility workers, educators, social service providers, local businesses, political leaders, first responders and law enforcement, childcare providers, students, parents, and elders all need our intercessions at this time, and I would urge your attention to our own congregational prayer list as well.
The home is church too. Our ministry staff, including Youth Director Rachel Mueller, will be working to resource you and support you in nurturing faith at home. I pray that our families may be blessed in this strange and unexpected abundance of time at home and discover new opportunities to serve as a home-school of discipleship. Please keep an eye out in your email inboxes and on Facebook for increased pastoral messages (e-pistles!) from Vicar Heidi and myself to help you take strength from the Word in a time of much fear.
Our call to be an evangelizing church remains, and we know that in a time of crisis people in our mission field will be looking to God for help and hope. I urge you to share our devotional communications broadly on social media, invite people to tune in to worship, and keep aware of how we can extend compassion to our neighbors in caring for their basic needs. As Paul exhorts us, "Proclaim the good news whether the time is favorable or not" (2 Timothy 4:2); perhaps the time is more favorable than circumstances might appear.
A Word on How to Give Your Offerings
Finally, let me encourage you to continue to make your financial offerings to support our mission. We are grateful for our electronic givers at a time like this, and ask those of you who give through checks to put them in the mail to Grace. You can also give easily through our webpage via GivePlus; just click the Donate tab on our homepage to make a one-time or a repeat gift. Those of you with greater or more stable income, consider giving more so that those who will be most adversely affected in their livelihood may give less.
In closing, let us take to heart these words of Scripture which attest both to human frailty and the incredible power of God in us:
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power comes from God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. --2 Corinthians 4:7-12