Dear Members and Friends of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church,
We are certainly living in anxious times. With each passing day the numbers of those diagnosed with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) world-wide and in the U.S. has steadily increased. The geographical areas affected by the virus are increasing as well. It causes us to think of ways to protect our own physical health. It also challenges us to consider what steps we should take to reduce the health risk to our family members and friends.
Last week we announced specific steps we were taking to reduce risk during worship. Feedback from that announcement was very positive. Many appreciated the fact that our leadership was taking the initiative on this issue.
However, things have changed dramatically over the past week. Our President and Governor have declared states of emergency. Schools have been closed down for the next several weeks. Sporting events at all levels are being cancelled.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago have announced the cancellation of worship services. The Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the ELCA, which operates under a different hierarchical structure, has made no broad declaration, leaving the decisions up to the local congregations. Across the spectrum of faith traditions and denominations, there is a general concern for protecting the most vulnerable during this time of crisis. Health official have urged us to be very cautious when it comes to participating in group events.
We don’t need to tell you that the majority of members of St. Mark’s are considered in the high-risk category, which includes those ages 60 and above and those who have compromised immune systems. Even those of us not in the high-risk category are vulnerable to coming into contact with someone who has the virus, and then passing it on to others without knowing it or showing any symptoms. Therefore, the church council has decided that additional steps should be taken. The following actions will take place immediately.
1) All Sunday morning activities will be cancelled until Holy Week, effective immediately
This includes Sunday morning worship, Sunday school classes and Coffee hour on March 15, 22 and 29. It is our hope that the crisis will be reduced so that we can return to our regular Sunday schedule on April 5th, which is Palm Sunday.
2) All Remaining Lenten Midweek activities will be cancelled.
This includes Soup Suppers and Evening Prayer services.
3) All educational, organizational and social activities will be cancelled until after Easter.
This includes Confirmation Class, First Communion Instruction, committee meetings, luncheons, and any other events that would typically meet on site during this three-week time period.
4) The Seder Meal, scheduled for Thursday, April 9th, will be cancelled.
This is based on the potential for the meal to be a high-risk activity. However, the intent is to hold it again in 2021.
5) Staff will be working from home whenever possible.
The church office will be officially closed during this three-week time frame. Mail and package deliveries will be monitored on a daily basis by staff members or other leaders. Voice mail will either be redirected, or checked on a daily basis. Emergency contact information will be provided.
There is some discussion as to whether or not there might be a way to bring worship to people at home. No decisions have been made at this time. However, Pastor Kelly will make available a printed meditation for members and friends of St. Mark’s to use at home, which will include select items from a typical worship such as opening and closing prayers, the readings for the day, and a message based on those readings. These will be accessible via email and posted on the Friends of St. Mark’s Facebook page.
As we go through this together, please find time to pray.
- Pray for those throughout the world who have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
- Pray for the family members and friends of those whose lives have been already lost.
- Pray for those who have been exposed to the virus without their knowledge and without showing symptoms.
- Pray for government officials who face critical decisions regarding the safety of the people they serve.
- Pray for those on the front lines of this disease, including the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, hospital maintenance workers, and countless others, that they might do their important work safely and effectively.
- Pray for those who fear a negative impact on their financial well being during this time of crisis.
- Prayer for those families whose lives are turned upside down with the sudden and temporary closure of schools and businesses.
- Pray for St. Mark’s and for congregations everywhere as pastors and leaders make important decisions about reducing risk for the members of their flock.
- Pray that we all might find ways to spiritually, physically, and emotionally affirm and support each other in this difficult journey.
- Pray that we might see the ways that Christ is present in our lives offering us comfort, peace, and hope as we long for this night of dark and sorrow to be over.
Yours in Christ,
Ken Swanson, President of the Congregation
Rev. Dennis Kelly, Interim Minister.