Regarding COVID-19 Action and Response

COVID-19 Congregational Response UPDATE – 11/17/2020

Dear Friends,

Our C.A.R.E. Team met via Zoom on Tuesday night, November 10, to reevaluate our weekly worship plan.

Given the series of record-breaking days in our state and country of new coronavirus infections, the decision was made to, beginning Sunday, November 22, refrain again from in-person, indoor worship. Worship continues to be livestreamed on our church Facebook page at 9:00 a.m. Sunday mornings and available on our website to view at any time during the week. This plan will be in place for the foreseeable future and will continue to be reevaluated on a monthly basis.

Leading health professionals in our state and across the country have warned that we are now in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet and that indoor gatherings of people continue to account for much of the spread of the virus. They are calling on us all, to do our part, to help reduce the spread of the virus.

It’s important for you to realize that the decision to suspend in-person worship again was difficult for our C.A.R.E. Team to make. We all want our congregation to be together and to feel connected. We have legitimate concerns of the negative and lasting effects the pandemic ultimately will have on our small congregation. Yet we also realize the inherent health risks there are in continuing to meet in-person. We don’t want to potentially put any of you, our dear friends, in the dangerous position of contracting this virus. Our church has endured much over the years and has recovered. It will endure and recover again.

Now, while it’s easy to dwell on, and focus on, what we can’t do, it’s important to remember what is possible and what we can do.

Already, in the absence of in-person worship we have offered other COVID-Safe opportunities to connect, like Bible Studies (both in-person and online), an apple orchard outing, and weekly Fun by the Fire gatherings. Extensive planning has been underway for our drive-through Living Nativity on December 19 for several weeks already. For these opportunities, the members who make them happen, and the excitement surrounding them, we are grateful.

Yet, moving forward, to remain connected, we must be even more intentional about planning additional opportunities like these. Our Church Council met on Tuesday, November 16. One of their action items was to create a Connecting Team that will be in charge of planning and implementing COVID-Safe congregational opportunities of spiritual connectedness, service, and fellowship. There is no limit to how many members can serve on this team and so far many have stepped forward to be involved. Thank you! If you would like to be involved and share your ideas and help make them happen, please contact Sarah in the Church Office, our Council Chairperson, Wendy Vanderwerf, or myself. Watch your weekly worship announcements and our church Facebook page for the sharing of these newly planned opportunities.

Above all, however, pray for each other – and tell someone that you’re praying for them. This is perhaps the best way to feel more connected to your community. Again, while we are unable to worship in person, there is much that we can do, and much for which we can be thankful.

I am reminded of these words of the Psalmist, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121

The C.A.R.E. Team, our Church Council, and I understand the pain and frustration of not being able to worship in person. We will get through this difficult season and year, dear friends. We will get through it together and, by God’s grace, we will come out the other side stronger.

We look forward to discovering new ways to connect this winter.

Grace and peace.

Pastor Dale

 
10/5/2020
 
Regarding: Resuming In-Person, Indoor Worship beginning November 1, 2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
Our C.A.R.E. Team met last Thursday evening (Oct. 1) and made the important decision to return to in-person, indoor worship on Sunday, November 1.
 
We don’t take this decision lightly, of course. To do so safely there must be many safety precautions and protocols in place in order to not spread the coronavirus to one another. While this will be welcome news to some, we realize others remain uncomfortable and not ready for returning to worship in this way and will choose to stay home. We understand this and respect this. For those who choose to remain home for whatever reason, we will continue to livestream worship every Sunday on our church Facebook page at 9:00 a.m. and hope you can join in that way.
 
As we’ve said many times, thank you for your patience and your understanding and your continuous commitment to our congregation and community of faith. If you have any questions or concerns please direct them to Pastor Dale or a member of the C.A.R.E. Team (names listed below).
 
Here is our official Preparedness Plan that we ask all who attend in-person, starting Nov. 1, to abide by. Thank you!
 

C.A.R.E. Team: Terry Kopp, Rebecca Ervasti, Barbara Prindle, Mark Vanderwerf, Donn Arnold, and Pr. Dale

 
 
9/3/2020
Good Morning, Friends.
 
Our church’s C.A.R.E. Team met again last night (9/2) to continue evaluating our church suspension plan in regard to Covid-19.
 
The consensus was that nothing has changed that would cause us to resume in-person worship. It is still not safe – especially for many of our elderly members. The number of positive Covid-19 cases in our own county continues to increase on a weekly basis. Until we see a steady decline for at least two weeks within our county, it makes no sense to change our course of action.
We agreed that the Drive-In/Outdoor worship service is a good alternative for both worship and fellowship for now, and we would like to continue with it through all of September and also October.
 
It was also decided that in the case of rain on a Sunday morning, our outdoor/drive-in worship WOULD BE CANCELLED and the service would instead be streamed live on our church Facebook page, still at 9:00 a.m.
 
Any cancellation would be communicated on our church website and Facebook page. But just know that if it’s raining on Sunday morning, we’ll be worshiping online only.
 
In the meantime we are also trying to provide other means of connecting and fellowship.
 
In addition to our small in-person Bible study beginning next Wednesday, Sept. 9 (10 max) and online Zoom Bible study beginning Sept. 28, our Team will also be planning a monthly fellowship outing and weekly outdoor campfire worship on Wednesday nights throughout October in front of our pavilion. Watch for more information!
 
Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we work hard to stay connected as best we can.
 
Peace and Blessings to you all.
 
Pr. Dale
 
 
8/17/2020

 

Dear Friends,

A question I hear frequently, most often asked with great appreciation for all we as a congregation are doing, is when life at our church will return to “normal.” That is a tough question to answer. When I think of “normal,” I think back to Sunday, March 15 – the last worship service we shared in person. When I think of “normal,” I think back to when our Sunday School children, Confirmation youth, and adults were meeting weekly for spiritual learning and fellowship. However, the question I usually ask in return is, “When will it be safe to gather people back inside, knowing that all of us are vulnerable to obtaining and transmitting the virus?”

This too, is the question our C.A.R.E. Team keeps at the forefront of our conversations when we meet. And from all of the current scientific data, MN Dept. of Health Covid-19 infection/death rates in our state and county, and virus infection projections, the clear answer to my question of when it will be safe to return to in-person worship in our sanctuary is unfortunately, “No time soon.”

Our C.A.R.E. Team and I are keenly aware, as perhaps you are also, that some of the states that opened most quickly are now seeing infections and hospitalizations surge, placing new stresses on their health care systems. We are observing now how restaurants, schools, colleges and universities, and houses of worship are among those places where the virus is spreading most quickly. We do not want that to be our congregation’s story. For this reason, our C.A.R.E. Team has decided to continue to operate with an abundance of caution and not plan on in-person/indoor worship for the month of September. Weekly drive-in/outdoor services will continue to be held in-person and streamed online at 9:00 a.m. every Sunday. Unless there is a sudden decline in infection/death rates for our state and county and a dramatic change in virus transmission projections, this decision will likely apply to our October and November worship and activity schedule as well. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we appreciate the honest and constructive feedback we have solicited and received from some of our members about how we might continue to adapt in order to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of our congregation. As a result we will provide these new and additional opportunities for members interested, in September.

  • A weekly, limited, In-Person Bible Study with a maximum of TEN participants. This in-person Bible Study will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., beginning on September 9, in the church fellowship hall in order to allow for plenty of physical distancing. We will be studying the book of James. Participants must contact Sarah in the Church Office by Wednesday morning to sign up to attend. The first 10 to sign up each week can attend. If interest exceeds the limited number of participants for the 6:00 p.m. study, a second identical study will be offered from 7:15 – 8:15 p.m. There will NO BIBLE STUDY on September 16.
  • A weekly online Bible Study using Zoom – Beginning September 28. This online option of course, will be unlimited in number of participants. It will meet on Monday evenings from 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. beginning on September 28. This option will also be studying the book of James. If interest in this option is too great, Zoom allows for participants to be put in “break out rooms” for a portion of the study to allow for more intimate and engaging participation by all. Contact Pr. Dale or Sarah in the Church Office to have the Zoom link sent to you.
  • Beginning on September 13, At-Home Spiritual Learning Resources will be provided for our Sunday School and Confirmation age children and youth. These resources will be available on the homepage of our church website: www.lindstrommethodist.org Monthly in-person (Covid-19 Safe) confirmation gatherings will be scheduled at a later date.
  • On-Going Weekly Virtual Coffee Hour Every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. (Beginning September 13) – As we’ve been offering throughout the Summer we will continue to offer an online, virtual coffee hour option on Zoom. The time will be at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday to allow for members who attend the drive-in/outdoor worship option to get home in time. Contact the Church Office to have the Zoom link sent to you.

We pray that these new options will nourish our members in spirit in ways that are both safe and meaningful. In these and other ways we can begin to create a “new normal” that will feed our spirit and help us protect the gains that Minnesotans have made in combating the pandemic.

Please know that, while these are times of trial and testing for all of us, I am committed to continue supporting you in your walk of faith and that I am grateful for your prayers and support. As we continue to face the historic challenges before us, we will do so focused on what unites us in the Gospel, reliant on God’s promises, and confident that we will get through this, we will get through it together and, by God’s grace, we will come through stronger on the other side.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dale

 
7/25/2020
 
Dear Friends,
On July 20, our C.A.R.E. Team met again to evaluate suspension of in-person worship in light of CDC, MDH, and MN Annual Conference of the UMC recommendations.
 
Until further notice we will continue our suspension of in-person worship within our building and instead, will begin offering weekly Drive-In/Outdoor worship opportunities throughout the month of August.
 
These weekly gatherings will continue to require the following of the safety measures our Team put in place for our June 28 and July 26 Outdoor/Drive-In worship service experiences. They can be found again by clicking here.
 
Here is the schedule for our weekly August Outdoor/Drive-In Worship Services:
 
Sunday, August 2 – Hymn Sing Sunday (Led by Nancy Thalacker and Tom Ervasti)
Sunday, August 9 – Camp Song Sunday (Led by Bret RempelEwert and Pr. Dale)
Sunday, August 16 – Gaither Hymn Sunday (Led by Gerry Gaudette and Sue Hanvey)
Sunday, August 23 – Special Music Sunday (Led by our members who sign up to share their special music)
Sunday, August 30 – Taize’/Irish Music Sunday – (Led by Bret RempelEwert and Beth Lunsford)
 
All Outdoor/Drive-In services will be broadcast through an FM transmitter by tuning into the 106.7FM.
 
Thank you.
 
C.A.R.E. Team
 
______________________________________________________________________
 
 
6/17/2020
 

Dear Friends,

Our Team met again on Monday, June 15 to assess, evaluate, discuss, and make decisions regarding the immediate and future worship schedule of our church in the midst of ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

We are excited to welcome everyone to First United Methodist Church’s first Drive-In worship on June 28, 2020 at 9:00am. We are planning specific measures to assure the safety of all worshipers. Among these measures are physical distancing and wearing of masks. We will have our music worship team and Pastor Dale’s sermon delivered from the pavilion. Worshipers can tune into 106.7 FM to listen to the service.

We have established expectations to facilitate a safe Drive-In/Outdoor worship experience. Members are expected to:

  • Practice physical distancing while on the church property for the worship.
  • Worshipers can stay in their vehicle or sit outside in lawn chairs, on blankets, or on benches.
  • Worship leaders will set up on the church pavilion.
  • Masks must be worn by anyone who is not in their vehicle (until seated). Seating location options include:
    • Benches close to the pavilion – limit to one family per bench (benches will be set up with physical distancing in mind) – benches should not be moved.
    • Worshipers can bring their own lawn chairs or blankets to sit on the lawn. If you are seated on the lawn, we ask that groups maintain 12 feet of distance between themselves and other family groups.
    • If you are outside your vehicle you will need to bring your own FM radio to tune into the worship service. Worshipers will tune into 106.7 FM to listen to the service.
  • Remaining within a vehicle provides the safest option for worshipers.
  • The church building will not be open, so worshipers should not expect to be given access to the restroom facilities. The playground will also be closed.
  • We request that members do not attend the Drive-In worship if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other flu-like symptoms.
  • If unable to attend or planning to stay at home, feel free to attend the worship via Facebook Live on our church Facebook page (facebook.com/lindstrommethodist)
  • Use South Parking lot entrance when arriving and follow parking instructions. Attendants will direct parking.
  • Volunteers will greet and hand out Orders of Worship when entering. Financial offerings will also be received upon entering and exiting the parking lot. All volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves.

Additionally, we are not planning for a specific date to return to full indoor worship. Additional Drive-In worship opportunities may be held throughout the Summer depending on feedback received from our first one on June 28. We will continue to adhere to the recommendations from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. We recognize that ongoing separation of our faith community is frustrating for some. We all long to be back together. We will continue to look for ways that we can gather virtually or connect in other safe ways. Your suggestions are welcome. Please contact the church office or a member of the CARE Team.

Sincerely,

The FUMC C.A.R.E. (Communicating and Responding Effectively) Advisory Team

Rebecca Ervasti
Donn Arnold
Ashlee Nelson
Terry Kopp
Mark Vanderwerf
Barb Prindle

 
5/29/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
To help our congregation determine best practices and timelines for eventual re-opening and resuming of in-person worship and other church activities, a group of members have been selected by the Church Council and appointed as our C.A.R.E. Advisory Team. Here is their official mission and statement of purpose.
 

C.A.R.E. (Communicating and Responding Effectively) Advisory Team

The coronavirus pandemic presents a dynamic, uncertain, and ever-changing set of circumstances. For these reasons, the FUMC CARE Advisory Team was formed.

Mission Statement of the C.A.R.E. Advisory Team:

The mission of the C.A.R.E. Advisory Team is to advise and support church leadership and membership regarding actions the church should take to operate safely in these times. This committee is using information from various trusted sources, including guidance from the MN Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Team will evaluate all recommendations and assure that decisions:

  1. Demonstrate the value we place on the health and safety of all worshipers, visitors, and staff.
  2. Align with trusted and authoritative sources of information including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
  3. Include safe implementation of all recommendations relating to worship.
 

As the month of May draws to a close, we recognize that we have not been able to worship together in person for more than two months. Still, we can celebrate our continued focus on our mission of growing in love toward God and our neighbors, reaching new people, and helping to heal a broken world. Many of us have demonstrated our love and care for each other in and outside of our faith community. We continue to be amazed by the many acts of kindness we have seen and heard. We continue to prove that we are capable, resilient, and can persevere in these wild and crazy circumstances.

Although we look forward to reconvening together, we are not planning to reopen for indoor worship for the foreseeable future. Transmissions and deaths caused by the virus continue to rise, and physical distancing is the best prevention method to stop the spread of the virus.

The FUMC C.A.R.E. Advisory Team exists to regularly evaluate the situation. These meetings will be convened twice per month, or as needed, given the changing circumstances.

We are delighted to learn that our church staff and members will begin to work towards planning three outdoor worship services on the last Sunday of each month: June 28, July 26, and August 30. Look for other announcements soon about new ways we plan to safely connect, love, and share with one another. Please send your great ideas and suggestions to Pastor Dale, any of the C.A.R.E. Advisory Team members, or the church office.

From the FUMC C.A.R.E. Advisory Team:

Donn Arnold
Rebecca Ervasti
Terry Kopp
Ashlee Nelson
Barb Prindle
Mark Vanderwerf
Pastor Dale Stiles
___________________________________________________________________
 
4/30/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 

Since Sunday, March 22, we have not been able to worship together in-person. We all miss being together and being the community we know and love so well. I am grateful for the new and creative ways many of you have demonstrated to stay connected. Thank you for that. Please keep it up!

Here are a few updates and reminders:

In-Person Worship Suspension EXTENDED – Not unexpectedly, Governor Walz announced yesterday (4/30) that the statewide stay-at-home order will remain in place for at least another two weeks (May 18). Additionally, Bishop Ough of the MN Annual Conference of the UMC has also recently recommended an extension of suspending in-person worship through the end of May. Here is an excerpt of his latest remarks:
 

“When are we going to be able to worship together again? That’s a question weighing heavily on the minds of both clergy and church members—and unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. The question we need to shift our attention to asking isn’t about when to re-open our churches and resume gathering but how to do it. In order to keep people healthy and safe, returning to church will need to happen in phases. As I have said before, I believe those of us in the faith community should be the first responders when it comes to the spiritual, physical, and mental health of all of God’s people. Therefore, I am asking every Minnesota congregation to continue to suspend in-person worship through May 30 and to spend that time carefully and prayerfully developing a plan for how to return to in-person worship in a gradual manner while continuing to strictly adhere to federal and state recommendations.”

Adhering to the Bishop’s request, and again, out of love and concern for our neighbor, we will continue our suspension of in-person worship through May 30. The Church Council will discuss plans for how to best and most safely, return to in-person worship.

Mailed Worship Resources – I have learned that there are some of our members who do not have access to a computer and so are unable to view our weekly recorded worship services. In response, if you, or someone you know of, would like a printed copy of the weekly order of worship and sermon to be mailed, let Carol know in the church office.
 
Church Facebook Page – Be sure to check our church Facebook page for occasional devotion videos, updates, photos, and for a link to our weekly recorded worship videos. Note: You don’t not need to have your own Facebook account to view our church Facebook page. You can view the page by clicking here.
 
Financial Stewardship – Despite the stay-at-home order, the ministries and mission of our congregation continues in our community and beyond. As always, we rely on your financial gifts to the congregation. So far, sufficient amount of gifts have continued to be given, for which we are thankful. Let’s keep it up during this trying and uncertain time. You can mail your checks in to the church office, have your gifts automatically withdrawn from your bank, or give electronically via bank withdrawal or credit card using the Tithe.ly app on your computer or smartphone. You can give electronically directly, by clicking here. Thank you!
 
Grace and peace,
 
Pr. Dale
 
_______________________________________________________________________
 
4/24/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
Our Church Council met again on Tuesday, April 21 and agreed to continue our suspension of in-person worship at least through the remainder of the state’s current stay-at-home restrictions through May 4. It is likely the restrictions will be extended at that time, if not sooner. If so, we’ll meet to evaluate again. If/when stay-at-home restrictions are lifted or relaxed, to allow places of worship to resume in-person worship again, we discussed necessary changes that will need to be made for that to happen. The MN Annual Conference of the UMC has already provided resources for us to consider once in-person worship does resume. We will regularly update you based on what we hear from the state, federal, and CDC guidelines and will make decisions that honor those and that are consistent with other local communities of faith. Please contact a Church Council member or Pastor Dale directly if you have questions.
__________________________________________________________________
 
4/4/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
On a local and national level, we are continuing to be asked to shelter-in-place as Covid-19 infections are still on the rise and have not peaked. Ours, and communities of faith around the world, are dramatically affected by the social distancing we have now become accustomed to. We have begun providing online Sunday worship opportunities, daily facebook live devotions, and a Caring Phone tree program, all in an effort to help stay as connected as possible during this time.
 
Our administrative church council is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, April 21. As we stated in earlier posts/updates, the council will re-evaluate at that time, any possible changes to social distancing mitigation efforts here at our church, following state, federal, MDH, and CDC recommendations. We will also continue to follow the lead our own MN Annual Conference of the UMC and their recommendations.
 
So until further notice, we are continuing to not hold any in-person worship services, events, Bible studies, or other activities within our church building.
 
We miss you and ask that you remain hopeful and healthy until we can meet in person once again.
 
Peace,
Pr. Dale
_________________________________________________________________________
 
3/26/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
So yesterday Bishop Ough directed that all UMC congregations within the MN Annual Conference suspend from in-person worship through at least, May 10 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and related health agency and governmental guidelines.
 
Today, Governor Walz ordered a shelter-in-place (stay at home) for the state of MN for the next two weeks, through April 10.
 
The Church Council is aware of these actions and directives and have discussed them via email. They, and I, remain hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to resume worshiping in-person with one another as soon as possible, but are very aware of these important parameters being put in place for the health, wellness, and safety of all. We will abide by these directives while doing our best to remain hopeful and connected with our community of faith.
I have been pleased with how many of our members have participated in our Caring Tree program. Many of our members are being called on every day. This is important work and if you would like to be a part of it please contact Carol in the church office or send a facebook message on our church facebook page. Thank you, and God bless you!
 
Remember to reach out to me or one another if there is anything you need.
 
Peace,
Pr. Dale
 
___________________________________________________________________________
 

3/18/2020

Dear Friends,

Your elected leaders that make up our Administrative Council met on March 17, to make decisions regarding how we can best do our part in combating the spread of the coronavirus.

Our own church member, Dr. Terry Kopp, from Fairview Lakes Medical Center, was a guest and shared with us his thoughts, both as a church member and medical professional. It was an important, informative, sobering, and faithful conversation. We are blessed with such caring and faithful leaders and members of our church.

This kind of health crisis reminds us of our vulnerability and even mortality, as this new virus has dramatically altered not just our church life but much of the routines and expectations of so many in our community, nation, and across the globe. At the same time, it has also united and reminded us of our shared humanity and of our resilience. This is good! People from our congregation, throughout our community, and across the nation and world are already pitching in, in ways that bring hope and joy to the hearts of others. But we must remember this word of hope: we have altered, but not abandoned, our routines. We will get back to them.

With that said, our Administrative Council has decided the following:

  • In keeping with the CDC’s request to avoid public gatherings of 50 or more people, all in-person church worship services, events, and activities (including Easter Carnival) will be suspended through Sunday, April 19. We will extend this suspension, if needed, or resume sooner, if able. Throughout this suspension, the administrative council will be in contact with one another, will be monitoring the crisis weekly, and will re-evaluate this decision before, or at, our April 21 council meeting.
  • Meanwhile, our understanding of what it means to be The Church will be broadened. So, in an effort to remain connected, a worship and sermon video will be posted and available for you to watch on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. from the comfort and safety of your home. This video will be posted on our church facebook page, on our vimeo page and here on our church website.
  • We are grateful for the gift of technology in these days of social distancing, so I encourage us all to make the most of social media, our website, and email, to gather and support each other, as we responsibly practice social distancing without succumbing to spiritual distancing. We will also work on sharing online resources for families and individuals to use as a way of maintaining a sense of community and for continued spiritual growth. So watch for that! Please share this virtual way of doing church with other family members or friends who may need assistance or help with understanding how it all works. Thank you!
  • You may be wondering, “How can I help?” We will also be offering a “caring tree” where you may intentionally check-in on other members frequently. This includes daily phone calls to find out what needs, if any, our fellow church members might have (groceries, medications, or just need for conversation). We’ll post more about this opportunity as the logistics are figured out.
  • Your church staff will continue to be paid as usual, unless individually, they indicate otherwise. Carol will continue to provide for the needs of H.E.L.P. (Health Equipment Lending Program) as it will need to remain open.
  • Your financial offerings right now will be especially important. Under normal circumstances, people tend not to give their offerings when they don’t come to worship. We’re hoping that under these circumstances, this will be different. This is, understandably, a serious concern for all congregations right now. However, I hope you realize that we understand that the coronavirus is not just a physical threat to our health, but also a very real threat to our economy, and that some of our members will likely suffer financial losses and hardship as a result. So, if you find yourself in the position to continue your financial commitment to the church, please be intentional about mailing them into the church office, dropping them off in the church office, or signing up for automated giving through your bank. For help with the automated giving option you can contact Scott Lecy (612-805-2524).
  • Additionally, if you are a church member who gives your annual financial gift all at once, I encourage you to give it now, if able. Or, if you’re in a position to make an additional one-time special gift, please consider doing so. This would provide an important safety buffer for us as we navigate the next several weeks, financially. Thank you!
  • As always, during this intentional time of social distancing, in the event of any pastoral care concerns or needs, please contact the church office or me directly via call or text (763-245-4006).

Our Administrative Council and I know that such a disruption to our regular social and spiritual lives is overwhelming. Please know that such decisions are not made lightly or out of fear. They are made solely out of love and care for the people we love and care about – our community of faith – each other! And it’s not a question of how much you may or may not personally feel at risk. It’s about public risk – both minimizing risk to others in our congregation and minimizing risk to others in our larger community. We all play a part in minimizing the risk to all, and I believe we are all coming around to realizing this.

Finally, and most importantly, I am mindful of both Jesus’ promise to his disciples to be with them always, as well as the context in which he made it. The scene St. Matthew describes at the end of the 28th chapter is after Jesus’ resurrection, when he has visited with his disciples and is about to ascend to heaven. Which means that their initial joy at seeing their risen Lord has given way to tremendous fear about what their lives will be like after he leaves. We can only imagine, the very thought of his leaving them fills them with great fear and uncertainty. In just that context, Jesus first offers what we often call “the great commission” – to share the good news in word and deed with all the world – and then makes what I like to call “the great promise” – that Jesus will be with them – and us! – at all times and in all circumstance to the very close of the age.

That promise continues to be true and is something we may count on now more than ever as we face our own fears and uncertainties. We will get through this! Because Jesus the Christ, the one that even death could not deter from his mission of care and love, is with us, by our side, and for us – to the very close of the age!

Yours in good faith and Christian hope,

Pastor Dale (On behalf of Administrative Council)

_____________________________________________________________________________
 
3/15/2020
 
All in-person worship services, events, and activities at the church are cancelled through March 29. Updated information will be shared on Wednesday (3/18) following our Tuesday (3/17) Administrative Council meeting. Weekly sermon audio and video will continue to be posted on our website and church facebook page as a way to remain connected and be nourished by the Word.
 
Pr. Dale
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
3/13/20
 
This afternoon Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidelines for gatherings for the State of Minnesota. The guidelines restrict groups of over 250 from gathering. While other larger, local congregations may rightly make the decision not to gather this Sunday, March 15, because of our smaller average worship attendance (55) we will still plan to gather for any who choose to. Our large worship space and our lower average worship attendance will provide for the adequate space for the recommended social distancing. When our admin council meets next Tuesday evening we will reevaluate in regard to other upcoming Sundays in March. Thank you again, for understanding. It is critical that we all act responsibly in this stage of this national emergency.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
3/12/20
 

Dear Friends,

According to the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control, it is now clear that COVID-19 is a deadly serious global pandemic and should not be under-estimated or taken lightly. We cannot assume it won’t affect our little, close-knit Methodist church in Lindstrom. It can, and it may. So, we must be prepared and act responsibly.

Among conversations you may be having about COVID-19, it is clear that opinions vary greatly. However, despite varying opinions, we owe it to each other to err on the side of caution and be diligent in observing common sense hygiene practices. Such practices include:

  • STAY HOME – if you are sick, think you might be sick, or are still recovering from having been sick recently. At issue is not whether you feel fine, but what you potentially present to others around you whose own health or medical fragility makes them vulnerable. Please use good judgment here.
  • BURY YOUR COUGH into your sleeve or into a sturdy cloth or tissue, should a cough surface for you. Don’t cough into your hands or into the air. Thoughtfulness here is paramount.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS regularly and vigorously.

As your pastor, I am constantly monitoring the situation. I have been in regular contact with other local clergy, community leaders, and the MN Annual Conference as to how to best do ministry in light of this rapidly unfolding situation. All of us are trying to figure out how best to provide “business as usual” in the midst of such rapidly changing events. Our administrative council will be meeting next Tuesday night to discuss it further. Our own member and friend, Dr. Terry Kopp, will also attend this meeting to share with us his medical professional perspective.

This Sunday, March 15, we will begin to implement some new practices before, during, and after worship.

  • We will continue to greet one another at the beginning of worship, but will do so without any touching. You may bow, wave, make a peace sign, etc. You’re encouraged to be creative while at the same time honoring one another’s space and individual health and well-being. There are several in our congregations whose immune systems are weak and compromised already.
  • We will no longer pass offering plates. They will instead be available at each of the entrances/exits to the sanctuary as you enter or as you leave.
  • On the first Sunday of the month, during Holy Communion, we will not commune by intinction (dipping the bread into the cup). Instead you will receive the bread as usual in addition to your own individual cup of juice. A basket will be available to place empty cups in before returning to your seat.
  • I, and assigned communion servers, will wash our hands before worship and will use hand sanitizer immediately prior to serving communion.
  • I will not shake hands at the end of the service but will still greet you and extend my welcome and appreciation for you being there.
  • We will not pass the red worship pads down the pew and back. This will eliminate that risk of spreading germs.
  • Coffee Hour will also be altered a bit. Those serving will offer the treats and coffee and will ask that no one “help themselves.” Please respect this change for the sake of everyone’s health and well-being.
  • The tables will be wiped down and cleaned before and after serving.
  • Cheryl, our custodian, has been instructed to be even more intentional about wiping down all surfaces with Lysol, including doors and door handles, handrails, folding chair backs, and the tops of pews.

These changes will help, but ultimately, if you are coughing, running a fever, or showing any signs of illness, please stay home. Again, opinions vary surrounding this, and you may be one who thinks we are being overly cautious, but we do not know where this virus may go. I would rather start precautions now and be proactive, rather than reactive.

Lastly, your continued financial giving is really going to be important as weekly worship attendance will likely decline as people rightly choose to stay home. These offerings will still be able to be dropped off in the church office, mailed in via USPS, or received electronically through your bank. I am also looking into online giving opportunities, if needed.

Our United Methodist denominational leaders are always updating and providing the latest information and resources regarding COVID-19 on the Discipleship Ministries website ( https://www.umcdiscipleship.org ). If interested, be sure to check that out. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we, together, navigate these unchartered waters.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Dale