Dear brothers & sisters in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I celebrate that President Trump has now classified churches as essential. Of course, we’ve known that all along, for although life-giving faith and mission is a personal affair, it is not a private affair. God has gifted us to be members of the body of Christ together. Consider 1 Corinthians 12.
So what are Immanuel’s next steps amidst the continued presence of COVID-19? We continue reading the next chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, and proceed in such a way that patiently loves and cares for neighbor, knowing what we know while acknowledging that our understanding of life with COVID-19 is still evolving. This becomes all the more important as we consider the large number of high-risk people within our congregation, including your pastor (obesity and a compromised respiratory system).
Here at Immanuel, our leaders are considering four phases, stepping as carefully and safely as possible, conservatively following our government’s guidelines and the best advice from health experts. Many churches are already opening and, while we respect their choices, we have many details to work out before we feel comfortable opening again. We ask for patience and prayer during this time while we move toward our “new normal”:
Phase 1: Worship and other gatherings are held online, not in-person. ZOOM meetings can be scheduled through Pastor Steve. We have been living in Phase 1, but hope to move to Phase 2 in the not-too-distant future.
Phase 2: Continue online worship focus but invite people to consider meeting as small groups (<10) in homes for viewing of online worship and encouraging each other. Such small gatherings will be organic, not coordinated by the church office, and encouraged to be done with those you know to have been practicing good physical distancing. In-person small group gatherings (<10) will be able to once again meet in the church building, as participants are comfortable. Availability of online ZOOM support for small groups will continue for those who wish and can be coordinated through Pastor Steve. While in the church building, masks (for those 2-years and older) and physical distancing will be needed. Frequent handwashing will be encouraged, and hand sanitizer will be available. Masks will be available for those who forget.
Phase 3: Resume limited (<50), physically distanced, masked (for those 2-years and older), in-person worship gatherings in our building, possibly adding another worship service time and/or creatively using multiple spaces within the building. Worship will still be offered online through livestreaming and recorded video. Singing and wind instruments would not be done during this phase due to the increased risk of aerosol transmission. Hymnbooks, papers, pencils, pew cushions, etc. will be removed from the sanctuary. Immediately following worship, all high-touch surfaces in the worship space(s), restrooms, etc., will be appropriately sanitized in preparation for the next worship gathering. Again, handwashing will be encouraged, and hand sanitizer will be available. Masks will be available for those who forget.
Phase 4: Resume full-participation worship and other gatherings in our new normal, reclaiming song and full celebration, yet continue worship offered online through livestreaming and recorded video. And, yes, handwashing is always encouraged, even in Phase 4 😊.
As you can see, many details have yet to be worked out as we live into our unfolding story, but we trust that God is working a new thing in our midst. God who has called us is faithful.
Please feel free to contact me, our congregation President Walter Scanlon, or another council member with your questions, ideas and concerns. Together we are the body of Christ and individually members of Christ.
Videos of worship services and other resources are posted by 9:30am each Sunday. From our homepage, simply click on the “WORSHIP AT HOME” button to find the current and past worship offerings.
LIVE online events are offered each week via Zoom, a video/audio conferencing tool. For instructions, click on the appropriate buttons on our homepage, including…
Bible Study on the upcoming Sunday’s Scripture on Wednesdays at 10:00 am
Bible Study on Thursdays 6:00 pm presently working with Max Lucado’s “Anxious for Nothing” (videos and reflection questions are posted following each session for those unable to join live)
Sunday Worship & Fellowship, starting 9:30am each Sunday, allowing viewing of or listening to the worship to be done together with others online, and then hang out or come in after the service for fellowship conversation.
Home faith resources for personal and family devotions, Sunday School and Confirmation continue to be further developed and posted
Do you have needs and hopes to share with me or others (e.g., prayer requests, various needs for assistance, a friendly voice)? One option is to share those by clicking on the “SHARE MY NEEDS & HOPES” button on our homepage. Or reach out by phone to the church office.
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE INTERNET ACCESS, I encourage you to:
Reach out to the rest of us by phone with your needs and hopes. The rest of your Immanuel family is still here for you! You may call or text me at any time. My cell phone number is (906) 458-2145.
Worship using available TV and radio broadcasts, including these from our area fellow ELCA congregations.
Messiah Lutheran Church, Marquette (Sundays at 8:45 am on 101.9FM)
Bethel Lutheran Church, Ishpeming (Sundays at 8:00 am on 92.3 FM)
Bethany Lutheran Church, Escanaba (Sunday radio broadcast at 10:45 am on AM 600 and FM 93.5)
Use your ordinary touchtone phone to join our online Sunday Worship & Fellowship as well as Bible studies via ZOOM. Simply call me ahead of the gathering for the required meeting ID number (this changes with each gathering). You’ll be able to participate through an audio connection (both listening and speaking) by calling any of the following Zoom access phone numbers and entering the meeting ID number when prompted:
Downloading the GIVEPLUS mobile app onto your smartphone, designating Immanuel as the recipient
Calling VANCO at (800) 675-7430 ext. 1 with your payment information, designating Immanuel as the recipient
Request a VANCO giving paper form from the church office at (906) 475-9161
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us pray… O Lord our God, you see and know and feel the pain of the world. Look upon us when we feel alone, and enfold us with your loving peace and hope, that in the midst of pandemic we may know your presence. Grant that your life and love and joy may flow to us and through us for the healing of the world in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your brother in Christ, Pastor Steven J. Solberg Cell Phone: (906) 458-2145 Email: PastorSteve@ImmanuelNegaunee.org