Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Creator and Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is causing great anxiety in the world, including in our communities and congregation. It seems like every hour I receive another alert of how this pandemic is changing life as we are used to it being.

[Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

Mark 4:38-39 (NRSV)

“Peace! Be still!” God speaks peace to us over and over again, calming our anxieties. Today is no different. Into our world, God still speaks peace and calm. Peace and calm do not mean inaction. The very next scene in the Gospel of Mark, as soon as the boat reaches the shore, shows Jesus healing a man and healing a community. Jesus Christ is God’s love active in the world and we as Christians are called to live out our faith active in love.

In “The Freedom of a Christian,” Martin Luther wrote:

The Christian individual is a completely free lord of all, subject to none.
The Christian individual is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

While many of us may never contract the virus, and while the symptoms will be mild for many of us, this disease is very serious and life-threatening for many in our community. As Christians living together, we have a responsibility to take seriously the risk this pandemic has toward the health and life of many in our community. We do this by taking sensible precautionary measures when we gather for worship and fellowship, continuing to feed the hungry through the New Berlin Food Pantry, and preparing to meet the needs of those in our community who are impacted by school closures and being asked to stay home from work. Last night the Messiah Church Council met and decided upon some steps that we are taking at this time. These are listed below. We will continue to assess the public health situation as the weeks progress.

We remain calm. We take heart. We prepare, hoping it is unnecessary.

As the President and General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation wrote Wednesday:

We take courage in the knowledge that God never abandons us,
even if it means going through the experience of the cross.
We see the cross of Christ as the sign of our strength and hope.

Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

The Rev. D. Lowell Chilton, Pastor
570-884-4386 | lowell@newberlinlutherans.com

The Messiah Church Council, meeting on March 12, 2020, has the following guidance for our congregation:

  • All currently planned activities are continuing. This includes worship, fellowship, committee meetings, and Sunday School.
  • If you are ill, please stay home. We stream the Gospel reading and homily on our Facebook page every week, join us there.
  • When we gather for worship:
    • During the Peace, extend a greeting with a bow, a firm wave, a foot bump or some other gesture that does not involve a physical touch of hands and arms.
      • The pastor, greeters, and head usher will not shake hands but will extend other postures of greeting before and after worship.
    • The pastor, acolytes, and communion servers will wash hands with soap and water before worship (for the pastor and acolytes, after vesting) and then sanitize with Germ-X in front of the congregation immediately prior to serving communion.
    • The offering plates will not be passed, they will be placed on tables by the front pews and available when coming forward for Prayer around the Cross, during the Peace, during the Offering time, and during communion. If you are unable to join us for worship, please consider giving electronically, or bringing your envelope to the church during the week.
    • We will suspend the use of the common cup and only use the pouring chalices for the time being. The communion elements will be placed on the table in the chancel instead of in the narthex.
  • During Fellowship
    • Snacks are to be served by someone wearing gloves, not self-served. Gloves are being procured and will be made available.
    • We will only use disposable flatware, cups, and plates for the time being.

If you or someone in your household contract COVID-19, please contact Pr. Chilton (570-884-4386) or any member of the Executive Committee as soon as possible. The Executive Committee (Pastor Chilton, President Sauers, Vice-President Showers, Secretary Trick, and Treasurer Foss) will meet weekly on Wednesdays to assess the current state of the pandemic and our community and discuss any modifications to this protocol.

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