In this time when we can't be together physically,
we're finding new ways to connect as the Body of Christ!
June 10, 2020
Dear friends in Christ,
"Are we there yet?" That's essentially the question I've been hearing more frequently since the community around us has started reopening. Understandably, we all want to know when we'll be able to gather again for worship. It's such an important part of who we are as God's people!
“So, are we there yet, Pastor?" Sigh. No, my friends, I'm afraid we're not "there yet," and I can't tell you how long it will take for us to get to that place where we can gather safely. In fact, I'm sad to say that we may have a longer time of exile ahead of us than we care to contemplate--though surely it won't be seventy years, as it was for the Israelites!
Here's what I can tell you: I can tell you that Zoar's leadership cares deeply about all of you and is prayerfully discerning all the information we have at hand in order to make wise decisions. At our council meeting last night, we reiterated that our number one priority is the safety and well-being of our flock. (I'm sure our Good Shepherd approves!) It was sobering to hear the news this past weekend of a large outbreak of COVID-19 at the Hope Village Marquis Care rehab center: 31 of 39 residents have tested positive, as have three staff members, with more test results still pending. This outbreak only a mile from Zoar, as well as the overall recent spike in Oregon's coronavirus tally, confirms for us that keeping our building closed is the right decision for now.
I can also tell you that your council members and I have been researching and considering the many precautionary steps we'll need to take when it is time to reopen. As long as there's no vaccine, we'll encourage those who are sick and those who are most vulnerable to worship at home. (We plan to continue live-streaming worship even after we're able to gather again.) When that great day finally does come, and we open our doors for worship, those of us who gather in person will all be observing social distancing protocols, wearing masks, and practicing much stricter personal hygiene. We'll also have people designated for more frequent cleaning of restrooms and surfaces in the church building. It breaks my heart to say this, but there will be no singing, since singing spreads droplets even farther than speaking. Communion practices will also be very different, although we're not yet sure exactly how. (For example, I'm aware of one congregation that's decided to only serve the bread, which Martin Luther assures us is acceptable, since Christ is fully present in each of the elements.) Anyway, that's just to give you a bit of a "heads up" about how very different worship may look when we do gather again.
Again, our number one consideration is protecting you, the flock God has entrusted to our care. We don't want to lose any of our members to this terrible virus, so please stay safe and be well. Know that you are deeply loved and that we miss you. Most of all, remember that God is with all of us and will bring us through this time of exile and into the future God is preparing for us even now — a future filled with hope.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Michelle Manicke