The Third Sunday in Lent, 2020
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am updating you regarding St. Stephen Lutheran Church’s response to the coronavirus, specifically with regard to worship.
· We will continue to hold worship services.
· The common cup will not be offered at this time.
· Parishioners should share the peace without a handshake.
· The communion ministers will continue to follow proper hygienic procedures.
· We should all follow the common-sense advice of healthcare professionals and government agencies.
Following are more detailed explanations.
1. When worship is scheduled, a pastor will be there to lead worship. For two thousand years, the Church has gathered on Sunday to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection and we will not change that. If you are sick, you should not come to church. If you are concerned about having been exposed, or if you are especially susceptible to virus, you should not come to church. You should not feel at all bad if for whatever reason you do not feel you can come. You are invited to join the congregation in private prayer at the time of worship, if you cannot come to church.
2. The common chalice will not be offered at this time. The Church uses the common chalice to express the unity of Christians who participate together in receiving the blood of Christ. There is no evidence that those who partake from the common chalice get sick at higher rates than those who don’t. However, out of an abundance of caution, I have made the decision to not use the chalice at this time. You are invited to commune by using an individual glass which is filled from the pouring chalice. One also receives the whole Christ by receiving one element only. Those who cannot receive either element also partake by faith in Christ’s presence in the Sacrament: ‘Believe, and you have already received.’ – St. Augustine
3. The peace should be shared without a handshake or an embrace. The peace is not simply ‘Good morning;’ it is the sign that we have forgiven each other and are at unity with each other before we go to the Table of the Lord. Therefore, it is important that we continue to exchange the peace. Alternate ways to exchange the peace may include:
a. a slight bow, perhaps with one’s own palms joined;
b. simply making eye contact and saying ‘Peace be with you’;
c. extending the arms to one another without touching each other.
In whatever way we share the peace, it should be reverent both to God and to the person with whom we are sharing the peace.
4. The ministers of communion will continue to follow proper hygienic procedures before distribution. Parishioners are also encouraged to make use of the hand sanitizers which are located at several points in the nave and the narthex.
5. We should follow the advice given through many government agencies and healthcare providers:
a. If you have symptoms of illness, or are aware that you have been exposed, stay home from work and public places.
b. Wash your hands before eating, after eating, after using the restroom, after touching one’s face, and after physical contact with another person. Washing your hands should be done with soap for at least 20 seconds.
c. Strive to avoid touching one’s face, eyes or mouth.
6. And we ought at all times to remember the words of our Lord Jesus, ‘Take heart…Do not be afraid.’
Yours in Christ,