To all the Sisters and Brothers in Christ of Trinity Lutheran Church,
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a terrible tragedy. It has induced fear in all of us, that we might get sick and suffer from this disease. It has filled us with images of overworked healthcare workers, people in masks and protective gear, and people lying in hospital beds on ventilators. It has caused people to lose their livelihoods and it has created so much uncertainty. Worst of all, there have been many deaths. We grieve this loss of life.
As a congregation, we have suspended any gathering of the church. I believe this is the right thing to do, even though it deprives God of the worship and witness that he deserves. It is not good, but to gather and risk spreading disease is even worse and could do harm to the people whom God has called us to love.
It appears that in the months ahead we may be able to gather again. I have come to realize that we will not be able to simply pick up where we left off and go back to the way things were before. When we first made the decision to suspend our gathering, I thought it would be for a short time and then we would have a day when we could all come together again and we would praise God and celebrate and then go on with our lives.
It appears now that there will not be a definitive day when the restrictions and social distancing and the dis-ease will end. Instead, it will be a gradual change through several phases of coming back together. For the foreseeable future, we will have to take small steps, evaluate the situation, and then decide when and how to take the next steps.
As I think about where to begin as we gather again, I think about the song “Heart of Worship” written by Matt Redman. It goes:
When the music fades All is stripped away And I simply come Longing just to bring Something that’s of worth That will bless your heart…
I’m coming back to the heart of worship And it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it When it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus.
It is too easy for us to make worship into something that is about us, instead of about the Lord. Over time we become more focused on coming together because we like to have coffee and visit with our friends, or because we like the children’s activities, or because we like the style of music. This pandemic has stripped all of that away: all the music, all the fellowship, all of our practices and patterns. As we resume worship, we have an opportunity for a new beginning where we can focus on what is central and the essential. We can come back to the heart of worship, and the heart of worship is about God and Jesus and bringing him our worship and praise.
When we are able to gather again, we will still have to social distance, which means no coffee, no visiting in the halls, no hugs and handshakes. We cannot turn toward each other at all. Instead, we can come together with all our focus on the Lord, joining to hear his word, to sing his praises, to pray for His will.
The church council has been meeting often to evaluate the situation and to decide how and when to gather again. No decisions have been made yet, but when the time comes information will be sent out through the weekly mailing, email, and on the congregation’s Facebook page.
This pandemic has been a terrible crisis, and the death and loss have been tragic. But maybe some good can come out of this. Maybe all this suffering does not have to be for nothing. Maybe at the very least, in a small way, this pandemic will burn away the chaff, refine our devotion and bring us back to the heart of worship.
Your Servant in Christ,
Pastor Scott C. Egbers