All in-person services and events have been cancelled due to the current health crisis. Visit our resource page to view Sunday's sermon, participate in online services and get community resource information.
COVID - 19 Update
John 14:15-16 “Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my
commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.””
Siblings in Christ,
Since early March we have said many times that loving God and loving neighbor look different now. The usual things we do to show love, gathering together, eating together, hugging one another, touching the sacrament, are not the most loving things we can do in this moment. Instead, we are doing this weird thing, keeping physical distance, that others might not be infected with COVID-19. We are praying for the Advocate to continue to guide us during this difficult time.
Your Zion Council is here to give you an update on our discussions regarding church services for the foreseeable future. We are so grateful for the opportunity to gather and worship via Zoom. The efforts of Pastor Bode, Jim Littrell, Stacey Jamison and so many others have allowed us to worship together, continue the tradition of music that is so valued, include many of our more vulnerable members who would be too at risk to participate in person, and even include friends and family from places as far away as Iceland, and even Muskegon. The team will continue to lead this effort in the foreseeable future, but if there are worship contributions to be made, please let us know.
We come to you with a spirit of truth, attempting to be fully open with where we see God’s ministry through Zion in the months ahead. Although we look forward to a time when we can return to our sanctuary and celebrate together, we now understand that our vision of what worship together will look like will require some adjustment. We have looked at a number of resources as part of our decision making, including our Michigan governor’s recommendations, the Center for Disease Control, state and county guidelines, as well as a detailed phased model for returning to church from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
As you likely know, what has been widely called the “reopening” of the states, and our society, will be happening in phases. The movement to open things up will not be like flipping a switch on or off, but more like a dimmer gradually brightening, and sometimes dimming again. Moving through these phases may take months as we navigate the rules and procedures to keep everyone safe.
We have also considered what we know about our congregation – we are a hugging, singing, multi-generational bunch. Although we want to be together, many of the things we value most about in person services will have to be curtailed in the first phases, or brightening, of our life back in the sanctuary:
Social distancing will still be a necessity. This may limit how many participants can attend in-person services (only 25 or 50 at a time) and also prevent children from attending since they have limited social distancing skills. It will also prevent us from offering communion.
Singing is among the riskier behaviors when it comes to spreading the virus. A cloth mask is unlikely to be enough to protect you or your neighbor, so singing is not recommended once we start to gather again.
In addition, if we reopen our church and resume gathering prematurely, we may unfairly force our more vulnerable members to choose between keeping themselves and others safe and participating in congregational life like everyone else.
If only part of the congregation could return, how would we keep everyone else connected?
After carefully considering all these factors, it is the Zion council’s recommendation that we continue with our Zoom worship services for the foreseeable future, with a monthly re-evaluation of our situation. The Zoom worship services allow us to all be together, have music as part of our worship and to safely include our high-risk members. In other words, until all of us can be together safely, we are actually a bigger community on Zoom than in person, and we are able to have a deeper, more complete and more meaningful worship service.
We believe that we must make our decision based on the needs of our community’s most vulnerable. We must not only think about the needs of Zion, but of our larger communities of Ferndale, southern Oakland county and the 8 Mile corridor. Our neighbors are some of the most vulnerable people in our state. We must make our decision based on their needs as well. The more contacts we have, the more likely we are to spread the virus, and that is not love. Solidarity, standing together with the most vulnerable people of our region, is a deliberate act of love and Christian witness.
Here is the hardest part: some churches in our city or region may decide to come back earlier than us. Nevertheless, we will continue with the core value of God’s love, and God’s justice. Until we can all come back, we will remain as we are.
During this time we will also have very limited use of our building at 143 Albany. Please do not come to the building unannounced expecting to see someone. You will likely not be successful. However, if you need something from the building, or have a task to complete there, please contact the church office and/or Pastor Bode and we can see what we can do.
We will continue to seek new and innovative ways to do ministry and spread this love that we know as the good news of Jesus Christ. Ministry does not stop. It will, however, change. As your Zion council we beg your prayers, and please know we pray for you deeply. God will continue to send that Advocate of the spirit to speak and push us in new ways to love and be witnesses to the greatest news this world has ever known, that Jesus lives, and because he lives, we live, in the full love and justice of God.
We welcome input from the congregation and are happy to answer any questions you may have about what is written here. We will have a full congregation town hall after worship on Pentecost Sunday, May 31st on Zoom. We encourage all to attend and ask questions, give voice, and encourage one another.
Thank you for being who you are, and for being part of this amazing community of Zion Lutheran Church in Ferndale.
Your Council and Pastor