COVID - 19 Update
August 10, 2020
Your church council and pastor are here to provide an update on our discussions regarding church services and the use of our building for the next months. We continue to be grateful for the opportunity to gather and worship via Zoom and for the work of the many fellow parishioners who make it happen. In fact, that group has been expanding in number lately and growing the possibilities of what we can do online.
We continue to review a number of resources for input in our decision making, including recommendations from the Governor’s Office, The Center for Disease Control, state and county guidelines, as well as resources from the ELCA and our synod. Importantly, we are also listening to input from the members of our congregation.
We are aware that “COVID Fatigue” has set in for some, or all of us to a certain degree, and acknowledge that an exclusively online experience is not totally fulfilling. We know that there are questions on when we might be able to return to in person worship, particularly when we see some other churches doing so, especially the Roman Catholic archdiocese. We want to be back in our beloved space at Zion, surrounded by our blessed people in who we are as this corner of the body of Christ. Yet, as we review the evidence, statistics, and executive orders in our area, it is our view that the risks remain high regarding in person worship.
In considered options for in person worship, we still see the following obstacles:
Social/physical distancing remains a necessity, limiting the number of people who could attend service.
Children would be unable to attend indoor services because of their inability to social distance.
We do not have the budget or human power for the supplies and equipment that would be required to sanitize the church appropriately between services.
Communion is still not an option since it would put our clergy at risk and make social distancing impossible.
Singing is still not an option because of the high level of risk it poses. In addition, hymnals and bulletins would not be available since they cannot easily be sanitized.
Reopening would require limiting the number of worshipers who can attend in person and excluding vulnerable members from attending because of the risks. Zion has prided itself on our message of welcome and inclusion for all. Creating an environment that excludes members of our congregation goes against that belief.
As a member of our synod and in solidarity with Detroit congregations, Zion has pledged to planning our building re-openings together, based on the readiness of our most vulnerable urban communities. Our commitment to all returning together when it is safe for all churches is our deliberate choice for faithful justice seeking. It is also in our practical self-interest as we are bordering communities. In fact, we encourage everyone who has not done so to check out the Solidarity Service now available on our youtube page.
As frustrating as it is, the council has concluded and is recommending that we continue our worship via Zoom. The reality is that while there have been some gains in slowing the spread of the virus, we remain in a dangerous situation on both a local and national level, and in fact the number of Michigan cases of COVID-19 is rising again. We do not feel we can currently safely return for in person worship and do not wish to put our congregation and clergy at risk when we have a viable alternative.
So when might we return to 143 Albany? This important question is difficult if not impossible to answer right now. The bishop’s office does not yet have a target date to recommend return, and neither do we. We will continue to evaluate all ways to enhance worship and share the gifts of Zion. We are blessed with so many talented members willing to share their gifts, time, and knowledge and are grateful for their contributions.
In addition, we are not at a standstill! Ministry continues! The following are proposed or in the works for fall online offerings:
-New Members Class
-Fall Weekly Bible Study
-Mental Health/Depression Support Group
In addition, remember that you can see each other in safe ways! Gather in backyards or front porches, restaurant patios or in the courtyard of the church. You can make these things happen. Gather in small groups and do it safely, with distancing and appropriate contact. All is not lost! It is different.
After the exodus from Egypt, the people did not have a physical place to gather. They wandered, and they tried, and did, find their identity in God when they did not have a physical place to even lay their heads, much less to worship. Eventually, when they finally came to the base of the mountain, Moses brought down the tablets, the guidance from God and the ark of the covenant. The ark would not have a home until the reign of King Solomon. Until that time, the ark, or the Word, had to move with the people. It was not rooted in one physical place, but in the living and moving of the people. Let us be inspired by that today. The Word is in you, and moves with you. And one day the temple will be home, but not today. As your leaders we pray for courage, strength, an understanding heart and the patience of the Spirit.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our congregation, reopening and plans for the future. Volunteers for worship and other ministries are still needed and coveted. God’s peace and power, and the unending and notorious love of Jesus Christ with the power of the Spirit be with you all.
From the Mountain of Zion,
Your Church Council and Pastor