Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1)

Brothers & Sisters in Christ:

In my lifetime, our current circumstances are unprecedented: 11 weeks in a row where we could not “go to the house of the LORD” as His people to hear His Word and eat from His Table. It gives me great joy to say that this time of fasting appears to be coming to an end! We are making plans to gather again at Immanuel for Divine Service on Sunday, June 7, at 8 AM and 10:30 AM.

Immanuel’s Elders have met many times during the quarantine to discuss the challenges of caring for the flock during this pandemic. Perhaps the most challenging question we have faced is the one before us now: when and how to resume in-person gatherings (how to maintain social distance and limit crowd size, whether or not to require masks, to sing or not to sing, commune or not commune, how to protect children and those at risk, etc.). Opinions about these topics vary widely, so they are all potentially divisive.

What follows are some guidelines according to which we are planning to resume our gatherings. These we offer out of a desire to see God’s people again in His house around His Word & Gifts, in the safest way we know how at the moment. These guidelines are not perfect, but were conceived in the spirit of what St. Paul urges the Ephesian church: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1 – 3)

If you desire to come, please allow these guidelines to inform your behavior and decisions. If you will continue to remain home, please continue to reach out to me (864.607.3496 or revjvan29681@yahoo.com) with any pastoral care needs. God continues to be with us (“Immanuel”) wherever we may be. Thanks be to God.

Pastor VanOsdol

General considerations:

  • Request that anyone with fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, or other symptoms of illness stay home and continue to watch online
  • Recommend that “high-risk” individuals such as the elderly, the immunosuppressed, and those with pulmonary disease stay home and continue to watch online
  • Encourage the use of masks (except during Communion Distribution, when servers will be masked)
  • Continue to make the entire Service available online, being aware of changes to that experience when there are people in the room
  • Recommend that families bring their own hand sanitizer to use
  • Remove Busy Bags; parents should bring their own “busy supplies” from home
  • No Sunday School or Adult Bible Class will be offered at this time

Before & After Services:

  • Encourage people to talk/visit outside (at an appropriate distance) rather than inside the building
  • No coffee hour food or beverages
  • No nametags
  • Print all hymns and liturgy in the Bulletin
  • Greeters open doors for people or prop open (to limit door handle touching)
  • Open doors to Sanctuary with fans turned on to circulate fresh air and disperse potential aerosols
  • Sanitize common surfaces (chairs, door handles, bathrooms)

Service changes:

  • Remove attendance books and hymnals
  • Place Bulletins on a table in the Narthex
  • Place Offering Plate in Narthex
  • Nursery will not be staffed
  • No Sharing of the Peace
  • Chairs will be arranged in the Sanctuary in groups of 2, 4 and more to create space between family units (Ushers/Elders will be available to add a chair or two in appropriate locations to accommodate larger family units)

Behind the Camera

Christ is risen!

As I sit and write this it is Day 36 of our exile; that is the number of days since the schools were closed and Immanuel followed suit by suspending in-person activities. So, it has now been more than a month since the heady days when we could have more than 100 people in the same room and hug and shake hands with reckless abandon!

In those 36 days we have held 10 Services, usually with only a handful of people in the Sanctuary and only me in front of the camera. I have joked that if this keeps up much longer I’ll be asking for someone to do hair and makeup (especially hair). I also beseech you all to remember that the camera adds 15 pounds (allegedly).

But the real purpose of this note is to thank the many of you who are working Behind the Camera to keep up the good work of Immanuel Lutheran Church & School. (And, yes, I am going to attempt a list. There is a risk in that, of course, that I will forget to mention somebody: that is certainly not my intention.) With the following people I have continued to have a good deal of contact over the past 36 days:

Jonathan Anderson, our primary Videographer (and my wife, Jennifer, who has run the camera once); our Musicians: Linda Dzuris, Linda Nichols and Dave Pugh; the Congregation/Choir assembled for our recorded Services: Paul Wagenknecht, Dave Houghton and Jean Kleis; the Altar Guild (I have seen Carol Stowell, Pam Nelson, Ruth Lukemire and Jim Nelson).

Anna Wyss has produced videos and the Sunday School staff continues instruction; the Communications Team has kept us connected with the weekly email Digest and updates; Kristal Kemppainen has come in many times to count Offerings; Jan Taylor has kept the Office open and functioning.

The Teachers and Staff of Immanuel Lutheran School have kept instruction flowing to the more than 120 children enrolled in our School; a team of Dan & Bev Thelen, Rick Danielson, Dana Emberton and Jennifer VanOsdol have been working diligently to expedite the availability of online giving; and the Elders (especially Dr. Brandon Wyss) and Paul Mabrey have been meeting regularly to adapt congregational life to our current circumstances and help keep tabs on all of you.

And then there is you, the ones I haven’t mentioned. You continue to give generously to support Immanuel’s ministries and operations; you are sending encouraging emails and texts about our online Services; you are keeping in touch with and serving fellow Immanuel members, family members, neighbors and friends; and all while some of you have added homeschooling to your vocations!

I mentioned in my Maundy Thursday sermon that there are lessons to be learned while we are in this exile. To what I mentioned that night I will add this: we are learning to be Christ for others and to see Christ in others.

The body of Christ in exile is the body of Christ in each of its members, a royal priesthood of believers. As Martin Luther put it, we are to be Christ for one another and our neighbor, particularly our neighbor in need. And in our neighbor, we will also find Christ there to be served.

Jesus said: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me….Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35 36, 40)

Immanuel Lutheran Church & School may be a bit scattered these days, but is still alive and well! I hope to see you all again soon, in the same place and at the same time!

Pastor VanOsdol