“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!” –Psalm 80:19
March 18, 2020
Dear Saints of St. Stephen Lutheran Church,
When faced with the plague in Wittenberg, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther noted that different people will make different decisions based upon circumstance and vocation. Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are faced with some of those decisions.
The decisions that we have made are based on these principles put forth by LCMS President Matthew Harrison in a letter dated March 13, 2020:
We owe our local and national government authorities respect according to the Fourth Commandment. We owe them our constant prayers according to the specific directives of St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:2).
We have a duty of love to our neighbors according to the Fifth Commandment. “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need” (Luther’s Small Catechism).
Following are the decisions made for our congregation:
Worship and Education: All worship services and activities will be canceled through April 1. Governor Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency which prohibits gatherings and events of more than 10 people. We are working on live streaming and making available a liturgy each week. More information will be posted on our website, sslchurch.org. I encourage you to continue to have personal and family devotions and Bible reading.
Offerings: Although we are not having regular services of worship at this time, we still have bills to pay. Our expenses average $23,000.00 per month. I encourage you to continue the practice of good stewardship and bring your offerings to the church office or mail them to the church at the address above. You may also take your offering to the Atkins Savings Bank and tell them it is for St. Stephen’s and they will deposit it into our account and inform the church.
Communication: This is a fluid and changing situation. We would like to keep you informed of any changes through email. Please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org so that you can be included in the emails.
Office hours: Office hours will be reduced. Carol plans to be in the office from 8:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Feel free to call ahead to see if someone is here.
Communion/Visitation: At this time, pastors are not allowed to visit hospitals or care centers. I will not make visits to the homebound unless you call and ask for one. My cell number is 319-521-8201.
Confirmation: The Rite of Confirmation is postponed until a date to be determined.
The Future: Decisions concerning resuming of activities will be made at the appropriate time and will be communicated by email and on the website, sslchurch.org.
We are all familiar with the Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” based on Psalm 46. Luther wrote the hymn during the plague in Wittenberg in 1527. “A mighty fortress is our God, A trusty shield and weapon. He helps us free from ev’ry need That hath us now o’ertaken (LSB 656:1). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Remember, God is in control!
In the Lord’s service,
Doug Woltemath, pastor