Updated: March 27, 2020 12:10 am
Third Pastoral Letter Regarding COVID-19
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ, our Great Physician.
I don’t need to tell you that we are in uncharted territory as we navigate what church looks like during our current COVID-19 pandemic. As we settle into our new normal, I and your Church Council leadership have been in contact about the necessary precautions that are necessary to keep you and the wider community healthy, as well as exploring different ways that we can continue to meet digitally as a church family. The latter, along with a firm faith that God is with us, is what allows us to focus on mitigating the spread and effects of COVID-19 and make decisions that will keep us healthy in body and soul.
As the Executive Committee and I have continued to monitor the situation locally and consult government and church resources regarding best practices for being Church together during this time, we have determined that we will extend the suspension of all in-person church activities and the temporary closing of the church building until Sunday, April 19, 2020. We are praying that the curve of those effected by COVID-19 will flatten by this time and that we will be able to gather in person once again, but we will also continue to prayerfully discern how to keep our community safe as we seek to worship and serve God. The COVID-19 pandemic changes daily (if not hourly) in our area and while we are hopeful and desire to set a goal for when we will be able to return to in-person activities, there is also a high likelihood at this time that we will have to extend our temporary suspension of in-person activities longer. You can find the latest information on our response at www.gracelutheran.com/covid19. In addition to our website, we are also sharing information on our church Facebook and Instagram pages (@GraceLutheranRedLion) and through email blasts, which you can sign up for on our website.
We are working to keep you updated as early as possible with all changes and opportunities to worship and grow together, and we appreciate you patience as we learn together what it looks like to be the Church during a pandemic.
Although our ability to gather in person affected by this virus, our ability to be Church together is not. We will still gather regularly in other ways to worship, study, and fellowship. Most significantly, I hope you will join me, Pastor Ben, and Alice Ann for a Live-streamed Worship on Sundays at 10:00 am. You can connect with our assembly either online (with the option to do one- or two-way video) or through your phone (dialing in to hear the service). Information on the numbers you need to join us are available at www.gracelutheran.com in addition to below this letter. At the end of worship we will share the upcoming week’s schedule for worship, study and fellowship opportunities. We have also, in large part thanks to our spectacular secretary, Teryl (“Terri”), compiled an ongoing list or resources for you to engage your faith at home either as an individual or as a family. Activities for all ages are available at www.gracelutheran.com/category/graceathome.
Please know that each and every one of you are in our prayers. And as we journey through this new terrain together, I leave you with this blessing from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Your sister in Christ,
Additional Questions & Answers
Will there be any opportunities to worship or engage in study together?
Yes, just not in person. We will offer streamed worship services that you can join via internet (for video) or phone (audio only). Pastor Courtney and Pastor Ben will lead these together and we are looking forward to the opportunity for our church family to be gathered not only from Red Lion, but also East Petersburg and even across the country. There will also be opportunities to listen or participate in some various faith studies. Information about our schedule, topics, and how to join will be posted on our website (calendar and “Grace at Home”), social media pages (@GraceLutheranRedLion), and announced after our livestreamed events.
You can join us for Livestreaming worship via internet or phone on Sundays at 10:00am.
To connect via internet video:
click “join” or download the Zoom app
then put in our meeting ID: 759 186 8281
To connect via phone:
dial +1 929 205 6099
when prompted, put in our meeting ID: 759 186 8281
We are excited that during this time when we are increasing our physical distancing, we are able to be brought even closer with our brothers and sisters in Christ not only from Grace Lutheran but around the country! Our online/phone worship and other events are hosted by Pastor Courtney Erzkus at Grace Lutheran (Red Lion, PA), Pastor Ben Erzkus at Zion Lutheran (East Petersburg, PA),
What about programs such as Something to Chew On, Mug Club, and DivorceCare?
These groups will not meet in person until we reopen the church; however, there may be opportunities for folks to gather through video and/or phone conferencing, and if such opportunities arise we will make sure to advertise that through email, social media, and by calling/texting registered participants.
Can I get into the church building to do X, Y, or Z?
We ask that you please do not come into the church building at this time for any reason. We will conduct a thorough sanitation of the church building prior to reopening; however, not having anyone enter the building helps us with any possible unintentional spread of the virus, especially for our necessary personnel. Please remember that one of the challenges of COVID-19 is that we can carry and/or spread it without exhibiting symptoms. If you have a need or concern as a volunteer of staff member, please talk with Pastor Courtney or our Council President, Joe Turek.
I have symptoms of COVID-19 and/or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, what should I do?First and foremost, please contact your doctor and follow their medical guidance. There is also information available through the CDC (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx). After you have attended to your health, please do let Pastor Courtney or Council President Joe Turek know so that they can support you and take appropriate measures. Your name will be kept confidential, unless we have your permission to share based on possible contact with others.
I am dealing with a health concern (for example, being admitted to the hospital) and/or am going through a crisis of faith— how can I connect with Pastor Courtney?
Please reach out to me at any point if you desire to talk and pray together. This is a stressful time for many of us, and as your pastor I am honored to walk with you through this. As we continue to evaluate the public health concerns and spread of COVID-19, the main way that I will connect with you is through phone, text, email, or Facebook Messenger. I have suspended in-person visits to prevent any possible unintentional spread of contagion, following the lead of local hospitals and nursing or assisted living facilities who have asked for no visitors. If there is an emergency situation, please contact me immediately and we will discuss together how I can best support you. Methods of contact are listed below.
How can I support Grace Lutheran Church and our community during this?
- Pray. Please join us in praying for one another, all those dealing with COVID-19, those who have lost loved ones to the virus, people who are at-risk, people whose jobs and livelihood will be changed or uncertain, and for the medical professionals who are working long and busy hours.
- Reach out. Just because we cannot gather in person for the time being does not mean we cannot connect in other ways. Please give a call or send a card to your church family or neighbors. We ask that you reach out to at least one person each Sunday!
- Worship and Study. We will be focusing our efforts and resources during this time toward worship and study experiences done via Zoom (video and phone conferencing). Please join us and continue to worship regularly. More information on how to do so will be provided.
- Give. After we are able to move past this we want to continue the programming that supports us in our discipleship and helps us to praise God, so we ask that you please continue to give your regular offering (through mail or by signing up to give online through www.gracelutheran.com/give for a one-time or regular offering).
- Take care of yourself and your family; be mindful of your health. If you are unable to leave your house and run out of groceries, please let us know so we can figure out ways to assist. If you are facing financial hardship because of hours being cut, talk with Pastor. We are called to care for one another, in good times and bad.
Where can I stay up-to-date on Grace Lutheran Church’s response to COVID-19?
The most up-to-date and centralized information will be posted on our website at www.gracelutheran.com/COVID19. We will communicate any information in as many formats as possible: our website, social media (Facebook and Instagram @GraceLutheranRedLion), our prayer chain, email, and phone calls. If you know someone who does not have internet access, please let Pastor Courtney or Council President Joe Turek know so that we can ensure they receive a phone call or are added to the prayer chain list.
The Rev. Courtney A. Erzkus, pastor
Email: PastorCourtneyErzkus “at” gmail.com
Cell Phone: 717-862-8180 (requested Sunday-Thursday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm)
Emergency Phone: 717-881-4621 (any day and time, day or night)
Please note: you can also leave a message on my church phone extension, but please know that I will only check my voicemail once a day, Sunday-Thursday. For that reason it is not listed in this letter as the above methods are preferred.
Mr. Joe Turek, Council President
Email: jmtrhino “at”comcast.net