“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Dear Redeemed Child(ren) of God,
We live in a world of uncertainty. Now, in the midst of the events surrounding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), things might seem more uncertain than ever. With new reports of potential outbreaks and new mandates every hour or every day, what is going to happen? What is truth? Where can we turn for help?
In such uncertain and unsettling times, we find comfort in something, in someone, that gives us absolute certainty. We find peace in our loving God, Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world in flesh because the perfect peace and unity God once had with all of Creation was lost, destroyed by sin. From that moment forward, we could be certain of only one thing; death and condemnation because of sin.
But Jesus came to bring a new certainty, to return the peace that was torn away in the Garden of Eden, and to bring us back into perfect fellowship with God. This is the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, and this peace will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
No matter what terrors the world throws at us, no matter what suffering we must endure, God promises that we can always find peace in him. Jesus tells us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
The peace that Jesus offers is as eternal as he is. It does not change like the peace this world offers. It is not destroyed when plans change or when we encounter difficulty or suffering. It is secured in the fact that Jesus took on flesh so that he could withstand temptation and stand in perfect obedience before God the Father. It is secured because, though he is perfect, he died on the cross, bearing our sins on himself. It is secured because he rose from the dead, and in doing so, secured for us a place in heaven with him in the full and perfect glory of God. Moving forward, no matter what events transpire, nothing can or will change the certainty of salvation that we have in Jesus.
Keeping this peace and certainty before our eyes, we must have a plan of action in response to current events in answer to numerous questions, the greatest of which is this: How can we continue to grow God’s Word during this time?
HOW WILL CONGREGATIONS HANDLE GOVERNTMENT RESTRICTIONS ON PUBLIC GATHERINGS?
To help answer this question, we’ve included a summary of information from the WELS Conference of Presidents:
As you are probably already aware, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Governor Evers mandated that no public meetings with more than 10 people be held. Additional restrictions may be imposed in the future. This may lead to questions, such as, “Is this a time when we should obey God rather than men?” In answering this question, there are a couple of things to remember.
- The Fourth and Fifth Commandments apply in a situation like this. We are to obey and respect the governing authorities as they carry out their God-given responsibilities, and we are to do all we can to protect our neighbors and keep them from harm.
- At the same time God certainly desires that Christians gather together regularly for worship.
- While limiting the size of worship gatherings, our federal, state, and local governments are not attempting to deny our freedom of religion. Rather, these government authorities have issued mandates that they believe will protect all citizens from harm.
- All of these biblical principles are valid. Therefore, it is legitimate for our congregation to comply with governmental regulations on the one hand and, on the other, to find alternate means to enable God’s people to be fed with Word and Sacrament.
- Recognize that this situation provides and extraordinary opportunity to let out light shine as a congregation and for us to look for ways to serve the people in our community in Christian love.
The Coordinating Council of Divine Savior has developed a temporary, fluid plan of action. Below, you will find our current plan of action. Please Note: This plan is fluid, meaning it may be adjusted at any time in response to changing events. We will work to keep the congregation informed of changes as we are able.
PLAN OF ACTION – Until further notice
- Canceling Worship/Events – With current legal mandates in place barring public gatherings of more than 10 people, we have decided to cancel all public worship services and events, at least through the end of March 2020. This includes Bible Studies.
- PLEASE NOTE: We have alternative options of worship and devotion detailed in the following section.
- Canceling all non-essential meetings – There will be no meetings of committees or groups at this time unless absolutely necessary.
- Maintaining access to the Sacraments – See detailed plan in later section, "Continued Access to the Sacraments".
- Visitation of Shut-in members or other members – Visitations can still be scheduled with Pastor upon request and when permitted. (i.e. Nursing homes/assisted living facilities are currently closed for visitation.)
- PLEASE NOTE: If you are hospitalized for any reason during this time, please contact Pastor Parsons at. If face-to-face visitations are not permissible at that time, Pastor will do so via telephone as able.
- Offerings – “In times such as these, as your local ministry strives to meet these challenges, your continuing and regular offerings are as vital as ever. God’s work must go on.” (WELS President Mark Schroeder)
- As always, giving of an offering is by no means mandatory, but is given willingly and freely.
- For those wishing to continue regular giving habits due to our congregation’s ongoing, fixed expenses, offerings can be mailed into the office on a weekly basis or as a single, one-time gift. Please include your personal envelope number. (Divine Savior’s Address: 102 Northridge Drive, Shawano, WI 54166) PLEASE NOTE: Please seal envelopes with water.
- Office Information – During this time, our office secretaries will have amended hours. There should be somebody in the office on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, from 9:00-11:00am. Phone messages will be checked during those times.
- Food Pantry – The Food Pantry will still be open during this time with the same schedule, but there will be some alterations to how the Pantry is operated.
- There will be no Bread of Life Bible Study.
- At this time, if you are scheduled to help with the Food Pantry, we are hoping you can still do so. However, if you wish to remain home at this time, please contact the Food Pantry Coordinator for the week of your service to give them advanced notice.
- There will be minimized face-to-face interaction with patrons of our Food Pantry.
- Rather than inviting everyone into the building, arrangements are being made to meet individuals at the main entrance, one at a time, to distribute food.
- As far as the community is concerned, only those patrons who are previously registered with the Pantry for the 2020 calendar year will have access to the Pantry at this time.
- As far as our members are concerned, please remember that our Food Pantry is meant to serve your needs, as well. Members need not be previously registered. If you wish to make use of the Food Pantry during this time, please contact one of our Coordinators.
ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS FOR WORSHIP AND DEVOTION
Since we will not be meeting face-to-face for worship for a time, here are some alternative options available to you so that you might still receive spiritual nourishment in the form of sermons/services. These options are available in place of Sunday/Monday worship.
- For those without access to the internet (and those with internet access):
- WTCH AM960/96.1 FM – Listen to Pastor Parsons on the radio every Sunday morning at approximately 7:15am.
- Hardcopy Manuscripts of the sermon can be provided via US Postal Service. Please let Pastor or Randy Kagerbauer know if you would like to make use of this option.
- DVD Videos of the sermon/altered service can be provided via US Postal Service. Please let Pastor or Randy Kagerbauer know if you would like to make use of this option.
- “Time of Grace” services are provided by WELS Pastor Mike Novotny from The CORE in Appleton, WI.
- You can watch “Time of Grace” on the local CBS stations (Channel 5) on Sunday mornings at 6:30am.
- For those with access to the internet:
- Videos of sermons from Divine Savior are posted on our official webpage, www.divinesaviorshawano.org.
- Click on “Grow in God’s Word”, then click on “Sermons” to access videos of the sermon from each week.
- The same videos may also be shared via the Divine Savior Facebook page, which can be found by searching “divinesaviorshawano” in Facebook.
- For those with an e-mail address:
- If you wish to receive copies of the sermon manuscript, e-mail Pastor Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy. You will then be added to a group who receives the manuscript each week during this time.
- Viewing Livestream Broadcasts of services throughout the WELS
- Home Devotion Options
- Can be done with any number of daily devotional books, such as Meditations
- Pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter or two a day. Jot down questions.
- For those with internet – Click WELS Daily Devotions or Time of Grace to view or hear online daily devotions.
CONTINUED ACCESS TO THE SACRAMENTS
Not only is it important to remain in the Word, but also in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, through which we receive full and free forgiveness of sins.
- Holy Baptism will still be provided during this time upon request as private Baptisms, that is, not as part of a worship service.
- Holy Communion will still be available during this time upon request.
- Pastor will be in his office on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00-11:00am, beginning on Monday, March 23rd, for the specific purpose of being available to provide Communion to members who wish to take part.
- Individual home visits can be arranged with Pastor upon request, especially for those who are at the highest risk of contracting illness, and for whom it is safer to remain at home.
Please remember that all these plans are subject to change. If that should happen, we will notify all members as soon as possible. Please be patient during this time. And above all else, keep your focus on Christ and the everlasting peace we have in him.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Almighty God, we pray to you in this time of uncertainty. Be our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble. Do not let us lose courage in the face of these events. Uphold us with your love, and give us the strength we need. Help us in our confusion, and guide our actions. Heal the hurt or sick, console the bereaved and afflicted, protect the innocent and helpless, and deliver any who are still in peril; for the sake of your great mercy; in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Pastor Wolf B. Parsons
Church Coordinating Council
Divine Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church
March 17, 2020