RETURNING TO WORSHIP UPDATED 22 May 2020
Please read to the end
Dear Redeemed Child(ren) of God,
It is with great joy that we prepare to gather together for worship. We will return to service on May 31st/June 1st, but many aspects of worship will look different for a time. Please note that the changes being made are fluid, and they may be adjusted to better suit our needs as a congregation. Also note that these changes may be different from those described in the previous letter you received dated 6 May 2020.
We are making the changes described below in order to provide an open, yet safe, worship space and atmosphere for members and visitors. There may be differing opinions about many of the changes or about the views of others, but we ask that you be patient with one another and considerate to those whose views may differ from your own. This being said, these words from Paul can guide us in relation to our own words and actions: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) It can be beneficial to discuss different options for moving forward. It would be less than evangelical to mock or demean others for choosing to follow allowable practices with which you disagree. So, again, we ask you to be patient and loving toward one another as we navigate these changes together.
Sunday mornings at 9:00am and 10:30am; Monday evenings at 6:30pm. You may attend the service of your choice.
Services will continue to be posted online at our website, divinesaviorshawano.org/sermons. They will be available after 11:00am.
What if I don’t feel comfortable worshiping in large groups yet?
If you feel uncomfortable gathering in groups at this time, please do not feel pressured to attend corporate (congregational) worship just yet. Follow your conscience in this matter and know that your congregation will continue to provide spiritual care to you as we are able.
Also, the Shawano-Menominee County Health Department recommends in a memo released on May, 20, 2020, that those classified as “vulnerable” should practice extra precautions by staying home as much as possible.
With these things in mind, if you are unable to join us for worship in person, please continue to join us in worship virtually. Services will continue to be posted online at divinesaviorshawano.org/sermons.
To limit exposure to others, please refrain from coming to worship or other activities if you are showing symptoms of, or have recently been exposed to, any illness. And again, if you are unable to join us for worship in person, please continue to join us in worship virtually. Services will continue to be posted online.
If you borrowed a hymnal to use for worship from home, please return it directly to Pastor Parsons, Randy Kagerbauer, or Bonnie Schoenick so we can check your name off and sanitize the hymnal.
HEALTH-AND-SAFETY-RELATED STEPS WE ARE TAKING TO RE-OPEN
Use of Face Masks: We will not require the use of a face mask, but if you wish to wear one, we encourage you to do so. Please provide your own. Please remember that some may choose to wear a mask while others do not. Whether wearing a mask or not, please be courteous and considerate to others about their choices and preferred level of comfort.
Hand Sanitizer is provided at each of the following locations for your convenience: In the narthex on a table with the bulletins; on the table with the Meditations; in the office; in the library. You may also choose to wash with soap and water in any of the restrooms.
Gathering to Visit: At this time, we ask that you refrain from gathering in the hallway, or narthex, or anywhere else in the building to visit. If you wish to visit, please do so outside before or after worship, and ushers may ask you to do so. Please do check your mailbox and feel free to take copies of materials provided on the table in the hallway, such as Forward in Christ and Meditations.
Attendance Limit: There are no legal restrictions in place limiting the number of people who can attend worship or events. However, we have cordoned off half of the pews, so space is currently limited in that capacity. This, combined with social distancing, sets our capacity at around 95.
Social Distancing: We ask that you practice social distancing (maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet between family units). If you should choose to sit or stand at a closer distance, please be courteous and aware that others around you may wish to keep that distance at this time.
Worship Attendance Registers: Worship registers have been temporarily removed from the pews. Attendance will be recorded for you.
Communion Sign-Up: Attendance will be recorded for you. You do not need to stop to highlight your name.
Offering: The offering plates will be placed inside the entrance to the sanctuary. In order to limit contact, they will not be passed through the pews.
Distribution of Bulletins: Bulletins will be available on a table in the narthex as you enter into the sanctuary.
Where to Sit: Every other pew will be cordoned off to facilitate social distancing. Again, we ask that you follow social distancing practices when sitting in the pews. If possible, we recommend not sitting directly in front of or behind others in attendance.
Children’s Activity Bags: These bags will temporarily be removed. Families may bring toys and activities of their own for their children.
Singing Hymns and Liturgical Canticles/Responses: Singing may be limited so as to prevent the spread of germs. Any hymns used in worship will be printed in the service bulletin. Pew hymnals have been temporarily removed to limit contact. However, you may continue to bring your own copy if you wish. Singing of liturgical canticles and responses may also be limited, in that we may speak more of the responses than usual, rather than singing them.
Scripture Readings: As usual, Scripture readings will be printed in the bulletin. Pew Bibles have been temporarily removed to limit contact. You may continue to bring own Bible if you wish.
Communion: Communion will be offered the first week we return, May 31st/June 1st, though that does not follow our regular Communion week pattern. Afterward, we will follow our regular pattern of celebrating Communion on the second and fourth Sundays/Mondays. Communion practices have been altered at this time in order to limit contact. We will temporarily use what is called “continuous flow distribution.” This form of distribution is different from our regular pattern of coming forward in groups or tables. Some of you may have encountered this when visiting other WELS churches. It is commonly used at our larger churches. This will be a temporary change. At a time when we believe it is safer to return to the use of the Communion rail, we will return to our regular form of distribution.
Below is an outline explaining what distribution will look like while using continuous flow distribution.
- The wine will be on the altar as usual. However, we will be using plastic, recyclable cups, not glass. The wafers will be placed into individual paper cups for distribution, and the cups will be located on the dining cart to the side, below the hymn board by the baptismal font.
- When it is time to uncover the elements, Pastor and the assisting usher will wash hands using hand sanitizer before touching the elements.
- Pastor will uncover the wine on the altar while the assisting usher moves the dining cart with the wafers to the center aisle, below the Communion rail.
- Two other ushers will place two receptacles at the ends of the front pews by the side aisles.
- One receptacle will be a basket in which to place your used Communion cup.
- The other will be a waste basket in which to place your used paper cup from the wafer.
- Pastor will stand away from the elements to speak the words of institution because he will not yet be wearing a mask, which may muffle the sound of his voice.
- Following the words of institution, Pastor and the assisting usher will put on face masks (if not already wearing one), and both will wash with hand sanitizer again.
- While the congregation sings or speaks the words of the Agnus Dei (“Oh, Christ, Lamb of God”), pastor will commune the assisting usher. Then the assisting usher will again wash using hand sanitizer.
- Following the completion of the Agnus Dei, the usher assisting with distribution will stand beside the dining cart at the front of the center aisle, and Pastor will take a tray of wine cups from the altar and stand in front of the Communion rail, halfway between the center aisle and the side aisle, the side near the baptismal font, and distribution will begin.
- PLEASE NOTE: Neither the Pastor nor the usher assisting with Communion will be wearing gloves or using any kind of utensil to distribute the elements. We discussed both options and deemed that gloves can be contaminated just as easily as hands if touched, but we can use hand sanitizer again as needed, which is easier than, and just as safe as, switching gloves between people. Using utensils, such as tongs or tweezers, to distribute either of the elements is clumsy and could lead to spilling or dropping the elements, and again would be difficult to sanitize in the middle of distribution if they should come into contact with someone else’s hand. If you are uncomfortable with these decisions, you may choose to refrain from coming forward for Communion during the service and speak with Pastor about receiving private distribution at this time.
- When distribution begins, two ushers will help with dismissing communicants from the pews.
- We will dismiss one side of the church at a time, and one section at a time, beginning with the main section of pews on the side of the baptismal font, then the side pews on the same side. Afterward, the ushers will dismiss those in the main section of pews on the side with the seasonal banner, followed by the side pews on that side. The choir loft will be dismissed after that.
- When you are dismissed for distribution, we are asking that if you are able, please come down the center aisle and return to your seats up the side aisles. Further explanation follows, and a diagram is included on a half-sheet with this letter to help give you a visual of what this looks like.
- The two center aisles, when dismissed, will exit the pews on the side of the center aisle (not splitting to go out on both sides). Then you will come down the center aisle in a line. Please practice social distancing, leaving space between you and the person or couple/family in front of you.
- When you reach the front of the center aisle, you and your spouse/family stop in front of the assisting usher with the wafers.
- The assisting usher will distribute the wafers/body to you in individual paper cups by grabbing the edge of the cup and placing the paper cup in your hand.
- Please receive the paper cup with an open, flat palm so the usher can place the cup firmly in your hand with minimal risk of contact.
- If needed, the usher will have access to hand sanitizer and can re-sanitize his hands.
- After receiving and eating the wafer/body, you may say a short prayer of thanksgiving before continuing down the line in front of the first pew to where Pastor is standing with the wine/blood.
- There will be a receptacle in which to deposit your paper cups.
- When you reach Pastor, you and your spouse/family may stand together, and Pastor will distribute the wine/blood.
- Pastor will pull the wine cup from the tray and hand it to you. Please grab the bottom of the plastic cup to reduce the risk of contact with Pastor’s hands.
- If needed, Pastor will have access to hand sanitizer and can re-sanitize his hands.
- You may again say a short prayer of thanksgiving if you wish. Then continue to the end of the pew by the side aisle and deposit the plastic cups into the marked receptacles for disposal after the service.
- You will then return to your pew from the side aisle.
- PLEASE NOTE: There are a few options for those who may struggle to shimmy across the full length of the pew.
- If you wish to come forward to receive Communion, you may sit on the side of the center aisle, rather than the side aisle. When you return to your seat, you may stay on the end of the pew beside the side aisle for the remainder of the service. Or, if you wish, you could past the pews and return to your seat by going up the side aisle, crossing behind the pews, and returning to your seat by the center aisle.
- You may choose to ask pastor to distribute the elements to you in the pew.
- The other option is to speak with Pastor about receiving private Communion.
- This pattern (enter down the center aisle and exit up the side aisle) repeats for those in the side pews. The only difference is that you first walk up the side aisle, cross behind the pews, and then come down the center aisle.
- The process for distributing and receiving the elements will be the same.
- Those in the choir loft, when dismissed, will come straight down the center aisle, receive the elements, and return up the side aisle on the side with the seasonal banner.
- After the main distribution, Pastor and the assisting usher will bring the elements to those who wish to receive Communion in the pews.
- The elements and receptacles will be returned to their starting positions, and the service will continue by singing or speaking “Thank the Lord.”
- PLEASE NOTE: Seeing this spelled out like this looks far more confusing than it actually is. The ushers will be there to help and guide you as usual.
At the End of the Service: Please wait for the ushers to dismiss you from the pews. In order to prevent a back-up, Pastor Parsons will not greet everyone from the back of the sanctuary.
Please take your bulletins home with you. They will not be reused for following services.
Until further notice, there will be no fellowship and snacks after the service. Again, please do not gather in the building to visit. You may do so outside, and ushers may ask you to do so.
Sunday Morning Bible Class: We will follow the summer schedule for Bible Class, meaning there will be no Sunday morning Bible Class until after Labor Day. God-willing, we will resume Bible Class and restart Sunday School following Labor Day.
Immediately Following Each Service: The backs of each pew and other commonly-touched surfaces will be sanitized.
Library Use: The library will be open for members. Please use hand sanitizer when you enter. It will be located on the desk. If returning books, please place them into the marked tote. They will be sanitized before being re-shelved. All toys in the library will be temporarily stored away to limit contact.
Parents’ Room Use: The Parents’ Room is still available for use, but all toys and books, and the pack-and-play will be temporarily removed to limit contact. Families may bring their own toys for their children. If so, please take them with you when leaving the room.
Counting Teams: The counting team schedule is temporarily suspended. The Financial Secretary will contact members of counting teams as needed.
Greeters: The greeter schedule is temporarily suspended.
Ushers: Ushers will receive special instructions not spelled out in this letter, as well as phone calls, due to the fact that many of these changes affect the tasks you perform.
Altar Guild: Members of the Altar Guild will receive special instructions not spelled out in this letter, as well as phone calls, due to the fact that many of these changes affect the tasks you perform.
What about other activities and events?
Information regarding other activities and events, including, but not limited to, Food Pantry, Toddler Time with Jesus, Jesus Cares Ministries, and Pray and Play Bible Study will be distributed in the weekly bulletins or via phone call to those involved.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Pastor Wolf B. Parsons
Church Coordinating Council
Divine Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church