COVID-19 Update - June 18th, 2020
June 18th, 2020
The guidelines provided by the Province for Phase 3 of the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan concerning Places of Worship have been updated as of June 11th to accommodate significantly larger gatherings. With this letter we are bringing to the Congregation more details as to how Mount Olive plans to carefully and gradually resume Sunday Services, as follows:
First steps - On Sunday July 5th and Sunday July 12th we plan to hold Services with specific groups from our leadership at 9AM; they’ll be sort of a “dry run” to see how things work out as we utilize the Sanctuary again, tackling issues and questions that may arise.
Registration - Starting July 6th, Members can begin to register for Services with the Church Office. At first the Office will need to ask some basic screening questions to ensure the good health of our fellow members and attendance will need to be verified the day of the Service.
Official Re-opening Date – On July 19th we’ll have our first 9AM and 11AM Services open to all members by registration, and from there on. And while we could easily accommodate around 60+ people per Service we may voluntarily limit the size of gathers to less than that. If the 9AM and 11AM Service are fully booked, a third option on Sundays at 1PM might be offered. Members will need to respect physical distancing, refrain from shaking hands and hugging, and participate in the frequent use of hand washing and/or hand sanitizer, basically following the same kind of protocol encouraged in the wider community at this time. Those desiring to wear masks are encouraged to do so. Anyone with a compromised immune system or underlying health problems, especially those exhibiting symptoms, will be asked to remain at home for now and seek medical attention if sick or concerned about their health.
Please, don’t forget that members desiring to attend Church must register with the Church office each week until Province restrictions are lifted and we go back to normal life.
Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
It looks as though we will need to get used to the idea of smaller gatherings for a while. Both Pastor Giese and Pastor Albrecht are willing to provide more Church Services for our members as needed; should that be the case we may require additional volunteers. More Services means greater demands on our ushers many of whom are older men, we would be happy to have younger men step forward at this time to join usher teams or form new ones. We will also need additional volunteers to help with cleaning.
The Board of Elders, Church Council and the Pastors are concerned about public health in Regina and therefore are recommending carefully and slowly moving toward the capacity afforded by the Provincial guidelines. They recommend this for two reasons 1) a gradual increase in the availability of seating will initially maintain a lower than recommended number of people in Church at any one time while providing opportunities for members ready to return to start attending, 2) This will give us time to see if the relaxing of restrictions on business, restaurants and other gatherings result in an increase of Covid-19 cases locally. Also, as you might imagine, it is very exhausting to plan for changes only to have new guidelines or updated guidelines come out before you have accommodated the previous guidelines. Resuming Church life at Mount Olive Lutheran gradually, at our own pace, within the recommended guidelines will help manage the general fatigue and stress that comes with uncertainty and hyper vigilance. As soon as the guidelines from the Province prove to be safe and the public health risk continues to lessen Mount Olive will re-evaluate potential Service sizes and/or frequency of Service times.
What then are we to do in the mean time?
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
Holy Communion will still be available for members as will our online Services and we will continue to mail sermons to those who have no internet access. Members will still need to announce for Holy Communion by calling the Church Office where they will be asked some basic screening questions before being provided a time to attend the Holy Supper. This will continue to be provided for individual members, couples, and households or extended households within our congregation. As is always the case members of other Lutheran Church Canada congregations may also announce and receive Communion at Mount Olive especially if circumstances make it impossible to attend their own congregation at this time. We will send notification of their attendance to their home congregation. If you have any questions about attending Communion for yourself or others, please contact the office and talk to one of our pastors.
Even when we begin to gather we may hold off on having Holy Communion together for the first while on Sundays. For this reason we recommend for your spiritual welfare that you consider coming on the designated times of either Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday between 9 and 11am as these opportunities will continue for a while even after we start having more regular Services. If these times do not work for you and your family, please let us know. We may need to add a weekday evening time slot to accommodate those who are unable to attend the times we currently provide. Currently over 120 of our members have come and received Holy Communion some even attend weekly in this way.
Also please be encouraged to continue to attend Services online, or if you have not yet tried them give them a try. This will need to be the way some of us devote ourselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship. Members have been expressing their gratitude for these online Services which can be found at our church website mountolive.ca, YouTube and Facebook. We have also heard encouraging feedback from members who have been receiving Pastor Giese and Pastor Albrecht’s sermons in the mail, many have been saying that they read and re-read them as they pray for the day we can all be together again.
As the days draw ever longer in this time of pandemic it is tempting to compare what others are doing to what we are doing. Some Congregations may be doing things a little differently than Mount Olive while carefully following the same guidelines that we have been given. We ask you to be patient with us, and with them, in Christian brotherly love as we work together to provide Word and Sacrament Ministry to you all.
We may also be tempted to question government choices during this unusual time. Remember as Christians we are called to be careful not to despise or anger the authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them even as we are also called to gladly hear and learn God’s Word and the preaching of it together as His children. When the command of God to gather together in worship is complicated due to our obligation to honour the authorities which God has placed over us (Romans 13:1), as we at the same time strive to support our neighbour in every physical need, we may find ourselves perplexed or worried as to how to proceed. Jesus says we must “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) and St. Paul likewise writes, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17) Ultimately as St. Peter and the apostles say, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Today we can be thankful that we are being give more leeway and we desire to use this latitude conservatively to the benefit of every member: remember God loves every part of you your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength, your body and all its members and faculties and having access to attending Services together, even in smaller groups, will benefit each of us in ways beyond our immediate understanding.
In these days, therefore, we continue to pray for wisdom and we desire to be considered innocent when it comes to our actions yet also to be faithful to Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. While we are glad that our pastors are beginning to have more access to members who are dying, we do however still have concerns about the nature of the restrictions that were placed on places of worship, Christian or otherwise, which far exceeded the guidelines enforced among the commercial and industrial sectors of our society here in Saskatchewan.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:16–17)
With love yours in Christ Jesus,
Lead Pastor Ted Giese & Associate Pastor Lucas Albrecht,
the Board of Elders, and the Church Council of Mount Olive Lutheran Church.