COVID-19 Updates from Grace
Spring Annual Report Update:
Dear Grace Members,
Our Annual Spring Council Report will be posted on our website and a link will be sent to you soon. Included in the report will be the Committee and Pastor Goals and Accomplishments from the time period November 2019 to May 2020. Also included in the Appendix are the Updated Strategic Plan Goals and Accomplishments, the final Financial Statement for 2019-2020 Financial Year, and the Proposed Budget for 2020-2021.
As was mentioned in a letter in GraceNotes, if you have ANY questions concerning the report, please forward those questions to me, either by phone or e-mail. I will collect all questions and answers and send them out in one document to our membership. Then, we will follow this up with an on-line ZOOM meeting on Sunday, May 24th at 11:30 A.M.
The connection for this is listed below. Please add the ZOOM APP to your phone or computer by May 24, please, so as many as possible can participate in the meeting. If you need help, give me a call and I can walk you through it over the phone.
Here is a link to the ZOOM APP: https://zoom.us/
Hit the "Sign Up for Free" orange button to add the APP to your computer. If you do not have a camera on your computer, then I would add it to your mobile phone. That way we can see you and you can see the other participants when you join the meeting.
Email Update from April 27th:
Grace to you and peace, from God our Creator, and from our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
We pray that this note finds you well, and we want to start out by saying two things:
1) Please know that you are missed. And please know that although the building here is closed, the church is not. YOU are the church. You can still care for your neighbors through technology and social media; by checking in on folks and making sure they have what they need; by lifting them up in prayer; and by doing your best to limit your interactions with others, outside your home.
2) If you do have a need - any kind of need - or if you know someone else who does, please reach out for help. Many direct-service organizations are not open, but 211 has information and resources for those who are in need at this time. In addition, please let the church know. There may be ways that we can help, people to whom we can reach out. So again, please keep us in the loop.
With all of that said, we want to let you know that the Executive Committee of our Congregational Council has prayerfully concluded that it would be unsafe to resume regular, in person worship and activities at this time. Therefore, we will continue to remain closed for the month of May. We will continue to offer worship via YouTube as we have been these past weeks. Pastor Jenn has also begun offering TexTalk via Zoom. A separate email about next week's session has already gone out. We encourage you to find creative ways to continue to connect with one another over Bible Study and other Christian education topics, and in times of intentional fellowship and conversation. If anyone has any ideas they'd like to share, we also encourage you to let us know.
I know that this is a hard time for many of us. Just today I received a note from one of our littlest members - he says his brother misses giving me high fives. I miss that, too. But it is precisely because you are so important - to me, to our community of faith, and to God - that we make this choice. We want to come together at the end of all of this and be able to celebrate! To rejoice in the hope that we have through Jesus Christ. And it is that same hope that will sustain us in our separation. The love of God shown to us on the cross is the same love that we show to each other now, by staying home and keeping ourselves and one another safe. It is absolutely a sacrifice. But it is a lifesaving sacrifice. A life-giving sacrifice.
If you need to talk about this, or about how you are feeling, or how you are coping, or if you need to vent or cry or even laugh, please know that Pastor Jenn and our Council are here to listen and share, and maybe do a little of that of our own. We are here for you. We want to hear from you. And we promise that you will continue to hear from us. We are all sad for what is - but we do indeed have hope for what is to come.
Peace be with you all,
Pastor Jenn & the Executive Committee of Grace Lutheran Church
Let us pray:
O holy and mighty One, on this day we pause to remember and celebrate the gift of creation, the blessings of all that you have made. In this pandemic, when we have entered into a time of separation and isolation, help us to truly examine the splendor of the world around us. Help us to see ourselves as fearfully and wonderfully made. Help us to recognize all the ways we take the beauty of your creation - including our own lives - for granted.
Be with those who are suffering in any way. Be with those who are confused about what to do in the midst of this pandemic. Be with those we are sick or dying because of this virus - and with all those who love them. Be with those who are risking their own health and safety, who are isolating from their families, who are working long, draining hours, all to heal and protect patients, to research and develop cures, and to provide caregivers with the things they need to do their jobs. Be with those who are out of work, who are afraid of what the future holds, who do not know how they will support themselves or their families. Be with those we need you in any way.
We pray for a cure, we pray for healing, we pray for peace and hope and patience while we wait. And we give thanks, that we know and experience your presence in all of this. Amen
A Message From Pastor Jenn
Dear Family of God:
Grace to you and peace, from God our Creator and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
Let me begin on a personal note by saying that I miss you. The church is not the same without people coming and going, without folks dropping in to say "hi", without our volunteers, coming to offer their time in service to Grace. It is NOT the same leading worship while looking out into an empty room. And yet, this is what we are called to do in times like this, when our decisions have to be based on what is in the best interest of the community - whether that be the community of faith here at Grace, or the larger community.
Yet, whether we are literally gathered together in one place, or gathered together virtually through the gift of technology, we are still the family of God at Grace Lutheran Church. That doesn't change. And I want that to be at the center of our thinking as you continue to read this letter.
In light of the continued urging of local health experts, the CDC, our own Synod and the ELCA, the Executive Committee of Grace Lutheran Church has voted to extend the suspension of in-person worship services and activities at Grace for the month of April. It is our hope that by May we'd be able to resume in person worship. If the situation changes before then, and we are able to gather sooner, we will do so joyfully.
We are aware that the month of April includes both Holy Week and Easter Sunday, and Pastor Jenn and the Worship & Music Committee will be talking to discuss how we can still honor these important days while we are not able to be together. In addition, our plan when we are able to gather together again for worship is to celebrate that Sunday as Easter Sunday. This is an idea that is going around in many faith communities, and allows us to look forward to the hope and joy of Easter, even in this time when the uncertainty and lack of connection makes day to day life more difficult.
For the time being, we will continue to provide worship online. As we did last week, we'll try to have it up on Saturday evening (earlier this week, if possible!) It turns out that part of the reason we had trouble uploading our worship service this past weekend may have been that many, many churches were attempting to do the same thing! A lot of pastors noted problems with uploading. This week, we will try to have everything organized earlier so that the upload process will be smoother.
We are also hopeful that beginning this week, we may be able to offer a Zoom Bible Study (Bible book TBA) on Wednesday evenings. If you are interested in this, please call or email the office so that we can send you the meeting information. And, if you are really missing Holden Evening Prayer, Saint Armand's Key Lutheran Church in Sarasota is offering it online on Wednesday evenings during Lent. Simply go to https://www.saklc.com/ for more information - the worship booklet is available from them online.
Another issue we need to address is home and hospital visits. Currently, many nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are restricting visits. In addition, many of the folks that Pastor Jenn visits - even if they live at home - may already be immune compromised. An in-person visit could be dangerous. Therefore, for the time being, Pastor will refrain from making in person home visits unless the situation is dire. She will, however, be making phone calls to all those who are home-bound to check in on them. Right now, both of our local hospitals are allowing visits, but only one person may visit at a time. Again, for everyone's health and safety, Pastor will only make in-person hospital visits in dire circumstances. But if you let the church office know of any hospitalizations, she will contact you by phone as soon as possible.
I have had some inquiries into the availability of the 'Christ in Our Home' booklets for April. If you would like one, please respond to Lisa and let her know. We'll look at how many folks are interested, and we'll determine how to most efficiently distribute them based on that.
Finally, let me say this, as well: We do want to hear from you. Please let us know what is helpful, and what else you might need. You are - every one of you - in the prayers of the Executive Committee, the Council and Pastor Jenn. If you need anything, please contact the church office at 877-5423 or Pastor Jenn on her cell at 800-7197.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding, be with us all.
Pastor Jenn & the Executive Committee of Grace Lutheran Church
Let us pray:
Good and gracious God, we're grateful that you never leave or forsake us. And, we're grateful for the technology that helps us to stay in touch with each other. Give us the strength to endure this difficult season, and deepen our connection with you and your people. Today, help us to remember that this time of social distancing and isolation will not last forever. Empower us with an extra dose of your love, peace, hope and joy. Remind us of your promises, and please, be with those who are suffering, and bring healing to our world. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen
(adapted from a prayer from Pr. Becky Horn)
Email Update from Monday, March 16th:
Dear Family of God,
Please be advised, the following scheduled events at Grace Lutheran Church are cancelled for the month of March:
All worship services, including Wednesday Evening Prayer and the service of Healing on Sunday, March 29th;
All Christian education classes, including TexTalk and the Tuesday evening class at the home of Jean Jacobs;
All Choir rehearsals;
All social activities at Grace:
Men's Ministry Lunch on March 16th
the March 19th Quilting Group
Women's Wednesday Luncheon on March 18th
Midweek Lenten Soup Suppers on March 18th & 29th
Pipe Band rehearsals on March 16th, 23rd & 30th
Harbor Chase Worship (Harbor Chase is not allowing visitors at this time);
We are the leads this month at Manna. They have decided to proceed with the food pantry as usual, with a few changes:
They are canceling the clothing distribution and the hospitality distribution.
They will provide bags of groceries as the individuals arrive, versus having them sit in a group waiting for their number to be called.
We honestly hope that these decisions will help to keep us safer - especially the most vulnerable among us. Thank you for your patience and understanding. You are all in our prayers.
Pastor Jenn & The Executive Committee of Grace Lutheran Church
Email Update from Saturday, March 14th:
Yesterday morning, I shared with you the safeguards our Executive Committee established at Grace to protect those in worship. We likewise promised to closely monitor the situation in case additional changes needed to be made. Late yesterday afternoon, several bishops of the ELCA, including Bishop Pedro Suárez of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, issued pastoral statements advising congregations to cease holding in-person worship services. Out of love and concern for the welfare of all who call Grace home - particularly the most vulnerable among us - we have decided to follow Bishop Suárez' advice . Therefore:
There will be no public, in-person worship at Grace Lutheran Church for the remainder of the month of March, effective immediately. This includes Sunday worship, and Lenten evening prayer services.
All social and educational events and activities are likewise canceled. This includes Lenten soup suppers, fellowship hour, Bible study, choir rehearsals, concerts, etc.
Please share this information with others from Grace who you are aware may not check or reccive email. We will be trying to reach out to everyone, but yoru help is appreciated!
Until public worship and church activities resume, I encourage you to take advantage of the following:
For this weekend, we have created a simple Service of the Word for people to do at home.
The office will continue to operate for the time being. However, we ask that you not enter the office itself. Calling (850-877-5423) or emailing (email@example.com ) are the best ways to reach out. In case of a pastoral care emergency, please contact Pastor Jenn on her cell at 850-800-7197, as usual.
Committees and ministry teams who feel that they must meet during this hiatus, are asked to do so via conference calls, Zoom or the like.
If you have not already done so, sign up to receive our weekly, electronic newsletter, which will help keep us connected as a church family. And be sure to watch for emails that shall be sent from the office throughout the week, with updates, reflections, etc.
Even though we are not meeting for weekly worship, we do ask that you not forget that we still need your benevolence in order to continue to operate from day to day. However, as mentioned above, we ask you not come to the office in person. You may mail your offerings and contributions directly to the church (2919 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee, 32308). Our expenses continue just as yours do. We truly appreciate your generosity.
This is a time of uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes fear. Reports in the media, phone calls from family far away, discerning if a cough is just a cough... it all takes a toll on our spirits. Yet, we hear a voice speaking to our hearts, telling us "Be not afraid." Words spoken to a startled Abraham; to a nervous young Mary; to terrified disciples in the midst of a storm; to mourning women at the garden tomb. It is precisely into such moments that Jesus steps with words of love and reassurance - with his very presence - reminding us that we are his.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Be not afraid, because Christ loves us.
Pastor Jenn and the Executive Committee of Grace