A Message from Katy Grindberg, Assistant to the Bishop
by Kathye Hamm
As you well know, this is a time of heightened anxiety and worry in our world. COVID-19 – the related deaths and the attempts to care for those who are ill, protect those most vulnerable, and curb the spread are causing world-wide disruptions in life, gathering and travel. All of our lives are being disrupted – in large and small ways – and the news from China, Italy, Washington state, and locally may be causing increasing worry and stress in your own community.
As people who gather regularly for worship, fellowship, and service, concerns about how the virus is spread, understandably, are at the forefront of conversations in many of our congregations and ministries. Our communities are filled with people with different levels of vulnerability and anxiety and everyone needs to be taken into account, without giving into undo fear. There are reports of people giving in to xenophobia against those of Asian ethnicity as if they are to ‘blame’ for the spread of COVID-19. As Lutheran Christians we are called to solidly stand and speak against these and all other attempts at scapegoating, and to stand with those who are being targeted.
We can and should educate ourselves and follow recommended best practices for hygiene (wash our hands!) and cleaning and gathering. Every decision we make should have the well-being of the most vulnerable in our communities first in mind. We may need to set aside our own preferences and wishes in order for the community to be more safe. You are likely already in conversation, or soon will be, about gatherings, worship, and the sharing of the Eucharist. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, so it is incumbent upon us to make sure we are getting information from reputable sources and then making educated, thoughtful, prayerful decisions with the most vulnerable of us in mind.
In the coming weeks the Office of the Bishop will be offering Chrism Masses at four locations around the synod. We have made some decisions and accommodations in light of the current health concerns:
- At this time, we will not be canceling any of the services. We will be in contact with the pastors of the host congregations and let you know if this changes.
- We ask that people who are sick stay home. This is prudent at any time, but especially now, we encourage this practice.
- We will limit the person-to-person contact during the worship.
- Our practice has been to offer individual blessings with the laying on of hands. This year we will offer the individual prayers, but there will not be a laying on of hands.
- During the sharing of the peace we will encourage worshipers to share the peace verbally or with a sign of the peace that doesn’t involve physical contact – bowing, the peace sign, the Vulcan greeting hand sign…whatever works for you.
- We will encourage all people to respect the wishes of others when it comes to physical proximity
- We will be offering the Eucharist in one kind. As Lutheran Christians we trust and believe that Christ is truly present fully in either of the elements. Due to the risk of sharing of germs when partaking of the wine, we will be communing with bread only. We encourage all congregations who make the decision to continue to offer wine at communion to take precautions around the cup. We are hearing from many quarters that intinction is the least sanitary of all options, and we encourage you to consider other ways to administer the wine if intinction has been your practice.
You are all in our prayers as we all navigate this time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Office of the Bishop if we can be of support to you and your community – we cannot make decisions for you, but we can be with you in conversation, wondering, and certainly in prayer.
God’s peace be with you all
Some suggested resources:
From the ELCA: Worship in Times of Public Health Concern
March 31, 2020
March 24, 2020
March 02, 2020