Coronavirus Pandemic

Dear Church,

Thank you for your grace, patience, and strength during this pandemic as we have come together with guests from around the country and world to worship online, talk over the phone, hold virtual meetings, and support one another. I thank you for your prayers, acts of service, and the many ways you have cared for one another while apart. 

I believe that the friends and members of St. John’s parish have been boldly living out God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

Now, I am sure that like me, you look forward to things getting back to normal and meeting in person for worship.  

When we do get back together in person, it will be a great joy. It will not be exactly the way church was before the pandemic, as our communities and nation continue to struggle with this new virus. For right now, we are called to look forward to doing church in a different way because the pandemic will be our reality for many months to come. So, we need to work on not getting back to normal but continuing to worship God and be the Church during a challenging time.

As I have been, I am working with the councils to develop a plan to soon gradually reopen for in-person worship in a way that maximizes the knowledge we have about COVID-19. Thankfully, these decisions are made easier by the great resources we have available to us.

I have spoken to the county health department, watched briefings, attended Synod meetings, talked with Bishop Candea, looked at guidelines from our insurance companies, met with other local pastors online, and downloaded the Churchwide guidelines. I have given this information to our councils, and it is linked on the left side of this page for you to view.

Our local county health departments, insurance providers, Churchwide, and the synod all have very similar guidelines on how to keep the people in church healthy. The consensus from these sources makes our next steps and decisions easier to discern.

I understand that some of you may have various levels of frustration, anger, worry, and anxiousness to return to how things were. I have heard from others that they are not ready to return to church and have been told by doctors to stay home. 

Part of my calling as a Lutheran pastor is to do what Martin Luther called “telling a thing like it is”. This is the sort of plain-talk that I value and practice. When you called me as your pastor, some of you expressed that you needed a pastor who would tell it like it is, and that is just my personality. In this situation, that means reminding myself and all of us that what we want and hope for will need to combine with the reality of living in a still very new public health crisis.

Part of my calling as a pastor is also to have vision, which means part of my vocation is to look at the big picture well-being of the two congregations that make up our parish and how we are impacting our communities. I am not just concerned with how and when we reopen but in the long-range planning of how the pandemic unfolds. Bishop Candea has also asked us to ask ourselves not just how and when but also why. My job is to worry about all of those long-term things to best serve you and lead you, so you can be the community God has called you to be.

Please rest assured that we will be using local county health guidelines in addition to synod and Churchwide guidelines in seeking to continue to be responsible and do our best for everyone. 

Reach out anytime by phone to talk to me. 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Emily McQuillan

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