Beloved in the Lord,
Our Lord Jesus Christ founded His church so that His salvation might reach to the ends of the earth. In the church, we receive the love of God and His gracious mercy for Christ’s sake through the Word and Sacraments. This love and mercy transform us into people who wish to reflect God’s mercy and love to others. We serve one another in love: in our own families, in the church, and in society at large.
The most recent guidelines from the civil authorities and the medical community in response to COVID-19 provide us the opportunity to serve one another in very concrete ways. We have already implemented a first stage of these recommendations this past Sunday.
With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in both Champaign and Mattoon (just 30 miles away), the Board of Elders and I think it prudent and wise to implement further precautions to reduce the possible spread of this virus. With this in mind the following procedures are effective immediately at Immanuel until further notice:
- All events that are not of a Word-and-Sacrament nature are canceled. This includes anything that is not directly related to preaching, teaching, or the administration of the Sacraments (Lenten midweek meals, Youth Group, Board Meetings, etc.).
- Since “social distancing” is recommended by the medical community:
- Certain pews will be “reserved” so that they remain empty during the Divine Service to create a buffer zone.
- During the distribution of the Lord’s Supper, we are limiting the table size to ten people. Each table will make use of the entire communion rail so that we are spread out along the rail. Each table will remain standing to eliminate the need to use your hands for help or stability on the communion rail to kneel down and get back up.
- Due to the recent CDC recommendation of limiting gatherings to a maximum of 50, the Elders and I are seeking volunteers to commit to attending Saturday evening rather than Sunday morning service for the next eight weeks. If you are willing to do so, please contact me or one of the Elders. The Elders or I may be contacting you if additional volunteers are needed to keep our Divine Service attendance within these guidelines. We greatly appreciate any effort made to accommodate this request as we fully understand the inconvenience this poses to those who may prefer attending on Sunday morning.
The word “church” literally means “assembly.” The church is the Body of Christ which assembles for worship. This vital ministry is all the more necessary in times of stress, fear, and uncertainty. We need to hear the Word, repent, be absolved, receive the Sacrament, and be strengthened in our faith by our common confession and worship. This is why we are, at this point, seeking ways to still hold services.
In addition, the following guidelines should be kept in mind with regard to worship during this time of heightened health vigilance.
- If you are ill, stay at home. If you are experiencing a fever, a cough, or other signs of respiratory illness, stay at home, take care of yourself, and get better. Get back to worship when you are recovered.
- In church we will take the following steps to ensure that we are following good health procedures. Upon entering church, please use the hand sanitizer in the narthex. Refrain from shaking hands.
- For Holy Communion: Pastor and all communion assistants will use hand sanitizer during the offertory, in addition, the purificator for the chalice will be soaked in Everclear and the chalice wiped with this solution between each communicant. If you still have concerns about receiving Holy Communion, consult your doctor.
- We have taken the above steps to ensure that our church will be a healthy place for you to be. If you are in one of the higher risk groups, consult your primary care physician on whether or not you should be coming to worship services. If you are instructed to stay home, contact Pastor.
Let us all be fervent in prayer to our loving Father for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He would use this time in the world for the repentance and faith of many and that the Gospel preaching would flourish around the world.