It appears that the time we have been waiting for—when we can again gather in church for Word and sacrament—has arrived or will arrive shortly. Some states have already begun to relax or even remove restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 virus. In most places further relaxing of restrictions seems to be coming in the days and weeks ahead.
That means your congregation has probably already been making plans to resume public worship at some time in the coming weeks. (Some congregations resumed limited public worship last Sunday.) At least on a temporary basis, those plans will likely take into consideration common-sense measures to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus. Plans may also call for voluntarily following guidelines provided by federal, state, and local health agencies. As we make these decisions, it will be important for congregations to be aware of what restrictions apply to them so they may evangelically apply biblical principles in keeping with the Fourth Commandment, as we also seek to honor the Third Commandment.
We will also want to act evangelically and respectfully because we realize our members and neighboring congregations may have many different approaches, opinions, or comfort levels. As we try to walk through the various governmental and medical concerns, guidelines, and recommendations, we also want to have a balanced spiritual concern toward our members, realizing some will want to gather in worship as soon as possible and others will still feel hesitant for a while. There also will be divided human opinions on the wisdom of beginning to open up or not to open up at all at this time. We want to encourage everyone to be patient with everybody else and to makes those decisions in Christian love and with much prayer.
I pray the Lord has kept you safe and healthy under his protection during these weeks. I also pray the Lord has blessed your congregation’s ministry during this time, since the Word always continues to accomplish God’s purpose. And I further pray for the members of your congregations, especially if they are suffering from illness or from any of the other attendant difficulties such as job loss, financial difficulty, or family turmoil. May the grace of our risen Lord Jesus give them—and all of us—his saving peace.
God bless you as you make evangelical, balanced, and thoughtful decisions about when—and how—to arrange for in-person worship. Together, God-willing, we will be back in God’s house saying, “It is good, Lord, to be here!”
Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder