St. Paul's & COVID-19
5-29-20 ~ Worship Service for At-Risk Individuals

St. Paul’s Family and Friends,
 
As we learn more about how to return to public worship while both serving you with the Word of God and keeping you as safe as we can, the pastoral staff has decided to add another public worship opportunity for any “at-risk” individuals or households. These services will be offered on Mondays at 11:00 AM, starting this Monday, June 1.
We want to try to keep as many things as possible the same as Sunday mornings (readings, sermon, prayers). All the same general safety guidelines will still apply. However, there will be some differences to better meet the spiritual needs of at-risk individuals and families:
  • Masks will be required by all who attend. We will have some available, along with gloves and hand sanitizer, but please try to bring your own masks.
    • Pastors will wear masks before and after worship, as well as during communion.
  • There will be no singing, as a way to further lower the risk of exposure to the virus.
  • Communion will be offered on the same schedule as on Sunday, on the first and third weeks of every month.
  • There will be no ushers, technology crews, or musicians.
    • The only necessary personnel will be one pastor and the worshipers.
  • Service folders will be available, both large- and regular-print.
  • Worshipers will sit in the pews marked with blue tape only.
Even with these added precautions, we understand that some might still feel uncomfortable coming to worship. While there is no perfect substitute for worshiping with other Christians in person, what a blessing that we are able to continue offering our services through our website, Facebook page, DVDs, and public access television. We long to see you in God’s house, but we are happy to be able to connect you to God’s Word through these means.
Please direct any questions to any member of the ministry staff. We pray this will help more feel at ease as God helps us navigate these times of change together!
 
In Christ,
Pastor Proeber
Pastor Plagenz
Staff Minister Pahl

This is different than what we discussed, but I realized, if you don't at least read through the verses and songs, you have to kind of stumble through the confession/absolution and the sacrament portion.

 
5-21-2020 ~ New Worship Guidelines

            What’s next? That’s likely been a big question on your mind in the past couple of weeks. I know it has been on ours. Perhaps, most specifically, you’ve been wondering, “What’s next when it comes to St. Paul’s and worshiping together again as a church family?” Especially when you consider that we have not worshiped in-person since March 15 (nearly ten weeks ago!), it is no surprise that many have been wanting to return to public worship as soon as possible. What a joy to be able to say that, on May 31st, we will return to public worship! The psalmist had it right when he said, I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1).

            With the lifting of the Stay-At-Home order, we are free to return with no restrictions on things such as the size of our gatherings. However, just because you are allowed to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be wise or loving to do that thing. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “Everything is permitted”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permitted”—but not everything builds up. To put it another way, before we engage in something that we are free to do as Christians, we want to make sure that we are glorifying God and serving our neighbor to the best of our ability; this is how we build up each other and the Church.

The apostle Paul spoke about this in Philippians 2, as well. Before pointing us to how Jesus, in perfect humility, gave up his life for us, Paul says in verses 3 and 4, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility consider one another better than yourselves. Let each of you look carefully not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. In whatever we do, pandemic or not, we want to consider the needs of others as much as we can. This means we will want to think about what most benefits the interests of everyone—young and old, male and female, long-time member and first-time worshiper, even those who pass by our facility on Sunday mornings—in the decisions we make as we return to public worship.

With these things in mind, the Leadership Council and your pastoral staff have put together these guidelines that will be in place indefinitely beginning May 31st. Please understand that there are so many differing opinions about how to proceed. We have given consideration to all opinions that have been given and addressed as many issues as we thought necessary and helpful. Please also understand that things will be a little different. One difference in scheduling is that we will not hold Monday night services for the foreseeable future. We pray that these are temporary steps to get us back to what we’ve grown so accustomed to at St. Paul’s.
  • The General Guidelines
    • Continue to practice social distancing whenever possible and practice good hygiene
    • Please refrain from shaking hands or hugging
    • Keep close personal interactions to a minimum, especially when inside the building
    • Stay home if you feel sick
    • Volunteers will wear masks and gloves whenever possible
  • The Welcome Center
    • Weather permitting, all main entry doors will be propped open
    • There will be tape on the floor to help assist you in practicing social distancing
    • Masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes will all be available as you enter the building
      • Those who have extra unused masks or are able to make masks, please bring those into the Church Office before May 31st for others to use
    • There will be no snacks provided
    • Coffee will be prepared and served to you by a volunteer in the hallway leading to the gym in between services—join us in the gym for Bible Class!
    • The normal SCRIP table will serve multiple purposes
      • Place your offerings in the slots on the top of either side of the table
      • Large-print bulletins, children’s activity bulletins, printed copies of the hymns, and hearing devices will all be available here for those who would like them
      • SCRIP will be available near the cafeteria
    • Children’s quiet activity bags will be removed
  • Seating
    • Each pew will be marked with alternating colors of tape—red and blue—on the floor
    • Each color will signify which service those pews will be used for; the blue pews will be used for 8:00, the red pews will be used for 10:30
      • You can still use the empty pews to leave or return to your seat during the service
    • Service folders will be placed on the appropriate pews prior to each service
      • Please take your service folders home and dispose of them properly
    • High contact areas will be cleaned in between services
    • Hymnals, pencils, and cards will all be removed from the pew racks
      • Remember that printouts of the hymns will be available in the Welcome Center
    • Please feel free to worship from the Welcome Center if you feel uncomfortable with the number of people in the sanctuary
  • During worship
    • Offering plates and friendship registers will not be distributed
      • Those with smartphones can use the offering to fill in the online connect card
      • An offering plate will still be brought forward to the altar as a symbolic reminder that our offerings are given to the Lord
    • We plan to limit singing to a certain extent
      • Singing is an important part of our worship; however, studies have shown that singing increases the spread of aerosol particles from your lungs, which more easily infect others
      • Hymn verses will be assigned to five different “groups” in an effort to minimize the number of aerosol particles in the air, but still hold onto the joy of singing hymns
        • Groups will be pastor(s), song leaders, men, women, and the entire congregation
      • Consider wearing a mask while you are singing to further minimize the spread
    • The Children’s Message will still take place. However, the children will not be invited forward. Please keep them with you in your pew.
    • Communion might be the biggest adjustment we make
      • All communion helpers will wear masks and gloves
      • There will be no congregational communion hymn
      • We will utilize what is called “continuous distribution.”
      • There will be a “station” of each element of the sacrament on either side of the sanctuary
      • When ushered forward, each family unit will approach the distributor of the bread, who will drop a wafer into each family member’s hand and say, “The body of Christ.”
        • Those who require or desire gluten-free wafers, indicate that as you approach
      • After eating the wafer, proceed to where the distributor of the wine is standing and partake of the wine while the helper says, “The blood of Christ.”
        • There will be no common cup
        • Individual cups will be spaced adequately in the tray so that you are not touching multiple cups at the same time
      • Communicants will then return to their seats down the side aisles
      • Normal in-pew communion will continue as usual
      • One communion blessing will be given at the end, when all communicants desiring the sacrament have received it
  • Dismissal
    • Following post-service announcements, Pastor(s) will leave down the side aisles and head outside to greet you
    • Ushers will dismiss worshipers from the back moving forward; and down the center aisle, as well as the side aisles
      • This is to minimize personal contact
      • Please wait for the ushers to dismiss you
  • Bible Class
    • Bible Class will be held in the gym
      • Please enter through the glass doors leading from the bell tower
      • We will use the cafeteria tables, which are six feet across
        • Two couples could technically sit at one table, but one family per table is best
      • Teachers will use a microphone in an effort to nullify any sound issues
That seems like a lot—a lot to change and a lot to remember. We will do our best to post signs and reminders as best as we can. Things certainly have changed, but remember what, or actually, who never changes: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). In all this change, we will continue to worship the unchangeable God of the universe. He will bless us with his unchanging love and the joy of salvation as we gather again to glorify his name. We hope to see you soon.

If you are still uncomfortable with large public gatherings, we understand. We will still be here when you’re ready.

            Please direct questions, comments, or concerns to any member of the pastoral staff or the Leadership Council. God will bless us as we seek to glorify him and serve others in our efforts!
 
See you soon!
Pastor Lucas Proeber
Pastor Peter Plagenz
Staff Minister Randy Pahl

 
3-23-20 ~ UPDATE

As of March 25, our church office hours have been reduced to Monday- Friday 10AM-2PM.  If you are unable to make it during those times, you can contact us via email.  Please consider using our online giving options or mailing your offering.

Due to the Governor's Safer-at-Home Emergency Order, public worship gatherings have been suspended until the end of April.  Please watch our services online.


 
March 16, 2020 ~ Our Response to COVID-19

Dear family and friends of St. Paul’s,
 
There have been a number of questions directed my way as to how we would plan to proceed, given the viral outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the most recent recommendations from the government, which either put a ban on or strongly urge against gatherings of certain sizes. I want to urge all of you to be sure you read this entire letter, because what comes next might be upsetting to some, but could also serve as a relief to others. In the end, I firmly believe this is the wisest course of action for our church for the foreseeable future. After much prayer and research, and with a heavy heart, I have decided to temporarily cancel all public worship services and church-related activities (including any fellowship meal), effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Under the most ideal circumstances, we would hope to resume worship “as normal” on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020. Until further notice, the church office will remain open from 8:00-4:00 on weekdays. We will also have Easter cards and devotion books available in our bookstore throughout the coming weeks. You are welcome to come in as an individual or family to meet with pastor or buy materials from the bookstore.
 
Here are some thoughts that went into these decisions:
  • Governor Evers has banned all gatherings of 50 or more. President Trump has recommended no more than 10 people in a public or private gathering. I have heard from health officials that further bans and restrictions could possibly be forthcoming.
  • Part of the government’s God-given role is to keep us safe from physical harm (Romans 13:1). The recommendations that have come out are an effort to do just that. Replace the virus with a hurricane and the mass gathering recommendations with an evacuation order, and I don’t think many of us would think twice about following the government’s orders.
    • Ultimately, even if we don’t agree with the recommendations or bans, we are to, as Christians, obey our leaders as laid out for us in the Fourth Commandment.
  • Perhaps you don’t care if you get sick. But the elderly person next to you will care; and, should they die from this virus, their family will care; and so will their pastor. If you have the attitude of “God will take us to heaven by coronavirus if he wants,” I believe that is inconsistent with God’s command to make wise decisions (Proverbs 4). Yes, God will take us home in his time, but we don’t jump off the bell tower, either, just as Jesus did not put his Father to the test in Matthew 4:7.
    • Ultimately, even if we are inconvenienced in how we live our lives, we are to, as Christians, protect the health and welfare of our neighbors, in accordance with the Fifth Commandment. This includes making wise decisions that keep our own bodies free from sickness and disease.
  • Some have expressed the desire to uphold the Third Commandment by coming together for public worship, where we might be comforted in faith and fellowship. This is, indeed, a noble and Christian desire. I share this desire; I became a pastor so that I could lead and feed a group of God’s children through the public use of the means of grace. Under normal conditions, we will always encourage and strive toward gathering together, as we are encouraged to do in Hebrews 10:25. However, it have become obvious that these are not normal circumstances. Plus, the means of grace are powerful outside of our gathering in public worship. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the message, regardless of where you are or how that message gets to you (smartphone, TV, laptop, etc.). For years, we have been blessed to share God’s Word with others across the country and world through our social media pages and our livestreaming ministry.
    • Ultimately, I believe that we can still uphold the Third Commandment by offering worship services through the gift of technology. Our goal is not to “despise preaching and God’s Word.” In fact, I am trying to do just the opposite, while still upholding the other principles that are at play in the Fourth and Fifth Commandments.
  • We will gather “essential personnel” (pastor, organist, technology crew) to put forward a service that feels and sounds as normal as possible.
    • For Wednesday devotions, we will livestream and record at 4:00; on Sundays, we will livestream and record at 8:00.
    • I sincerely pray that you will apply the recommendations and principles that God has put before our eyes by staying home and remaining safe.
    • Offering our worship through these unique means still gets you in contact with the Word of God and his promises. You will be able to join in through Facebook or our website.
    • For those without internet access, we will send DVDs to your home; just contact the church office to request one. We will also continue to put our Sunday services on public access TV.
    • I will have time available to privately offer the Lord’s Supper, prayers, and devotions. Please contact me to schedule a time before stopping in.
  • This decision was not made on my own. I consulted with synod, district, and circuit officials, as well as the leadership of St. Paul’s. Many other WELS churches, including many in our circuit, are doing the same as what we are doing.
    • Some have suggested that we add more services each day. Again, a noble and Christian desire. What happens when we have to continually turn people away because we’ve reached capacity? What happens if someone who is asymptomatic (carrying the virus, but not showing any symptoms) comes into the building? Have you considered the extra time and effort that would be needed from our volunteers and musicians? Would it really be in line with the Fourth Commandment to “toe the line” with 49 people in worship? The CDC or government might not be able to police their bans, but that doesn’t mean we would be wise to test them, either.
  • As far as other events, such as the ordination and installation service for Pastor Plagenz, we will delay that celebration until a time that is more preferable for public gatherings. The District President assured me that Pastor Plagenz is able to start his ministry among us since the divine call has been extended and accepted; the call is not contingent on a document or a worship service.
 
What am I asking you to do?
  • First, pray. Romans 12:12 encourages Christians to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” What a fitting verse for a time such as this! Pray for God’s will to be done; pray for our government to make wise decisions; pray for healthcare workers and other workers in essential industries; pray for all our called workers and staff, here and around world, so that the good news of the gospel reaches more hearts and lives through this unique opportunity we have before us.
  • Second, consider how you will continue to support the ministries of St. Paul’s with your first-fruit, sacrificial offerings. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that “God loves a cheerful giver.” Offerings are a necessary part of a Christian’s life. They are also what keep our facility open and help in our ability to share the gospel with others. From a completely practical standpoint, they also provide the salaries of our called workers, as well as the wages for our office staff, and other monthly expenses. Please utilize all the options provided for supporting the ministries of St. Paul’s through our online giving option, Facebook donations, mailing your offerings to the church office, or dropping them off during the business hours listed above.
  • Third, let me know how I might continue to serve you in this time of trial. I will be looking for ways to offer Bible studies and extra devotional material through the blessing of technology. I don’t want to spread the virus, but I do also want to be here for you—phone calls, texts, and emails are certainly ways in which I hope to encourage you through these difficult times.
 
I realize that this might take away the last semblance of control some of you wanted to have in your life; but I also acknowledge that some will be relieved that we are taking such precautions. Regardless of our feelings, we know this to be true, beyond a shadow of a doubt—God works all things, including circumstances such as these, for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). And his goodness brings us peace which surpasses all understanding. That peace will guard and keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.
 
In His service to you,
Pastor Lucas Proeber