June 30,2020 - SJLC Response to COVID-19

Dear St. John family,     

                                                                                                                             

This past weekend we became aware of a childcare staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.  We are also hearing of cases within our community and state rising again.   At our Tuesday morning staff meeting, we discussed how this might impact our Re-Entry into In-Person Gatherings Plan shared with you at the beginning of June. 

  • After consulting with local health experts, and while not mandated, we closed the Preschool & Childcare Center for the week of 6.29.20-7.3.20 to provide time for all PCC staff to be tested. This also allows for additional cleaning on the lower level by a contracted cleaning service to be done this week. While a very difficult decision, under these circumstances, we felt it best to err on the side of caution. 
  • We are maintaining our current level of gatherings as set forth in our Re-Entry Plan for small groups and worship -- continuing with outdoor worship at 9am on Sunday mornings in the courtyard and livestreaming that service on FB (with posting to the St. John website after the service concludes).  Sunday’s service is also broadcast on Wednesdays at 6pm on CFU Channel 18 as another way to share in worship together.  If you are in a high-risk group, we encourage you to continue worshipping with us online or by TV.
  • We encourage you to wear a mask while at church out of love for others.  At this time, our staff are wearing masks when they are in common areas (outside of their individual office space). 
  • Social distancing from non-family members is also encouraged and we will continue our practice of no group singing on Sunday mornings during worship. 
  • Our largest outside use groups -- ZUMBA, AA and AlAnon -- have all indicated they will not return to use St. John’s facility until this fall.
  • Vacation Bible School (VBS) is tentatively scheduled for the first week of August.  While details are still being worked out, the curriculum selected can be adapted to fit either in-person, at home, or a hybrid approach.   The same matrix being used to determine which Phase of the Re-Entry Plan we are in for worship will be applied to VBS.  Families should watch for additional information mid-July.

When will full gatherings and other activities resume?
The decision of when we might resume our “normal” Sunday morning schedule hinges on the health of our community.  The situation is fluid, and the health and safety of our congregation and community is our priority. Each week we continue to review the health data for Black Hawk County and will make that decision with input from the Church Council and the Worship Resource Team.  


This is a special opportunity for St. John to “joyfully take God’s love into the world!” – invite others to share in the outdoor worship opportunity, spread the news that our worship service is being broadcast on Wednesday nights, and demonstrate what “loving your neighbor” means and looks like during this time!    


St. John Church Staff & Leadership

What "Loving our Neighbors" Looks Like in the midst of COVID-19

As a church, our mission is grounded in the great commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27).  Our scriptures are filled with stories of Jesus paying special attention to the marginalized and vulnerable, with frequent mention of him healing people wherever he went.  As we began discussing what our return to in-person gatherings might look like, we wanted to be mindful of what “loving our neighbor” looked like in this COVID-19 world.


Attached is the St. John Re-Entry Plan to In-Person Gatherings, a phased approach for small groups, worship, weddings and funerals, and outside organization meetings to resume in-person at St John.  We share this with you knowing we need to remain mindful of the COVID-19 numbers within Black Hawk County and the potential impact that the larger reopening happening in our community might have upon those numbers.   At this time, as those numbers decrease, we are using a gradual re-entry process (Phases); if new waves of infections emerge, we may move back in the Phase we are using.


PLEASE read both sides and all parts of this document as it lays out more detailed information of each Phase as well as “what you can do” and “what St. John will do”.  As part of our plan, we encourage you to stay home if ill or part of a high-risk group, to maintain social distancing of 6 feet from non-family members, to wear a mask, and to use hand sanitizer.  Please note that for the month of June, the church facility will remain locked on Sunday mornings and restrooms/water fountains will not be available for use.  We will continue streaming the Sunday worship service on Facebook and the website so high-risk individuals and those not ready to return can participate in worship from home.


We are so appreciative of your patience, grace, and flexibility, both in the past 10 weeks, as well as going forward.  Please continue to pray for researchers and medical professionals, for the ill and recovering, for those grieving and those struggling with the impact of COVID-19 upon their life.  Continue to minister to one another. Be a voice of hope.  Look for opportunities to “joyfully take God’s love into the world!” 


St. John Church Leadership & Staff  

St. John's Response to Coronavirus

May 6, 2020

 

Dear St. John friends,


Back in March when COVID-19 first entered our lives, we don’t think any of us expected the changes we’ve made in our lives and continue with six weeks later.  And yet, in this unexpected time, we’ve found things we can rejoice in.  Our online worship services continue to be opportunities to “feed your soul” with Word, prayer and music.  (A special thank you to Nick Mixdorf for his willingness to step forward and help produce those services each week as our Online Worship Technician!)  The week prior to Holy Week, volunteers sent cards to over 150 families in our congregation so that every household with members age 60 and older received contact from someone in the congregation. And our “rainbow of hope” thank you for the coronavirus workers hanging in the front west windows at church received a shout-out in a recent Northeastern Iowa Synod newsletter.


It was with surprise that we learned last week of the Governor’s proclamation to allow spiritual and religious gatherings in Iowa.   At St. John, we take the health and well-being of our congregation, staff and community very seriously.  In light of the recommendation of the Black Hawk County Health Department that folks continue to stay at home when possible, participate in no social gatherings, and follow CDC self-isolation guidelines since the COVID-19 numbers remain high in our area, we are continuing with our current plan of online services.  This decision lines up with a letter we recently received from the Northeastern Iowa Synod office in addition to an Ecumenical Statement about Religious Gatherings (they included) recommending the continuation of online worship.  As the letter reminds us,


“We are all making important sacrifices for the sake of the neighbor and the common good. We want to gather with our communities in this difficult time. We want to gather in the place where we hear the Word of God and receive the Sacraments. Yet we are staying home in order to protect those most vulnerable in our community. We are staying home in order to do our part to flatten the curve of the virus, so that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed. We are making sacrifices out of concern for others. We are choosing the path of love even though it is hard. This is a powerful Christian witness.” 


The decision of when to resume worshiping together in person is one that we will be making thoughtfully and prayerfully, with a clear plan that not only allows us to emotionally and spiritually care for the people in our church family, but also protects them physically.  At this point in time, we continue to evaluate this decision on a week-by-week basis as we watch what happens here in Black Hawk County.  As we prepare to reopen, we will communicate with you what that may look like.


We look forward with hope for the day that we CAN worship together at St. John – at a time when we can gather safely as one faith community.   As you have in recent days, continue to minister to one another through prayer, cards, phone calls, emails and random acts of kindness.  Be an example in our community of joyfully taking God’s love in to the world!


In Christ,
St John Church Council and Staff


+ + + 


3/17/2020


Dear Church Family, 

 

We are reaching out to provide another update regarding our church’s response to the coronavirus.  Things are quickly evolving in what is recommended regarding the coronavirus, even in the last 24 hours.  


Recently the CDC updated its mass gathering guidance to postpone or cancel for the next 8 weeks any events with 50 or more people.  Just prior to sending this message, the Governor declared a statewide public health disaster emergency effective at noon that included limiting gatherings to 10 people.  Out of concern for the safety and health of our members and staff and our broader community, and the responsibility to do our part in helping to slow or minimize the spread of the virus, we are following the guidelines and making these adjustments:

 

  • St John will not be holding Wednesday or Sunday worship services on-site until the CDC/state/local officials revise these guidelines. A date to resume has not been set.  We are exploring alternative methods to worship together from our homes -- both Pastor Liz and Pastor Dan have expressed a willingness to help us stay connected with one another through a recorded mini-worship service that you can watch from home.  Expect another email with additional information on that - it is uncharted territory for us to explore but one we are excited about offering. 
  • Most, if not all, of our Bible study groups and choirs will not be meeting.  This includes Sunday School and Confirmation, as well as the Tuesday 10am Bible Study group, the Tuesday 6pm Bible Study group, the Thursday 7am Thirsty Thursday Men Bible Study group, Bell Choirs, and Vocal choirs.  Please contact your leader directly if you have a question.
  • Parents of 5th graders will receive a separate email with information about the Communion Milestone. 
  • Our outside organizations (with participants greater than 10) which use our facility are cancelling. 


Although many of us are avoiding being out in social groups, there are still opportunities to care for one another and demonstrate Christ’s love. Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • Pray for those who are affected by this virus – those who are ill, the medical professionals treating them, the scientists working on vaccines and cures, and the leaders making tough decisions to try and curb the spread of the virus and keep us safe. Pray for those with mental health concerns, as well as those who feel extra lonely during this time –please reach out to anyone you think might be feeling isolated over the next few weeks.
  • Educate yourself about the Coronavirus from credible and reliable sources, such as from the World Health Organization, the CDC, and the Black Hawk County Health Dept. Know the symptoms and have a plan for what you would do if you or a family member were to become sick.
  • Check on your friends and neighbors. If you know someone who may not have internet access, give them a call and share the information in this email. We can continue to reach out and care for one another through phone calls, emails and social media.
  • As the virus spreads, many doctors and nurses will be working long hours. Consider ways you can bless these medical professionals with acts of kindness and notes of appreciation.
  • Remember this is temporary. Our church continues to serve our congregation and community. Continue to be a part of the ministry – the need for the support you give in the Cedar Valley and around the world continues despite the pandemic. Please continue your financial support of the work of the church. Some of you have set up your offerings to be automatically given. If you haven’t, maybe now is the time to try it out.  It’s easy to do and just takes a minute or two.  Click here to give online or you can mail your check to the church office at:  St. John Lutheran Church, 715 College Street, Cedar Falls, IA 50613.

God is With Us!

Over 100 times the Bible tells us, “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus himself tells us, “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”John 14:27.  Let us join together, with the knowledge that God is with us, amidst the anxious thoughts and the worries of life. He is there, strengthening, helping, and holding each of us in His hands. 

 

Peace!