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!
St John Church Council and Staff
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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.