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Family in Christ,
“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Every Sunday I greet you with these words of Psalm 118:124. These words are no less true today. We don’t even need to turn on the news to see the disruptive, and sometimes devastating, effect that the COVID-19 virus has had on our lives. People are working from home, or not working at all. Panic has led to hoarding of important food, toiletries, and cleaning products, which has meant fruitless shopping trips for some who need these goods. Several of our family have drastically cut down family visits, or even been unable to visit family because facilities are on lock-down. Some of the most at-risk have lost their lives to this virus. Yet Psalm 118 is still true. We have reason to rejoice—not because our lives are free of trouble, but because no trouble can separate us from God’s love shown in Christ Jesus! We are forgiven in Christ. Heaven is our home. Every single day we can go to God’s Word to know him and his love for us better and better. No virus is going to change those facts.
Last night, Wednesday, March 18th, our St. James elected leadership—our church council and elders’ committee—met to discuss the next steps for our ministry. In this, as in all things, we looked to God’s Word for guidance.
Looking at these commands of God, we have decided to:
Assuming the governor’s order to limit gatherings expires on April 5th at 5 pm, as it is currently scheduled to do, we will gather for Palm Sunday worship at 7 pm on April 5th. The order may well be extended, in which case our worship service suspension would also continue. We’ll know more and talk more about this as it gets closer to Holy Week.
These may be unique circumstances for us, but God’s timeless Word still guides us in this as in all things. It brings no joy in canceling our gatherings, but the health and safety of all, especially our at-risk family members, made this the prudent decision. We still have the means of grace; they have not been taken from us. We will still use the means of grace, but not in a public setting for a short time. As soon as we are able to safely gather together again, we will!
Where do we go from here?
When we started 2020 and planned for this year’s ministry, we saw great opportunities and also recognized limited resources. God’s family recognized the opportunity and met the challenge with offerings that supported our ministry plan. God be praised for these gifts! At present, we are a little more than $1,100 behind what we have budgeted to this point on a per-week basis for our 2020 ministry needs.
We will seek to cut costs and pause any expenditures that we can during this time of modified ministry, but many of our expenses we will not be able to pause. In this, God’s Word also continues to guide us: Each one should give as he has determined in his heart, not reluctantly or under pressure, for God loves a cheerful giver. God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will overflow in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). I ask you what God asks you: please continue to support our Gospel ministry as you are able. We have been excelling more and more in our stewardship—both in knowledge and action. Continuing this will take some extra effort during this time of ministry modification. I, and your leadership team, and your whole family at St. James, thank you in advance for continuing to make sure our Gospel ministry remains funded by continuing to give offerings.
With no formal worship service in which to give an offering, here’s what we’ll do:
If you need assistance with anything, please let me know. Again, I am still your pastor and still am here to serve you with God’s Word. I am also available to help in other ways as you need help. Please let me know if I can help. And as you are able, please continue to help both your brothers and sisters in our family and all people who are in need.
We have a magnificent opportunity to let our light shine in the world during these challenging times. Continue to share the confidence Christ gives us. Continue to love as Christ loves us. Continue to be the people God has made you to be!
Serving you in Christ, Pastor Saatkamp