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At Home Worship - May 21st, 2020

Ministry Update -- May 8th, 2020

Public worship temporarily suspended

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.

  • The third commandment still applies. God desires that we gather together as we are able around the means of grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.
  • The fourth commandment still applies. God desires that we honor all those in authority over us, whether parents in the home or government officials in the world.
  • The fifth commandment still applies. God desires that we protect lives, both caring for our bodies and putting others’ safety and well-being before our own.

Looking at these commands of God, we have decided to:

  1. suspend all public worship gatherings for the duration of the governor’s order to limit gatherings,
  2. suspend catechism class meeting in person while our schools remain closed, and
  3. tentatively postpone our Easter Egg Hunt.

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?

  1. I am still your pastor. I will still serve you with God’s Word as I am able to do.
  2. Devotions and Holy Communion are available by appointment. I am willing to visit you at home, but I would encourage you to visit me at our church building. It appears that I will be able to prevent myself from being an incubator/carrier of COVID-19 more easily if we meet at church.
  3. St. James will make worship resources available online on our Facebook page, website, and through our email list. For all those with online access, look for these resources to start coming your way in the next few days.
  4. For all who do not have access to online resources, physical resources will be mailed at regular intervals (probably weekly). If you receive our weekly emails but desire physical resources, please let me know.
  5. I will be preparing a packet of at-home materials for our catechism students.

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:

  • You may mail in your offering to St. James (3169 North Branch Road, North Branch, MI, 48461). If you are able, our leadership suggests even mailing multiple weeks of offerings in at once to prevent forgetfulness (and speaking personally, I myself sometimes struggle with forgetfulness!) and to save the cost of a stamp or two.
  • You may drop off your offering at our church building in person. I will be around and will have the building open on a regular basis, including all day Sundays.
  • Our leadership discussed setting up a way for you to give your offerings online. At the present time, we are not setting up such an option, but we are open to exploring this again in the very near future if our congregation deems it necessary.

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

 
 

Welcome!

Welcome, and thank you for visiting St. James Lutheran Church online.
 
St. James exists to serve you with the truth of God's Word--the truth of how we sinners are saved by grace, through faith, through Scripture alone.
 
You can use this website to find out more about who we are, what we believe, and what we do at St. James.
 
If you are looking for a church home, we'd love for you to become part of our family of faith!

 

 

Where are we?

We are located at 3169 North Branch Road, North Branch, west of downtown North Branch.

 

Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sjnbmi