A Pastoral Letter to CTK re: Coronavirus from Pastor Duane Larson

March 12, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of Christ the King Lutheran Church,

I write to you in this time of deep concern to inform you of new protocols we will practice in our worship and life together here at CTK. These changes are made to block and mitigate as much as possible the transmission of COVID-19 while also conducting our ministry as faithfully as possible.

We highly encourage you to follow the latest developments and instructions for safe keeping as provided, for example, by local public health authorities, the Centers for Disease Control, and/or the World Health Organization. I have found the WHO website to be up-to-date and comprehensive. You may check WHO updates by clicking on https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.

With all public health authorities, we encourage older members with health vulnerabilities to remain home. If you need help with groceries and other supplies, let us know. Staff and members of the congregation will help you if and when needed. You will receive directions very soon about how to access Live Streaming of Sunday Worship, beginning Sunday, March 15. Weekend and Midweek (Lenten) worship services will be archived for access at your convenience on our Facebook page and our website.

You know that one of the most essential practices is to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. Here at CTK, we are sanitizing our hands many times a day and expect every person entering and leaving the facilities to do so. Disinfectant stations will be placed in higher traffic areas. All high-touch areas in our facilities (e.g., door handles, elevator buttons, table-tops, toys, pews, etc.) will be regularly sanitized, as often as every thirty minutes during peak times of activity.

“Social distancing” can be Christian and loving. We will be more attentive to mutual greeting and its deep meaning by not touching each other. Do not shake hands; sorry, no hugs either. Heartfelt spoken greetings—as with the passing of the peace during worship—can make our Lent more meaningful.

You may already have noted that communion practices are changed for this interim period. There will be no sharing of the common cup; all wine will be administered by pouring into individual glasses. Nor will there be intinction of bread or gluten-free wafer into the cup.

Food serving practices will change at all events. There will be no self-service. All food (as with Lenten Soup-Suppers) will be served by cleanly gloved servers or pre-plated, so that no other hands than yours will touch plates and other serving ware. The provision of all self-service open-table snacks after worship services and other events will be suspended. At smaller events, as with House Church meetings and Sociables, we urge that all guests have the opportunity to clean their hands upon arrival and that all public surfaces be sanitized beforehand.

We are also readying “Plans B and C” should they become necessary. The above practices are suggested by experts as best for lowering the transmission rate of COVID-19, as well as other viruses. If, however, the rate grows quickly and steeply, and/or concentrates in our area, per our Plan B we will suspend all small group activity and ask most of the ministry staff to work remotely from home. Plan C will be invoked if members and friends of the CTK community itself are tested positive for the virus. In that case, public worship and all on-site activity will cease. We would, however, maintain all the functions we can by way of digital communication. A team will produce video-based worship services with a liturgy, readings, homilies, and choral music. Pastoral care for individuals will continue with appropriate cautions and faithfulness. We pray, of course, that neither of “Plans B and C” will be necessary. Indeed, we’d expect them not to be if all of us practice all and more of what is suggested above.

This time, of course, is unlike any most of us have experienced. It is easy to fall victim to fear in the face of unknowns. The above behaviors are “best practices,” even so, that have been gleaned from centuries of good science. And good science coheres with responsible faith. Martin Luther himself wrote a famous treatise in 1527 entitled “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” His counsel is still pertinent! Dear brother Martin wrote that we Christians are duty-bound both to love the neighbor and to be responsible for our own health for the purpose, indeed, of best caring for each other. In sum, Luther instructed Christians to follow the advice of scientific experts. At the same time, it is especially the duty of pastors and all public officials to attend to the care and welfare of all ill patients. We are, of course, to care for ourselves while, if able, we help quench a house fire. But we do not run away from the fire with the excuse of caring for ourselves. We are made in Christ for each other. Because our lives are already secured with God, we are freed from selfishness to love the neighbor in all ways possible. We prize that we are bound together in Christ.

So goes our pastoral commitment to you as individuals and our beloved Christ the King congregation as an expression of God’s work in the world. There is no more fitting a time for us to rise to our call as “A Healing Place.” It may be that we are relieved of much of the consequences thus far predicted. Or our faithful imagination may need to amplify yet more if predictions come true. Christ is with us. Therefore, we will persist. We will continue with detailed updates over the next weeks. And we as your pastors will pray for you daily, as we ask for your prayers and continued other forms of support.

I close with this prayer composed for us by churchwide staff of the ELCA. Gracious God, it is good for us to gather as your beloved in community. We treasure your presence with us in word and meal, song and prayer. Be with us in these days when gathering together as often as we would like is not possible. When we must be apart for reasons of safety, we trust that you surround us with your sheltering wings. Encourage us in connecting as we are able, reaching out to our neighbors in need and being persistent in prayer. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our constant companion. Amen 

Christ’s Peace Be with You,
Pastor Duane