13 May 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Our King ascends to heaven, Alleluia!
I write this on the evening of Ascension Day, which we will celebrate together this Sunday. Our Lord Jesus has ascended into heaven above all powers and governance, conquering evil and defeating death for us! No matter what happens in this life, we can face it with the confidence that our Lord Jesus has overcome all evil and suffering and will return to earth to deliver us from them too.
This evening, Governor Walz declared the Minnesota mask order to be at an end, effective tomorrow May 14. By this time, many members of Jehovah Lutheran—myself included—are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We are relieved that we can breathe easier, knowing that we are safe and have done our part to help bring this pandemic to an end. Even children 12-16 years old can now be vaccinated, and this is a cause for joy.
At the same time, however, children under 12 are still ineligible to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines. For parents of children this age, including my wife and me, this is a cause for ongoing caution and concern. The lifting of the mask order raises questions in the minds of parents of children under 12 who want to protect their children from infection.
Also, those who are immune-compromised may face similar risks.
As this is the case, our Church Council has voted to approve changes to the congregation’s COVID safety plan, which includes a mask policy for Jehovah Lutheran Church, until all members of our congregation–including the youngest ones–can be fully vaccinated. As your pastor and a father, I wholeheartedly support this measure.
This mask policy states that we will continue to wear masks for Divine Service and for all gatherings over 10 people, including educational activities, and all Sunday morning activities.
After July 1, if you are fully vaccinated, you may unmask with others who are also fully vaccinated, so long as you do not exceed 10 people in a group and everyone is comfortable unmasking. This would include working for employees, volunteering, or attending a meeting. If children are present, we ask you to mask regardless of the context or group size. Until all children can be vaccinated, we will continue to mask at all services and meetings over 10 people. For the sake of those among us who cannot yet be vaccinated, we ask that all members, guests, tenants, contractors, and employees comply with this policy.
Other changes will take effect along with this mask policy. These include, ending the sign-up and health screenings on Sunday May 30. Changes to communion distribution will be made on Sunday, June 6. Hymnals, worship books, and attendance cards will be returned to the pews beginning this Sunday, May 16.
Sadly, we will also continue to refrain from congregational singing at this time. It is my hope to re-introduce this rich feature of our worship over the course of this summer. Once again, our benchmark for this is a path to vaccination for the youngest children at Jehovah.
Other changes are detailed in the attached document and include a timetable for bringing Bible class and Sunday school back to our building on Sunday morning and sun-setting the recorded service.
With so many things that seem to return to “normal,” I ask that we consider our young, unvaccinated brothers and sisters as we conduct ourselves. It is fitting that we reflect upon the words of Martin Luther.
“I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me. I will do nothing in this life except what is profitable, necessary, and life-giving for my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.” (Luther, Freedom of a Christian, 82)
I thank you for all of your prayers and support for your pastor and council during these difficult times. If you have any questions or concerns about our policy, please speak to me or to Marge Avoles, who is our COVID-19 plan administrator. If you wish a copy of the update, contact the church office.
It is a joy to serve you as your shepherd in Christ, and I pray God’s peace and blessings to each of you.
Pastor Joshua Miller