Letter from Pastor Petersen regarding Holy Week

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support. I have been constantly impressed by your compassion for one another and your concern for the Church through these past weeks. There is no real guide from the Church’s history on how to deal with this. Our pastors are trying to be faithful to our calling while being as careful and safe as possible. I expect that five years from now we’ll know better what we should have done. For now, though some have expressed doubt about its expertise and validity, we continue to adhere strictly to the CDC recommendations.

Whatever your opinions on these measures, I ask you to continue in the gentle kindness and compassion for one another and for our pastors. Let us not judge one another, but recognize that we are in uncharted territory and all have unique circumstances.

For the immediate future, including holy week, barring changes from the CDC or the government, we will continue to offer the Sacrament to our people who are healthy, comfortable with our measures, and desire it. We will put up a separate post outlining the precautions that we are taking during these services. In order to ensure we don’t have more than 10 people, including children and the pastor, at a service, we need people to sign up for the services.

We are asking people to limit themselves to one reception of communion for the first part of Holy Week, from Saturday April 4 through Wednesday April 8, then to once during Maundy Thursday through Holy Saturday, and again once in the three days of Easter through Easter Tuesday. We will Livestream all the major feasts and encourage everyone to make use of those. In other words, you can’t come on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but you could come one of those days and watch the Livestream for the other. These services will mostly be spoken services that last about 30 minutes. Even our live streamed services will lack the normal ceremonies that we normally enjoy on those days. They will be simplified in order to recognize the lack of people actually with us, to create space in time for more services, and to optimize the livestream experience. We have, however, good recordings on Youtube from last year’s services. We suggest that people watch those as well. We will also be posting the bulletins.

I doubt that Pastor Frese and I could keep this pace of services without the volunteer help of Dr. Grobien, Dr. Mayes, Rev. Wietfeldt, and Dr. Koontz. They have not only been kind and eager to help, but they have also responded with remarkable swiftness to our requests for their availability. This has made it much easier to plan and coordinate than I thought would ever be possible. So also Jane has been tireless in updating the website, in taking phone calls to schedule people and answer questions, and in dealing with the constant changes we have needed to make. We thank God for all of them. 

Early on in this, we asked Kantor Reuning and Barb to quarantine themselves since they are, statistically, in the most vulnerable population. That quarantine will end on Holy Monday. Kantor will go to extreme lengths to stay safe but will be playing,God willing, for our streamed services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. We thank him for his cooperation and also Maggie Casey and Nicole Busarow who stepped in to play in his absence. We also want to thank the musicians, led by Jason Thompson, who have been so supportive and cooperative throughout this ordeal. 

Pastor Frese and I remain deeply touched by all of you who have been so kind to us and encouraging, so willing to help, and while eager for God’s gifts and disappointed in all that has been cancelled or changed, still so cooperative. The Lord will and the Lord does provide. Jesus lives still. That hasn’t changed. These days will pass, one way or another. Soon they will be not much more than a footnote in history books. In the meantime, these are our lives and the days we have been given. We thank God for them even as we eagerly pray for them to end. 

I hope that you have been able to spend more time in God’s Word these past couple of weeks. At the beginning of this we put out a suggested reading schedule to get through the four accounts of Our Lord’s Passion in the Gospels. That schedule will end on Apr 4. We have added to it the reading of the Passion Harmony over Holy Week and the Easter texts for the first two weeks of Easter from the Easter Vigil and the New Testament. The reality is that most of us  aren’t hearing as much of the Bible as we normally would during Holy Week even with the daily Matins services and other livestreams and that for many of us, it simply hasn’t “felt” very much like Lent. This schedule of readings is meant to address that some but also to embrace what we still have. We have the Word. God be praised for that! This is that which is most essential for our faith and it has not been taken from us. So let us rejoice in it, recognizing that it is a gift, and use it. 

One final thing, we are also making phone calls to all our members. There can’t be more than two or three households where we haven’t had any contact in the last two weeks, but if we missed you it could be that your voicemail is full or we can’t get through for some reason or even that we left a message on the wrong phone number. So would you please call us at the Church office? We want to talk to you, just to check up on you and make sure you know about our Livestreaming, the website, and our services. 

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Petersen