St. John’s Lutheran Church
821 Denver St. • Schuyler, NE 68661
Dear siblings in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Christ. We are one year into this pandemic journey, and as you well know, it has been a year full of challenge and change. Despite this, as your church council, we remain confident that God is with us and that the Spirit is at work among us, continuing to move us to live out our call to witness and serve in the name of Christ. We remain thankful for your continued faithfulness and consistent stewardship throughout this time. And we remain committed to working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of this congregation in as transparent a manner as possible.
We are writing to let you know that at our March council meeting, we made the decision to revise our criteria for resuming our in-person worship services. The specific details are at the end of this letter, for any who wish to read them. What’s important to know about this change is this:
- We are optimistic that this new metric will get us back to worshiping in person a lot sooner than the old one.
- Our return to in-person worship will be announced on Facebook, on our website, and in worship no later than the Sunday before.
- Because this is a more fluid metric, it is possible that it may lead us to revert to meeting online for a time – this will be communicated in the same way as in-person.
- We are well aware that many parts of our community are resuming full and unrestricted levels of activity, but as leaders and stewards of this congregation, we are taking our call seriously to care for the health and safety of this congregation by making decisions grounded in faith and guided by data and science rather than by feelings.
When we do return to gathering in person, we will continue to live-stream worship via Facebook Live – both for those who will not feel comfortable gathering in person right away, and also for the many new friends who have joined us virtually! And those who are not able to participate in our online worship are already welcome to join us for worship in person so that all may be included.
And for the time being, our safety precautions remain in place for in-person gatherings: masks are required that cover your nose, mouth, and chin; six feet or more of distance maintained between anyone who doesn’t live together; no assembly singing; and washing/sanitizing hands. These are the things that we know will keep us safe while we wait for everyone to get vaccinated – these are the things that will help us finish strong, together.
In this holy time of year, as we walk the path of Lent once more, we are reminded that we worship a God who brought forth life even out of suffering and death. We are reminded that this is the same God who promises to walk with us as we try each day to follow the path of discipleship. And we are reminded that the path of life leads us not by rose petal strewn paths, but through the cross of Christ.
Know that you are in our prayers and that Christ is with you now and always. May God abundantly bless each and every one of you.
Your faithful stewards in Christ,
The St. John’s Lutheran Church Council
Previous criteria for resuming in-person gatherings
Back in May, we sent out a letter to the congregation detailing our criteria for resuming our in-person worship services. Following federal and synodical guidance, we announced that we would wait for a 14 day downward trend in new cases – going by information from the East Central District Health Department and the Nebraska DHHS – as well as an overall positive test rate of 12% or less, in order to return to worshiping together in person. (If you have been looking at our online data tracker, which Pastor Day updates daily, you already know that we have never come close to hitting either of those benchmarks.)
Resuming in person worship: Rather than waiting for the overall positive testing rate to come down, we are now looking at the daily positive test rate. Because that number can vary a lot from day to day, we are looking at the 7 day rolling average positive test rate and waiting for that same positive test rate of 12% or less. And we are looking for that number to be 12% or lower at least 10 days out of a 14 day period before resuming in person worship.
Returning to online worship: We have also decided that if, once we resume worshiping in person, the 7 day rolling average positive test rate ticks above 12% for at least 10 days out of a 14 day period, it will trigger a return to worshiping online only. There may well be a period of back-and-forth on this before we finally get to the end of the pandemic.