HOME‎ > ‎

Current News & Events - Coronavirus & Worship

In Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

(This is the latest letter that Bishop Mike sent out to leaders on April 1. I am including it here because I think everyone needs to know what is going on and what is possible.   Watch for REHBURG info inserted throughout this letter. Patti)

April 1, 2020

Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

Right now the world is spinning with anxiety. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.  

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

 

Recommendations

The recommendations in this letter supersede all earlier letters and recommendations. Our current recommendations have been the suspension of in-person worship and communion until further notice. This does not change in this letter. 

Texans are aware of Governor Abbott’s stay-at-home order, issued yesterday, that goes into effect tonight at midnight. The order has suspended on-campus learning at schools until May 4 at least, and orders Texans to stay at home unless providing or securing “essential services.” Gov. Abbott designated churches as essential services. The order says, If religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, they should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 While I appreciate the impulse of religious freedom, I would dissuade congregations from having parking lot services, especially in urban centers. Why risk putting the most vulnerable in danger? The most loving thing we can do right now is make the sacrifice to stay home and keep them safe.

 REHBURG:  Our council has voted to extend our no in-house worship services for April. We are still considering a parking lot service, but this will depend on what is going on with the virus by then, and also if we get the equipment in time. 

Worship 

Videos and PDFs of sermons for Maundy Thursday (Bishop Mike) and Good Friday (Bishop Sue Briner) are already up on the synod website, by clicking “Resources in Response to COVID-19.” An Easter sermon (Bishop Erik Gronberg) will be up soon. I will also post a sermon for Easter 2. Bishop’s Associates Tracey Breashears Schultz and Chris Markert will post sermons for Easter 3 and 4, respectively. Please feel free to borrow from these sermons or use the videos, dropping them into your livestream. There are a host of other useful resources at the above link to the Gulf Coast Synod website, which can be found easily by going to gulfcoastsynod.org and clicking “Resources for COVID-19.” 

Starting today, LEAD has Holy Week digital liturgies available for free. Go take a look to see if these might be helpful to you.

(REHBURG: We are looking at these services and will use the resources available to put together worship experiences for everyone.)


It is recommended that you have an offering time in your online services. Post information on giving by mail or giving online, and use the time to share impact stories of your congregation’s essential ongoing ministries. How are lives being impacted by your ongoing work?

 (REHBURG: We encourage you all to mail or drop off your offerings during this time. A lot of people are doing this!)


Communion

If your people are asking you to find a way to have communion on Maundy Thursday and/or Easter, it is understandable. Take it up with your Congregation Council. Consider the following:

  • If you have communion in the parking lot, many who are in the highest risk group will be tempted to come, against their best interests and the interests of the community at large. It is quite difficult to distribute communion without some risk. 
  • If you choose online consecration over the internet, you may exclude those who don’t own computers or who aren’t online for financial or other reasons. If you offer for some, you should offer for all, which means mailing a detailed bulletin to all homes, so those not online can participate. If you need help with that, contact me.
  • At least one congregation I spoke to is using their new Zoom account for worship, so that those not online can call in. 

Some are going to invite people to celebrate communion at home, during this crisis. This is not a practice our deans would encourage under normal circumstances, but these are far from normal circumstances. The liturgy would be similar to Distribution of Communion to Those in Special Circumstances in Occasional Services. This is an extension of the Lord’s Supper to those, such as the sick and the homebound, who are unable to be present at the celebration of the congregation. Well, are we not all homebound these days? Normally, the elements would be brought from the Sunday morning Eucharist, but since that is not possible, this would be considered a special circumstance.

 (REHBURG: This is an option that you can all use to commune yourselves. See the instructions above, and have your own communion service. We have had lay people go out to commune shut-ins at home in the past. )

 
Gather for prayer, song (if you dare), Scripture, creed, prayers, and offering (send it in or give online). One person in the household would lead a confession, such as,

 Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

 

An assurance of forgiveness with these or similar words:

 In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for you, and for his sake, God forgives you all your sins. To all who believe he gives the power to become the children of God and bestows upon them the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

After sharing the peace with a bow, lifting the wine and bread, saying, as per the homebound liturgy,

 When our congregation last gathered, the pastor proclaimed the words of Jesus, saying, “In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me. Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

 

Say the Lord’s Prayer, then share communion. Afterwards, a prayer may be said. Bless one another with the words, “The blessing of almighty God be upon you and remain with you always.”

 We understand that different congregations are in different contexts. We know you appreciate the high value of protecting people from transmission, and we trust that you will act wisely.

 

Funerals

We do not recommend congregations hold any funerals at this time. Encourage families to have a memorial service after restrictions are lifted. If a family insists on moving forward now, then it should be a graveside burial with only family, limited to ten people, obeying local laws, and observing strict social distancing.

 

 Thank you

I deeply appreciate all that you are doing in these uncertain times. For example, Friday and Monday St. James in Houston delivered 52 food baskets to struggling families. Bethlehem in New Orleans served 134 packaged meals on Sunday in less than an hour. Hosanna in Mandeville, Louisiana served 300 meals on Sunday and 300 more on Wednesday with the help of another congregation. I have heard more stories than I can tell. 

 My prayers are with you as you prepare for Holy Week. Synod staff have been working harder than ever fielding your calls and providing resources. Noon prayer has been a blessing to us as it has to many of you. Saturday will be our final prayer at noon as we make space for Holy Week. 

 Be well. Pace yourself. Love your neighbor. Keep everyone safe. 

 Yours in Christ,

Bishop Michael Rinehart


OTHER NOTES

WORSHIP PLANS:  Starting in April, Pastor Dennis will be with us as a supply pastor. This means he will not be in the church office, but will be available for emergencies and will provide Sunday sermons.  We are working on an alternative worship service for Easter. We have an FM transmitter on order (still has not arrived) that will transmit to car radios so that we can have a parking lot service. We have ordered sealed communion cups/wafers (still have not arrived) for possible communion, but we may change this to "Bring your own Communion". Watch for more details on this!

WEBSITE: The services are posted on our church website at www.stpaulrehburg.org. Go to the Worship Services tab, and on it there will be files for Wednesdays and Sundays. Click on the one you want to open and it will open as a PDF, which you can then read online or print it. *NEW* - There is now a complete service for this coming Sunday on YouTube at this site. We hope you take advantage of it this Sunday!

FACEBOOK:  Be sure to visit our church Facebook page for updates and worship opportunities. You will especially want to check out the Prayer at Noon post on the Gulf Coast Synod Facebook page. Pastor Dennis has opened a Facebook account and he is now on the St. Paul FB page, and posting prayers and his sermons, so check there to hear his sermons.

AT THE CHURCH:  Since I know some people do not have computers, please pass on this info to them.  I will run some bulletins for each service and have them available in the narthex to be picked up by anyone that would like to do that. 

OFFERINGS:  Your offerings are still very much needed as we continue to have bills to pay and missions to support. You can mail in your offerings to the church at 4450 FM 1948 N, Burton TX 77835. You can also drop offerings here at the church at any time. If you do not know the door code please ask for it. Put offerings in the black mailbox by the workroom door. 

REMEMBER:  If you are in need of assistance please call the church office. We have members who will go pick up stuff for you if needed.  Check on your neighbors, especially older people and those who are ill or have any ongoing health issues.   If help is needed, please do not hesitate to ask!




150th ANNIVERSARY OF ST PAUL REHBURG

We will celebrate our 150th Anniversary of the church this year on November 8, 2020, which is the actual date of the forming of our church. Plans are in the works for a big celebration. 

Committees are forming, and lots of help is needed. There are 3 Chairpersons - please contact one of them to volunteer to help, and look for more information becoming available on this page in the future.

Chairperson of Food - Ricky Fischer

Chairperson of Decorations - Susan Broesche

Chairperson of Publicity and Invitations - Vicky Kloecker


 

Comments