Janeen Smith, Pastor ~ 26418 Mountain Highway E, Spanaway, WA ~ 253-847-8801
July 2, 2021
Dear pastors, deacons, chaplains and church members,
Once again, I thank you for all that you do to bring God’s love, wisdom, and strength to all those around you! In this challenging time as we move through and hopefully beyond the pandemic, your life of ministry is especially crucial.
This past Tuesday, Governor Inslee announced the new guidelines for pandemic safety which eliminated nearly all previous restrictions to in-person gatherings and activities. Specifically, the guidelines state:
I conclude from these guidelines that all of our congregations may now resume indoor worship, Bible studies and all activities. Worship services can include the singing of hymns and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
I encourage you to have open conversations with as many of your leaders and church members as possible about returning to in-person worship, in order to work towards group consensus on how to best do that. The context and factors in each one of your congregations will be different and each one of you will need to decide what is wisest in your situation as you reopen.
For example, thought should be given regarding the safest way to offer the bread and wine in Holy Communion. The new guidelines do not require vaccinated people to wear masks, but still recommend that un-vaccinated people wear masks. Thoughtful care must be given to children and adults who wish to be vaccinated, but are unable to do so. This may lead some congregations to have everyone wear masks until all are vaccinated.
Many of you are already having those conversations and I applaud you for doing so. As I have said in previous letters, when open conversation and consensus-building takes place, not everyone gets everything they want, but people know that their voice counts, everyone is more knowledgeable about the issues, and good compromises can be reached.
By the end of July, I believe that all of the congregations in the Synod will have returned to some form of in-person worship, either inside or outside. Many pastors continue to report that only about one-third of their congregation are attending in-person worship. It’s natural that many members will still have health concerns and want to wait longer to return in person. Others have gotten used to watching the recorded service later in the week. I believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us to see that online worship is part of the future for many of our congregations. (That’s not true for everyone, particularly where the internet is spotty.) I know that this presents a whole new challenge to us. Providing both a live, in-person worship and also an online worship is double work. Many pastors are understandably exhausted from all of the demands already. Yet, our involuntary experimentation with online worship this past year has opened new possibilities for us. Therefore, I am convinced that we need to support each other as we explore the best ways to be both in-person and online. Like the disciples on the roads of Galilee, we are entering yet another time of learning and discovery.
I value so much your commitment and faithfulness in bringing the love, joy, and justice of God to your congregations and communities.
May Christ be with you in every way!
Bishop Rick Jaech
Resources for Worship in the Home
A weekly blog series with readings, prayers and reflections for worship at home.
Resources for Returning to In-Person Worship
Considerations for being church together during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Resuming Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic”
Protocols for worship during the COVID-19 pandemic as commended by an ecumenical consultation.
“Worship in Times of Public Health Concerns: COVID-19/Coronavirus”
Considerations for building church community and participating in worship when we cannot gather in person.
“Prayers for Times of Public Health Concern: COVID-19/Coronavirus”
Prayer suggestions that can be adapted for use in your local worship context.
“How to Stream Your Worship Service”
A starter guide for online streaming of your congregation’s worship service or other events.
“Intercessory Prayers in the Midst of the Spread of COVID-19”
A prayer resource offered by the Lutheran World Federation.