To the Messiah Congregation re: Holy Communion during a Pandemic
Grace and peace to you, brothers and sisters in Christ.
We find ourselves in an unusual time in history. We have not been able to worship in person as a faith community for ten weeks now, and we do not know yet for how much longer this will be a reality. While the numbers permitted to gather for indoor spaces slowly increases, it will still be quite a while before we can worship together safely in our own building.
While we are unable to gather in-person, we affirm that it is the Holy Spirit who “calls, gathers, enlightens and makes holy the whole Christian church.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Third Article) It is through the Holy Spirit that we are gathered into one as the body of Christ at all times and in all places, with the saints of every time and every place. Through technology unimagined by Lutheran reformers, God makes this gathering possible. And so, we believe that when we worship online, Christ is present with us, even as we are physically apart. As Lutherans, we also affirm the teachings of the church, and that it is continually reforming itself, responding to the work of the Holy Spirit and its call to new life and new possibility as breathed into us as the body of Christ.
Trusting in God, we pay attention to our context and needs as we discern how best to respond to this particular time in the life of the church, and the life of the world. In the discernment of our special circumstances, we recognize the current fast from Holy Communion will continue for some time. But we believe the Sacrament of Holy Communion to be a means of grace for us. As such, it offers us a source of nourishment, strength, and unity in Christ. Holy Communion is a gift of God for the people of God. And some are missing the means of grace at a time when we need it the most. When we gather as a church body, we share Holy Communion twice a month. The usual church practice is that we do not commune outside of the gathered community. On occasion, the Pastor will take home communion to someone is ill or shut-in and cannot be at church. She acts as the representative of the body of Christ to bring the elements to those in special circumstances.
But right now, we find ourselves living in special circumstances, with the limitations of a global pandemic. In this extraordinary time, and without knowing how long this pandemic will continue to affect our ability to gather as one body in the same space, the Church Council and Pastor Fran have given prayerful and thoughtful discernment to how best to respond to the needs of our faith community. This has led us to make the extraordinary decision to offer Holy Communion virtually during the pandemic. This means that Holy Communion will be offered virtually in the Online Worship Services, twice a month, as per our usual schedule. There will be instruction on how this can unfold appropriately in your household. We plan to begin on June 7th.
While this decision is unprecedented, we feel that by sharing Holy Communion in this virtual format, we will continue to be nourished and strengthened in this time of physical distancing and isolation.
We wish to convey that the decision to participate in virtual communion is still up to each person. If you prefer to wait until we gather in-person again, and prefer to fast during this time, know that you can still worship with us, hear the Words of Institution and receive a blessing.
Virtual Communion is not the regular practice of the church and we do not foresee it as being the new normal once the pandemic is past. What we most long for is in-person community, in-person worship, sharing the peace, singing, praying, and praising God together in the same space. We pray and wait for that time to be re-established again when it is safe to do so, and until then, we can be sure of this: God is with us. As we gather for Online Worship, as we hear God’s Word, as we receive the gifts of God’s grace in our homes in this time, God is with us. No matter what. And this gives us the grace and strength to carry on in these uncertain and unusual times.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” ~John 20: 21-22
As the disciples’ lives were changed with the breath of the Holy Spirit, so too may we feel that breath of the Holy Spirit breathing new life and new possibility into our faith community, offering new ways to worship, pray, sing, and receive God’s gifts of grace, to support and care for one another in extraordinary times.
We pray God’s grace and peace for you as we live this reality day by day. May God continue to strengthen you, accompany you and support you.
Church Council and Pastor Fran
MESSIAH LUTHERAN CHURCH
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. ~Philippians 1: 3-5
Dear members and friends of Messiah Lutheran,
We write to you in a time of challenge, fear, and uncertainty. Our lives have been turned upside down by the events of the last number of days and weeks. A closure of this magnitude has never occurred in the history of Messiah Lutheran or any other church in this area.
It is unknown how long this period of closure will last. It could be several weeks or months. COVID-19 will have a long-lasting and far-reaching effect on the economy. All churches will feel this impact and we are no exception. With a sustained closure, some local churches may never recover. We are waiting to hear details related to government wage support for registered charities.
As ministry will continue any ways possible, we cannot stress enough how important it will be to continue to make our offerings. Even with the physical building closed, expenses continue. Pastor Fran provides ministry through daily devotions, Sunday services, and reaching out together with the Caring Ministry Team to be in touch with the Messiah family. Donna staffs the office and Vimy ensures that the building is maintained.
Ongoing financial support will ensure that Messiah is prepared and ready to resume normal operations. Thank you to those who contribute through the PAR program or have forwarded your donations. If you are able, there are a variety of ways to provide financial support as outlined below:
- Sign up for Pre-Authorized Withdrawal (PAR): Forms are available through the church office.
- Visit our website and go to the ‘Donate Now’ tab: https://www.messiahluthpa.com/
a. Select the Donate Now tab; click on the Canadahelps link
b. Follow the ‘Donate To This Charity Now’ prompts
c. Canada Helps will provide confirmation of your transaction, and issue a receipt
- Interac e-Transfer using online banking: log into your account to locate and select INTERAC e-transfer (if you aren’t sure, check with your financial institution for instructions)
a. Add Messiah Lutheran, Prince Albert as a recipient – email address:
b. Enter the desired amount and click send.
- Mail through Canada Post to Messiah Lutheran, or drop an envelope off at church: please use this option Tuesday to Friday between 9am – 4pm only using the mailbox by the south (side) entrance, Please call the church office to ensure the envelope is removed from the mailbox in a timely manner.
- Arrange for pickup: If preferred, a Messiah volunteer can pick up your donation from your home / mailbox. Please call the church office to make arrangements.
If you need assistance with these options or have any questions at all, please call or email the office. The days, weeks, and months ahead will be a challenging time for us, but we know when we pray, work, and give in GOD’s name, we can make it through the darkness.
Yours in Christ,
Messiah Church Council
Cheryl Bauer Hyde, Merv Bender, Jean Meyers, Alfred Kristensen, Lois Manchur, Donna Meyers, Shannon Pettem, Darren Sundbo
1796 15 Avenue East
Prince Albert S6V 8A1
Phone 763-7374 Fax 763-6284
Email [email protected]
March 18, 2020
A Pastoral Letter to the Members and Friends of Messiah Lutheran Church
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” ~Psalm 46:1-2, 7
God is our hope, a constant, steady presence in our lives no matter the upheavals and uncertainties. These are scary, unsettling times. The uncertainty with which we live was palpable at worship last Sunday. Distancing, no handshakes or hugs. A silence hung in the air. We knew we needed to gather, we knew we needed to pray, we knew we needed to come into God’s presence and be reassured with God’s boundless love and compassion.
And so, it is with heavy hearts that we, as Pastor and Church Council, write our members and friends today in response to the COVID-19 virus. There is deep concern about this virus spreading and so we are following the recommendations of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the ELCIC National and Synodical Bishops (dated March 16, 2020), and that of local governments. We especially want to keep our community and our congregation safe, particularly those who are most vulnerable to contracting this virus.
Effective today, we will suspend worship services and all gatherings at Messiah Lutheran Church through to April 1. Church council will meet on March 31 to evaluate the situation which is currently changing several times daily. We will take each week as it comes, with the information at hand.
The following are cancelled:
- Worship services for March 22 and March 29,
- Wednesday Lenten Study Series – March 18 and 25, and April 1,
- Lenten Luncheons sponsored by the PA Ministerial,
- Confirmation on March 22 (we will reevaluate for April),
- Youth Coffeehouse scheduled for April 4,
- The LCBI choir tour (no potluck or concert on March 28),
- The University of Albert Mixed Choir Tour (no potluck or concert on April 26), and
- The Men’s Retreat at Kinasao, March 26-28.
The Church office will remain closed until at least April 1. Staff will check emails and phone calls daily. Individual appointments may be made by calling the church office or Pastor Fran. If you are in crisis or need of prayer, if this is a lonely time please call and know that Pastor Fran is available for conversation and prayer. We want to care and support you, as this is a vulnerable, precarious time. And many will miss the opportunities to gather as God’s people and be a part of our church family.
Funerals are recommended only for groups smaller than 10 people. Communion will not be possible for those in care facilities until further notice by the SK Health Authority.
Whether we continue to worship in person in the coming weeks, let us be assured that God gathers his church together even electronically. Pastor Fran will post messages of reflection and hope, to keep us focused in prayer, and to keep us grounded in Jesus Christ and his presence with us in these unsettled times.
The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Pastor Fran and Messiah Church Council.