Principles for When and How to Conduct In-Person Worship at First Lutheran Church
For the foreseeable future, we will continue to provide worship online. While it is not yet possible to determine a specific date for when it is safe to worship in-person, the congregation leadership and staff has identified a set of positive principles that will guide us in deciding when it will be safe to add in-person worship. First Lutheran will not gather for in person worship in May. Toward the end of May, leadership and staff will evaluate conditions for a possible addition of in-person worship.
The first set of principles describes what it means to be church in a time of pandemic. Above all, our calling as the body of Christ is to demonstrate love and care for the total well-being and health of the neighbor.
The second set of principles are the health guidelines that will inform the decision of when to gather again.
Health guidelines issued by the National CDC and the State of Iowa.
The Governor issues regular updated proclamations that include specific guidelines for gatherings. Though the Governor does not wish to compel worshipping communities to follow these guidelines, the proclamations present useful guidance for organizations and groups that are applicable for congregations and promote the general well-fare of all.
The latest proclamation was issued the end of April. Here are important findings.
Guidance from our Bishop and other religious leaders.
At the end of April, Bishop Michael Burk and other denominational leaders issued a joint letter that congregations should refrain from in-person religious gatherings for the time being. In a follow up letter, Bishop Burk continued to advise against gathering at least through May, if not longer. Letter from Ecumenical Leaders: https://seiasynod.org/synod-news/ecumenical-leaders-respond
Guidance from local health officials, local conditions, and local rates of virus infection
Local health care professionals have an on-the-ground understanding of local conditions in Cedar Rapids.
Conclusion: First Lutheran will continue to provide worship and ministry through on-line means. There is no date yet established for the addition of in-person worship. The congregation leadership and staff continue to monitor national, state, and the local conditions. The congregation will be informed in advance by spotlight, email, and webpage when in-person worship will be added to the on-going online worship services.
When we do return to worship together, worship will look different for the sake of ensuring the well-being of all people.
The staff and church leadership will continue to develop plans for what it will mean to gather together for worship and ministry. When it seems safe to do so, there will be a phased approach in our gathering. The staff and the wider church continue to network and plan for resuming in-person worship.
Phase 1 will be a more restrictive kind of gathering to seek the well-fare of others.
Dear Friends, We will celebrate communion across the internet on Easter Sunday, with you participating from your home.
We will celebrate Easter with a full communion liturgy and the pastor will announce the words of institution and offer the forgiveness of God with the bread and the wine. For those who wish to participate, you are asked to prepare for the Easter worship at home by setting out some bread and wine or juice or water before the service. Just as in worship, after the communion liturgy and Lord’s Prayer, the pastor will look to you and say: This is the body of Christ. You will then take up and eat the bread, or you may serve one another at home and say: "The Body of Christ for you." You will do the same for sharing the cup, "The blood of Christ for you."
A recipe for making unleavened bread is included below. You can make some bread, or use bread that you have on hand.
Download the First Lutheran Communion Bread Recipe Here.
If you do not feel comfortable taking communion this way, and you would rather wait until we gather again in the sanctuary, that is perfectly acceptable. Waiting will make that first worship together again all the more wonderful.
Let me offer a few thoughts about why we are offering communion this way.
1. Above all, we seek to proclaim the Gospel and to encourage one another with God’s grace. For many, communion is an experience of God’s grace that is powerful and meaningful, and the eating and drinking together with the speaking of God’s promise will be a memorable and compelling experience of the Gospel.
2. Having communion at home is spoken of in the Bible, Acts 2:46-47 describes the worship life of the first Christians that included breaking bread at home, a descriptive phrase for communion. “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts…”
3. The communion service will be presided over by the pastor, the serving of communion, will be extended into your homes. So in a new way, just as servers serve on Sunday, or home communion visitors will take the meal from the table and go to people’s homes to distribute communion at a distance from the sanctuary, the serving will extend across the internet from the sanctuary to your home.
4. As Lutherans we believe Christ is present in, with, and under the promise and the elements. This presence happens as we hear the promise, this is Christ for you. Jesus said, where two or three are gathered in my name…so Christ is present for us, even at home.
5. I have read a wide range of thoughts about what it means to offer communion across the internet. While I do not think that this is a replacement for gathering in worship, we also find ourselves in the most unusual of circumstances. We also know that we can experience community and gathering when we gather for streaming worship.
6. For those who do not want to participate at home, then my invitation is that you pray for others during this time, and hold us all in the promise that Jesus is for us.
It will be a memorable communion service. I am looking forward to celebrate the risen Christ, for the resurrection speaks even more powerfully in a time like this!
Pr. Steve Knudson
Our staff met today to come up with some incredible ideas to keep us moving forward and supporting each other during these trying times. Some of the things we came up with are:
+ Brand new LIVE stream worship at 9 a.m. - The worship team and A/V team are working together to develop a 30 minute live service featuring scripture, a contextual sermon, live music, and up-to-the-minute prayers. After the service you can visit the “virtual narthex” to chat with our pastors (just eat your own donut holes at home).
+ Prayer on the 9s - Michael had a great idea to call the congregation to prayer at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. Pr. Craig will schedule two simple daily prayer prompts using the prayer petitions from our the prayers of intercession or current events (i.e. for strength for hospital workers, etc.)
+ Light for Day Daily Videos - Pr. Steve had the great idea for the pastors to post short messages of inspiration daily to Facebook and YouTube accessible on the front page of our website. They are already drawing a thousand viewers and new subscribers daily.
+ Live Healing Prayer - Joel gave us a great idea to hold a real time online prayer session for healing of all kinds. Twice a week at 12:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday you can join us on Facebook to type the name of a person, situation, or place in our world in need of prayer. Our pastors will speak them aloud saying “Be not afraid,” and we will all collectively respond by typing, “God is with you.”
+ Children’s Chats Online - Marissa has the awesome idea to read aloud a book with our kids and their families at 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on Facebook. Kids and their parents can comment in this fun interactive break in the day!
+ Radio Worship - We expect a great deal many new listeners to our beautiful full worship broadcast at 8:30 am every Sunday on KMRY Radio at 93.1 FM and 1450 AM.
+ Phone Tree - Pr. Craig is looking for volunteers to help keep our congregation members connected to each other and to the pastors during this time of crisis. We’re asking for volunteers to each call the same 10 families (especially our elderly) once a week while we are apart. The callers will relay any health concerns or general needs back to the pastors.
+ We are hear for you! We will always make sure we have a pastor in the church office every day during the week and our sanctuary will remain open for prayer. If there’s anything we can do for you, do not hesitate to ask.
Look for more information coming as things develop!
Peace be with you,
First Lutheran Staff
Members and Friends of First Lutheran Church
For the safety and well-being of the community, all worship and church activities are canceled until we receive word from health and government officials that it is safe to resume. The sanctuary will remain open for personal prayer. The situation is fluid with recommendations for gathering changing daily, therefore the council and staff will continue to monitor the situation and the guidance of government and health officials. The council and staff will provide updates and keep you informed about when worship and activities will resume.
We make this decision as a community of faith that seeks the well-being of all, and this means paying attention to the spiritual and physical health of people. We believe that taking action now as a responsible member of the community can serve to slow the spread of the virus.
During this time, we will continue to offer worship by posting on the home page a weekly service of song, scripture, message and prayer. We will continue the radio ministry with worship broadcast at 8:30 am on Sundays on KMRY 93.1FM and 1450 AM.
We thank you for your support for the work of Christ through prayer and your regular financial giving. Your generosity is so important for continuing the congregation’s ministries and sustaining First Lutheran operations. Options for making offerings and giving commitments include:
The Lenten sermon series is “Stories of Restoration,” based on the Gospel of John. We believe that the gospel message of restoration is one we need to hear at this time. We believe God will provide and restore health to our world. As the church and the whole community we will get through this. It will take some time, and so we act patiently with wisdom, faith, and hope each day.
God’s Peace and Hope be with you,
Rev. Dr. Steven Knudson
Information about ministry offerings effective through March 31st.. This information will be updated regularly and made available on the First Lutheran website as well as social media sites.
Scripture and Prayer
Pastoral and Community Care
Committees and Outside Groups
Our Senior Pr. Steve Knudson made the decision in consultation with pastors, staff, and our church council to cancel all of our worship services at 7:30 Sunday, March 15 based on the direction of our governor, urging leaders of large communities of gathered adults over 60 years old, in which she specifically included churches. You can her statement pertaining to churches below. Pr. Steve met with our church council and staff at 5 p.m. Friday and we decided to hold worship unless the governor asked churches in Iowa to close. So we held worship 5 p.m. Saturday. Governor Reynolds released her statement following our 5 p.m. worship. We believe her call to action met our church council’s threshold not to meet. This is difficult decision that Pr. Steve notes ideally we would have had more time to discuss and implement.
We are committed to continue to "care for the flock" during this time and are working on ways to livestream worship in the coming weeks in addition to our weekly sermon video we upload on Sunday afternoon and our live radio broadcast at 8:30 a.m. on KMRY on 93.1 FM and 1450 AM.
This is a challenging time to spiritually lead during a pandemic and we appreciate all your support and helping us get the word out to others. I have drawn much comfort this week from the Apostle Paul who assures us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I pray for God’s peace for you and your family.
Statement from the Governor:
Here is the latest from the Iowa Department of Public Health about COVID19. Posted 3.14.20
DES MOINES - The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been notified of one additional positive case of an Iowan with COVID-19, for a total of 18 positive cases. The individual is an older adult age 61-80, and a resident of Dallas County. Additionally, IDPH has determined, based on the new COVID-19 case and the announcement this evening of community spread in Omaha, Neb., there is now community spread in our state.
Community spread occurs when individuals have been infected with the virus in an area and cannot specifically identify the source of the infection, or do not know how or where they became infected. Due to the detection of community spread, there are new recommendations for individuals with underlying conditions, and all Iowans should be prepared for cancellations and disruptions in routine activities. Mitigation measures should be implemented immediately to have the most significant impact on slowing the spread of the virus.
Leaders of institutions and organizers of events should begin to act on their contingency plans related to large gatherings, including church services. Iowans should not hold or attend large gatherings of more than 250 people, and consider making adjustments for smaller gatherings with high risk groups.
There is much concern in our society surrounding the Coronavirus and COVID19 sickness it can cause. We want you to know that as a staff your well-being is our top priority and therefore we are monitoring conditions daily and discussing appropriate responses. First and foremost, we encourage everyone to remain calm and consider carefully how we wish to address this together as Christ’s community in this place. We pray for God’s protection for those directly affected, and to guide us all in taking necessary precautions. Our precautions as a Church at this point will be as follows:
Saturday Prayer Shawl Gathering
The Prayer Shawl creation gathering originally scheduled for Saturday Morning is being postponed indefinitely.
Additional Cleaning Taking Place
We will be taking steps to clean and sanitize communal surfaces such as doors, bathrooms, and handrails more often throughout the week.
Coffee & Hospitality
Our volunteers and Staff have been conversing and we have decided that we will suspend our Coffee & Doughnut hospitality for the weekend so as to practice better "social distancing."
As announced last week, we will not have our Greeters or Pastors shaking hands, nor will congregants shake hands during the Sharing of the Peace in worship. Even without shaking hands, we may be in contact with common surfaces and have made sanitizer available throughout the building.
We will still celebrate Holy Communion. Our individual serving Communion cups are washed and sanitized after each use at our traditional services. Communion servers will wash their hands before serving. If you are uncomfortable receiving communion, or using the intinction cup, it is acceptable to receive only one of the elements, trusting that Christ is fully present. It is also acceptable to not participate in communion.
If you are not feeling well, or have a more fragile immune system, we advise you to just stay home. God understands, and so do we. We broadcast a radio message each Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. on KMRY, 1450 AM or 93.1 FM. You can also watch a video of our sermon each Sunday afternoon on our homepage or youtube.com/firstlutherancr
Any additional updates will be communicated via email, our website and social media channels as needed. We will otherwise continue our ministry and event planning as normal, and there is a lot coming up, so please read on!