Dear Christ Lutheran Church family,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Starting last week we took some additional precautions in worship. We asked anyone at heightened risk from the new coronavirus, or anyone having any respiratory symptoms, to refrain from the chalice at communion or from coming to church altogether. We refrained from shaking hands, put out easily accessible hand sanitizer, and took the bowl of water out of the baptismal font. Some of these steps were emotionally difficult to take (at least for me) but I felt they were prudent, if not overdue, given the growing but also not fully known threat of a new illness for which there is yet no immunity, vaccine, or treatment. St. Paul the Apostle reminds us that we fulfill the law of Christ when we bear one another’s burdens, and that includes refraining from things we love in order to help others stay safe.
This week I have been following the news closely as the case for extreme caution has only gotten stronger. As I write, there are at least six confirmed cases in North Texas, just since Monday. A severe shortage of test kits has made the spread of the virus and its current prevalence unknowable. I have paid attention to the responses of church bodies in areas with more confirmed cases than ours as well as to statements from national church bodies. Clear and direct guidance from public officials at the state and federal levels has been lacking. I have been reading up on the advice of public health professionals who are urging public and private changes to “flatten the curve” of what appears to be an uncontained outbreak, including increased attention to hygiene and “social distancing” to spread out the incidence of the disease and prevent sudden shocks to the health care system. This is especially important if, as the head of the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci reports, the fatality rate from the new illness is ten times higher than the seasonal flu (some credible estimates are higher).
While I hope and pray that these preliminary estimates prove to be too high, and that this event will somehow resolve itself soon, communities and households have to prepare themselves for a difficult season in which our lives are constrained in new ways, both for our own safety and for the good of people we have contact with.
With that in mind, we are making some adjustments to our life together to make participation in this community as safe as we can.
Surely we all wish that this were not happening, and I invite all of you to pray with me fervently that the sick be protected and healed. But we know that the Church of Jesus Christ has endured epidemics and worse than epidemics, and that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it. We will pray for each other and our world, protect each other, and come through it with each other.
Please be in touch with me directly if you have questions, if you are experiencing anxiety, or if you know of cases of illness that we should be lifting up in prayer.
“And now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in everything good, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight. Amen.”
Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben Dueholm
God's Work. Our hands.