And they (the first Christians) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 (ESV)
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Early in the Coronavirus Pandemic I mentioned the stages of grief and how they appeared to be hitting our nation, our congregation, and to some extent, each of us. I think we’ve hit a new stage: frustration.
Frustration over how long this whole ordeal is dragging on. Frustration over being forced to wear a mask, or frustration when we believe others should be wearing theirs. Frustration, and not to mention just a little confusion over ever changing schedules, ever more cancellations, ever more celebrations that don’t get celebrated properly. Frustration for our seniors who are living in fear, and those isolated in our nursing homes missing family and friends.
For me, as your pastor, much of the frustration comes in knowing that every decision I make as a leader, and that your Church Council makes as your representatives, comes with a double edge. Both risk and reward. Both unseen danger and clear benefits.
A good example is funeral lunches. Six months ago, everyone believed this ritual to be an important part of celebrating the life and grieving the loss of one of our own, a family member, a member of our family here at Rushford Lutheran. Now, due to the social distancing requirements of space limitations and the complexities of serving a meal out of a church kitchen by volunteers, we are still not quite ready to offer that option. Frustration.
But we are going to fire up the mammoth coffee machine! Starting on Education Sunday, September 13th, we are going to be bringing fellowship time back to Sunday mornings. Along with most of our regular programming and offerings for families and children. With some modifications, safety measures, hesitations, and probably new frustrations, of course. (Please read through the rest of this newsletter for more information.)
Worship services will continue in much the same format as we have been doing when we resumed in-house worship in June. The one exception being that the 9:30 service will be moved up to 9:15 a.m., so that we can better accommodate the education/fellowship “hour” following the service. The 8:00 a.m., as well as the 5:30 p.m. service on Monday remain as is. Indeed, the Monday night service is proving to be a good alternative to those who still need a bit more social distancing.
By the time you read this we will also have installed automatic hand sanitizers at the doorways and other locations throughout the building. We continue to encourage wearing masks when coming in and going out, and if it makes you more comfortable, during the worship service. (Remember, the masks work both ways!) We are also making good technological progress for providing a true “live-streaming” worship experience some day in the future. Because we know that not everyone is quite ready to return to in-house worship just yet.
Even so, every weekend at worship I see a few new faces of members I haven’t seen for a while. Sooner or later the frustration of staying home, worshiping alone, and missing your friends here at RLC overcomes the fear. Which is why we are firing up the mammoth coffee machine in just a few weeks! So when you are ready, when the time is right for you, we will welcome you with a wonderful no-touch hug, a nearly shaking of the hand, and a warm cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup. A little frustrating? Yes! But still worship, still fellowship, still the church.
In Christ’s Loving Service,
Time to Return to “The Family Altar”
Luther originally wrote the Small Catechism for “the head of the household.” That is, for parents to use at home with their family. Here are a few suggestions for establishing a family devotion time at home.
Lutheran Web Resources
Sponsored by Sola Publishing (Go to the “How To” link first).
Great short videos on the catechism/church life.
Search for “Family Devotions.” Devotional books to purchase.
See below for what we will be providing.
General Christian Web Resources
Search for devotionals.
Short videos to understand how to read the Bible.
One format for the “Family Altar” could be what your church is providing each week. We will be posting the Sunday sermon, along with the Sunday scriptures readings and a short worship format, each Monday by 10:00 a.m. (Hopefully without any technical glitches). While this will be helpful for many of our families, it may not be as helpful for our families with younger children. (There is a huge difference for a child sitting in a sanctuary surrounded by others and sitting at home watching a video). So feel free to adapt what we post on our website for what might work best for your family. Including using Bible story books, the Small Catechism, or some of the video links above in place of the “sermon.”
So how do we get going on this whole “Family Altar” thing? Pick a time and a place for this to become your routine. Sunday mornings at 11:00 would work, but so would Sunday nights or whatever time works best for you and your family. The principle here is to have a plan and stick to it. And a place. You may need a TV with web connection or laptop to utilize some of the links above. But all other distractions should be set aside during “Family Altar” time. Including cell phones, texting, email, all the rest. It’s going to feel a bit odd and uncomfortable at first, but I guarantee it will be worth it. Indeed, after a few sessions your older kids can probably start leading the family altar, with a little guidance. And keep it light and fun. It the devotion ends up going down a rabbit trail of “why does the Bible say this?” then so much the better!
Another option for either “Family Altar” or personal devotions is a simple Bible reading list coupled with a copy of the Small Catechism. Simply read a chapter of the Bible, followed by reading a short section of the catechism (for example, one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer), followed by Luther’s morning or evening prayer (also in the catechism).
If you need a Small Catechism, stop by the church office.