Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace be with you in Christ Jesus, our Risen and Living Lord!
The Psalmist writes:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. (Psalm 46:1-5)
Every day it seems the news changes and more and more uncertainty creeps in. Guidelines for gathering in groups have changed from 250 to 50 to 10. Schools and businesses are closing until further notice in droves around us. Downtown Grass Valley is eerily quiet. Grocery stores are in disarray. And we aren’t exactly sure what to think or do.
The Bay Area is sheltering in place, anyone in California over 65 is considered at risk, as is anyone with an underlying health condition. There are no serious restrictions in Nevada County yet, but I suspect we will see them before too long as cases of COVID-19 continue to multiply.
So what does all of this mean for us at Grace? In order to care for all of our people, the leadership of Grace has come to the very difficult decision to cease all activities and public worship services until further notice. As Holy Week approaches, we will reevaluate and extend that timeframe if we deem it necessary. Please check your email, our website, and our church Facebook page for continued updates.
This was by no means an easy decision. However, with the number of families in our congregation that have individuals in risk categories, and the limitation on groups over 10, we believe that this is the most prudent and responsible course for us.
Even though we will not hold Sunday services for a time, you still have a church, a pastor, and a deaconess. The deaconess and I are available for home visits and I am more than happy to bring you the Eucharist on any such visit. Please do not hesitate to call, especially if there is a particular need we can help you with.
So, how do you fill the gap on Sunday morning? There are any number of options. The Lutheran Hour is available on KNCO 830AM at 8:00am. The video worship service Worship Anew is available on DirecTV channel 377 and online at www.worshipanew.org. We will also post my current sermons on our website by Sunday morning so you can listen there. We are also exploring Facebook Live and YouTube video options to stream a service.
Now, what can you do in these challenging days? Be the Body of Christ. Call one another. Encourage and support one another. Write each other notes or emails or text messages. People suffer in isolation; this is not the time to hunker down alone and wait for it to all blow over.
Pray for each other, for our community, nation, and world. Pray for our medical professionals, those who are affected by the Coronavirus, and everyone in need. Use this crisis as an opportunity to show the world how we love and care for each other and for everyone. Show others your confidence in the Lord’s care for us without panic, without sharing false information, and to speak of the hope we have in Christ. Trust in the Lord to care for us and to carry us through this pandemic.
In my 20 years of ministry, I have never had to make such a decision, nor am I pleased that we have done so now. I am confident, though, that our leadership has acted in the best interests of the community we are called to serve. I ask you to keep me in your prayers as well as I seek to shepherd the flock of Grace through these difficult and uncertain days.
Above all else, remember the Gospel! Jesus died for you. Jesus rose for you. He has given you the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (St. Luke 12:32). That is what we have by virtue of our baptism into Christ and the faith which the Holy Spirit has planted in us by the Gospel.
Pr. Duane Bamsch