A PDF version of this letter is available for download.
March 30, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
How are you doing, really? I want you to know that my prayers are with you always, and particularly in these challenging days. I’m writing to share some reflections and an update on life at Zion right now.
REFLECTIONS FROM YOUR PASTOR
We have not seen this level of disruption to daily life and activities in many decades (certainly, within my lifetime). It is sometimes hard to wrap our minds around the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, and the ways it is changing our lives. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or exhausted, you are certainly not alone. These are appropriate responses to the stress and trauma of what we are experiencing right now.
Even in this time of change, God’s love for us is steadfast and unchanging. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble . . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge (Psalm 46:1, 11). These are words to encourage and comfort us, and to help us find security.
I have heard speculation that the present pandemic is some form of divine punishment, but I do not agree with that view. The God we know through Jesus Christ does not desire the suffering of God’s children. Rather, God weeps alongside those who suffer, and longs for the world’s healing and wholeness. God has compassion for those who grieve the loss of a loved one to Covid-19, or who are filing for unemployment, or working from home while caring for children, or struggling with separation from family and networks of support. God loves you, always!!
Through our baptism, God has called us into a ministry of making God’s love known in the world. We are called to reflect the compassion of Jesus Christ into our communities and families. These gifts of love and compassion are needed more now than ever. I trust that you are already checking in with your neighbors, particularly those who are elderly or who don’t have family nearby. I hope that you are also reaching out to your Zion “pew neighborhood,” as well as those who sit on the other side of the sanctuary. I am doing my best to reach out to members by phone and text, but I rely on your willingness to do the same. If you learn of a prayer request or a need for pastoral care, please share that with me (cell/txt: 507-402-1114).
Remember – though Zion’s building may be closed, our church is still open for business! After all, the church is not the building at all, but the people of God living as the body of Christ in the world.
UPDATE ON ZION’S WORSHIP SERVICES
This will come as no surprise, but in light of Governor Walz’s March 25 executive order, the Congregation Council has extended Zion’s suspension of in-person worship services through at least April 26, 2020. The remaining sessions of our Sunday School year have been cancelled. I will be reaching out to Confirmation families regarding plans for that ministry.
Regrettably, this means that we won’t be gathering in our sanctuary for Holy Week and Easter services. However, I will continue to livestream our scheduled services through Zion’s Facebook page, including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I am also providing resources (to be sent by mail this week) to support you in worshipping at home during Holy Week and Easter.
Based upon the current schedule outlined by the governor, the Council and I hope we can resume in-person worship services on May 3. Time will tell. I can assure you of two things. First, that whenever we resume, it will be with appropriate social-distancing precautions in place for the protection of those who gather. Second, that we will celebrate the Festival of Easter together when that can be organized, complete with flowers and trumpets. After all, EVERY Sunday of the year an Easter celebration, not to mention the fact that the Easter season continues through the Feast of Pentecost (May 31).
Finally, remember that if you miss one of the livestreamed services, recordings are available on our Facebook page. Each week I’m posting worship resources on the church website, and you’ll find links to recordings there. I continue to podcast my sermons as usual. You can find those on the Zion website, or subscribe to “Zion Lake Crystal Sermons” on your favorite podcast app.
UPDATE ON CONGREGATIONAL LIFE
All in-person Zion activities continue to be suspended. The church building, including the church office, will continue to be closed through the end of April. If you need to reach Mary, please leave a message at the church number (507-726-2849). The best way to reach me is by cell/text (507-402-1114).
We will not be mailing out an April newsletter. In the meantime, we will continue to share information digitally through Facebook and Zion’s website. The website has been updated with new sections for online worship resources as well as coronavirus updates.
A WORD ABOUT STEWARDSHIP
Thank you for your continued financial support for Zion’s ministries through eGiving and offerings you’ve mailed to the church. Your ongoing generosity is a reflection of how important this congregation and its ministry are to you, and its value for nurturing your relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you have not recently given an offering to Zion, or if you would normally offer a special Easter gift, I hope that you will share a gift today. The present disruption to our worship services, and especially for Easter Sunday, will have a negative impact for the offering income on which we rely.
Gifts can be mailed to the church office (PO Box 236, Lake Crystal, MN 56055), or you can make a one-time or recurring gift through the eGiving options provided on the church website.
The Council intends to carry out our established ministry plans, and trust God to provide what is needed for us to make Jesus known to all in our words and actions. We do expect some expenses will naturally decrease (e.g. copier costs and heating) and plan to postpone some projects. (The hiring process for a new Youth Ministry Coordinator is now on hold). Even so, the vast majority of Zion’s budget is in fixed expenses like utilities, mortgage, insurance, and salaries.
Zion’s leaders will continue to monitor the recommendations of federal, state and county health officials, and plan accordingly. In the meantime, I urge you to stay centered in the basics of Christian discipleship: prayer, worship, reading scripture, sharing your resources, and loving your neighbor. God is with you!
With prayer and hope, Pastor Andrea Myers