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  • Kristi Grindstaff

Important Update! Outdoor Worship begins June 28

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This continues to be a difficult and unsettling time as we navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the mental, financial, and spiritual well-being of our community and the world.

We grieve for the nearly 120,000 who have lost their lives to this disease, and we pray for all those whose lives have been turned upside-down. It has been a challenge for many of us to navigate this trying time without the sense of personal connection that comes from spending time in the physical presence of our church community.

Given what we know about COVID-19 and the particular risks associated with worship gatherings, the safest way for us to worship together continues to be online (either live or recorded). Online worship is still worship, as the Word of God is heard and proclaimed and we gather as an online community. Even so, we must acknowledge that online worship can feel “disembodied” for us as the body of Christ.

As of today, guidance from our synod and the Minnesota Department of Health encourages Places of Worship not to host large worship gatherings. At the same time, we find some encouragement in that – as of today – the number of new cases in our local area (Blue Earth County and neighboring counties) seems to be stable or slightly declining.

Therefore, at its June 17 meeting, Zion’s Congregation Council has approved a plan for us to re-gather in person for outdoor worship services beginning on Sunday, June 28. Even as we gather in person, worship services will continue to be streamed online for the benefit of those unable to be present.

The Council agrees that this plan takes reasonable and appropriate measures to protect the wellbeing of our members and the wider community. In obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, and his command that we love our neighbor as ourselves, we can commit ourselves to these guidelines in the knowledge that we will be making our neighbor’s safety a priority.

On Sunday, June 28, Zion will gather on the lawn of the church building for our 9:00 a.m. service, under the following guidelines:

  • Members should stay at home and worship online if they or anyone in their household is sick or has symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell. Persons who are at higher risk for severe illness (elderly or underlying health conditions) are strongly encouraged to stay home and worship online.

  • Participants will be seated on the lawn at a safe distance (6-feet between households). Please bring your own lawn chair. One you’ve taken your seat, please remain seated until the conclusion of the service.

  • The service will be brief (less than 45 minutes). Any singing will be limited.

  • Participants and worship leaders will wear masks or other face coverings. Masks will be provided for those who arrive without one.

  • Participants are urged to avoid handshakes, hugs, elbow-taps, or other forms of physical contact that do not honor the safe distancing precautions.

  • The church building will be closed except to worship leaders and those in need of an emergency bathroom break.

  • In case of rain, the outdoor service will be cancelled and worship leaders will livestream the service from the sanctuary on Zion’s Facebook page. Cancellations will be announced by 7:30 a. m. on Zion’s Facebook page and via the Zion News email list.

Any additional instructions for the service will be provided as participants arrive.

We expect to continue worshiping in this outdoor format through the month of July. Zion leaders will continue to monitor local case statistics and public health guidance, and will finalize worship plans for August at a later date. If there is evidence of COVID-19 spread associated within our Zion community, we may be advised by our local or state health department to cancel or postpone in-person services until it is safe to return.

For the time being, the Zion Council has also agreed that funeral services and visitations will not yet be permitted to take place in the Zion sanctuary.

Gatherings in the church building continue to be limited to small groups (up to 10 people) under the guidelines approved by the Zion Council in May and available on the Zion website.

A new “Re-Gathering Task Force” has recently been formed to developing Zion’s comprehensive COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The Preparedness Plan will address Zion’s responsibilities as an employer, as well as procedures for worship and the care of our facility to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Per MDH guidance, this plan will be made available to Zion members on our website as well as posted at the church.

Zion’s plans are being developed under the guidance and recommendations of our synod, the ELCA, and state public health officials. The members of our Worship, Music, & Adult Education team are Mackenzie Jones, Mary Goodrich, and Janet Becker. The members of the Re-Gathering Task Force are: Dan Lowis, Matt Strum, Mike Bottin, Mackenzie Jones, and Pastor Andrea. Please contact any of these individuals if you have questions.

Let us continue to pray for all those impacted by this crisis: for those who are sick or recovering; for the dying and those who grieve; for leaders of government, community, and healthcare facilities; for business owners and employers trying to rebuild capacity and income; for those who are unemployed or underemployed; for researchers and scientists expanding our knowledge of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; for those separated from loved ones because of coronavirus precautions; and for our children separated from the familiar routines and friendships that should come with the summer break.

In the midst of these things, know that we pray for you and your families, that God will continue to equip us with strength and faith and guide us into new opportunities to make Jesus known to all in our words and actions.

With prayer and hope,

Dan Lowis, president Pastor Andrea Myers

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