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Response to MDHHS Epidemic Order from November 15, 2020

Please note: A summary of our responses to yesterday's MDHHS order is located at the end of this letter.
 
November 16, 2020
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
As I'm sure you're aware, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid-19 are on the rise here in Michigan and across the country. We mourn with those who have lost loved ones and who are suffering from this disease. 
 
On Sunday, November 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a new epidemic order. This order aims to try to slow the growing spread of COVID in the state. Between November 18 and December 8 there are a number of mandates the residents of our state will experience. 
 
The MDHHS Order Article 10, d. states “Neither a place of religious worship nor its owner is subject to penalty under this order for allowing worship at such place. No individual is subject to penalty under this order for engaging in religious worship at a place of religious worship.” Therefore, we will use our discretion with regard to worship services, although social gatherings and other programs and activities may be limited.
 
We certainly want to take seriously the guidance and advice of our public health officials. This is a good reminder to us that we should continue to observe proper distancing, face covering, and hand hygiene. I know that we've been following these protocols for months now, and it's easy to start to get relaxed. The risk of infection still remains, and we need to do our best to minimize this risk, not only for ourselves, but also for others around us.
 
Our Shepherd Lutheran Church will continue to offer regular Saturday and Sunday worship services, as well as midweek services on Thanksgiving Eve and Day, and during Advent. We have already adjusted our service opportunities on Christmas Eve to spread out the attendance across five worship services. We are thankful for everyone who has participated in worship and followed safety protocols. We are moving all Bible studies at Our Shepherd toward online methods until December 9.
 
As you consider what activities you consider to be "essential," I trust you will recognize that hearing the Word of God, receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and simply gathering together as His people is important to who we are as Christians. Besides our regular worship opportunities, we provide small group communion opportunities on Sunday afternoons beginning at 12:15pm. Groups of no more than 10 people gather safely for the Lord’s Supper. Please call or email the church office (248-646-6100 or ) to make a reservation for the small group communion.
 
I also know that many of you have health conditions and risk factors that may lead you to minimize your exposure in the community. We will continue to make videos of the services available on our Facebook page, YouTube, and our church website. OS@home remains a valuable resource for you to find all the ways we support worship at home.
 
If you are not able to join us for worship, we encourage you to remain faithful with your giving. Electronic giving is available on our website (OurShepherd.net/give). 
 
If you are feeling sick or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the Coronavirus, stay home. Please keep in touch with the pastoral staff, so we can continue to provide you with pastoral care.
 
This virus and the mitigation protocols present risks not only to our physical health, but our mental health as well. The winter time and the holiday season typically see a rise in cases of depression and suicide. As people feel more isolated from one another, this risk increases dramatically. If you are feeling down, the pastoral staff at Our Shepherd want to help. Please check in with your loved ones and fellow members of this congregation. Remember not only the elderly, but the young as well. Speak the Word of God to one another. Pray together. Seek the strength and the hope that only Christ can give. 
 
 
Pastor Evan Gaertner
 
 
"But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5).
 
 
 
Summary of our actions due to the
MDHHS epidemic order of Nov. 15, 2020:
 
  • Worship services will continue to take place as scheduled on weekends, Thanksgiving Eve and Day, Advent, and Christmas.
  • All in-person Bible classes, meetings, and in-person events scheduled between now and December 8 will be moved online or postponed.
  • Wednesday Word and Sacrament on the school campus will NOT take place November 18, but will take place as scheduled on December 16.
  • Small group communion will continue to be available by appointment on Sunday afternoons, beginning at 12:15 PM. Please call 248.646.6100 to schedule.
  • Live-streaming of worship services and Bible studies is always an option. Navigate your device to Facebook, YouTube, or OS@home.
  • Please continue to support Our Shepherd’s mission and ministry. Our in-person attendance has decreased, but our costs remain the same! Donate at ourshepherd.net/give. Thank you for your faithfulness.

 

Posted by Evan Gaertner

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