Staying Vibrant Despite the Virus
This past year has been filled with change—rapid and profound change. So, I want to begin by reminding you of what will change and what will not change, both in our personal and families lives, and in our life together here at Light of Christ.
What will not change here at Light of Christ is who we are and what we do. We are still God’s beloved children, living as God’s beloved community, and caring for God’s beloved creation. We were named and claimed, called and chosen in Baptism. Our identity in Christ is constant amid all life’s changes.
As God’s beloved children, we still seek to be Christ’s living, loving presence in the world. We still seek to love more like Jesus loves: to forgive more like him, to serve more like him, to pray more like him, and to give more like him. That is especially true now, when our faith and our church is as important as ever.
Conversely, we will not be defined by a virus. We need to deal with this virus, but we will not be defined by it. We will not crawl into a hole and hide; we will not put the brakes on our mission and ministry; we will not hide our light under a bushel.
What is changing, however, is how we live as God’s living, loving presence in the world. We need to think and act creatively, imaginatively, and courageously as we continue to carry out the tasks that the Lord has given to us. The “who” and the “what” is not changing; the “how” is.
Love is always free to improvise. We see that again and again in our Lord’s ministry—he had great freedom to love the person in front of him, in any given moment, in whatever way he knew was best. We have the same freedom—to love the Lord and to love one another, especially the most vulnerable, in the way we believe is best for them and most pleasing to the Lord.
The Church Council met on March 17th and decided that we will follow the recommendations/guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and the MN Department of Health as closely as we can. That means, for right now, that we are following the Governor's Stay at Home Executive Order.
• Virtual Meetings The Church Council, and our Committees, Task Forces, and staff and all other meetings will be held virtually.
• Zoom We have purchased a “Zoom” subscription which is intended to be used as the platform for “virtual” meetings throughout our congregational leadership. Please contact Terri in the church office for scheduling and details.
• Staff Working Remotely Staff members will be set up to work from home and will do much of their work remotely with my approval and under my supervision. Our office hours, and office presence, will be reduced to Wednesday from 9:30-11am.
• Communications We will be using all of our communications platforms to inform you of what is happening in a timely and comprehensive way – the website, our Facebook page, YouTube, email, e-blasts, the Beacon, texts, and telephoning. One change we are making right away is that we will be publishing The Beacon every week now (rather than every two weeks) and we’ll be sending it out on Monday, both by email and by snail mail for those who are not online.
• Staff Compensation/Care The Council decided to compensate the staff at the normal budgeted amount through April. We will make a decision about compensation for May at the end of April.
We have filed an application with the Small Business Administration seeking a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. Thanks to Tom Sebelien, our Treasurer and to Debbie Johnson, our Bookkeeper, for putting together the loan application. If we receive the loan it will amount to about 8 weeks of compensation for our staff. In addition, if we follow the regulations for the use of the loan, the loan will be forgiven, and the loan becomes, in effect, a grant.
The Executive Committee also met one on one with everyone on our staff to make sure they are doing well right now, and to address any questions or concerns they have.
• Critical Services In the Stay at Home Executive Order it explicitly states that faith leaders and workers can continue to provide essential services to their congregations and communities. Thus, Pastor Kuenzel is permitted to make pastoral visits in extraordinary and emergency situations. The Executive Order also states that worship leaders can gather in the sanctuary to plan, produce, and distribute online worship services. Therefore, beginning with our Easter Sunday service, we will be recording our services in the sanctuary and then posting them on YouTube.
We will begin celebrating Holy Communion in the context of our online Sunday worship services beginning on Easter Sunday, April 12th, and then every subsequent Sunday morning until we can gather for worship again.
Several things need to be noted about this decision. First, it was done in consultation with our Bishop, Ann Svennungsen. Second, it was a decision made by the Light of Christ Church Council and by Pastor Kuenzel. Third, the decision to celebrate Holy Communion in the context of our online worship services is a practice we will continue only as long as we have to worship online. Once we can worship in the sanctuary again, we will discontinue “online” Communion and celebrate Communion in our Sunday services in the sanctuary. Fourth, we will celebrate Holy Communion in the context of online worship using the following set of instructions.
Instructions for Celebrating Holy Communion in the Context of Online Worship
* Every household at Light of Christ, for whom we have an email address, will receive an email with the Zoom link/invitation. This email will not be limited to Light of Christ members but will include our entire community – visitors, prospective members, and so forth.
* Those households that do not have internet/email access will be phoned and given the call-in number for the Zoom invitation. We will send out the email and make these phone calls on the Friday (April 10) before Easter Sunday. In the weeks that follow, we will send out the email/make the phone calls on the Thursday or Friday morning prior to the upcoming Sunday service.
* Prior to watching the pre-recorded service on YouTube, families/households are asked to “set” your family table for Communion – a table cloth, candles, a cross, and enough bread and wine/juice for everyone at the table, and anything which helps us in receiving Holy Communion in an edifying way. Think of this as creating a “home altar.” Set up your device so that others can see you and your “home altar.”
* Then watch the first two thirds of the service (through the offering). The services will be posted on YouTube by 8 AM on Easter Sunday and on the following Sundays. Ideally, you will worship through the online service beginning at 9:00 AM and then log on to the Zoom celebration beginning at 9:45 AM. (For those who don’t have internet access, this is obviously not possible.)
* Then log in or call in using the Zoom invitation that you received for that service. Holy Communion will be celebrated live at 10:00 AM on Easter Sunday and on all the following Sundays. You will be able to log in/call in to Zoom beginning fifteen minutes prior to the celebration.
* Pastor Kuenzel will lead the congregation in the Communion liturgy from the sanctuary on Easter Sunday and on the following Sundays. We will use the Communion liturgy that will be emailed out with the Zoom invitation. We will also mail out hard copies to those who don’t have internet/computer access.
* Once the Communion is finished, you’ll be invited to return to the service on YouTube and pray the Sending portion of the service.
* Once the service is over those who want to stay online/in the Zoom “meeting” can stay for a “Coffee with the Council and Staff.” This “Coffee Hour” is intended as time for the Council and staff to share information with the congregation, and for the congregation to share comments, compliments, questions and concerns with the Council and the staff.
• Online Sunday Services Our Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop, Ann Svennungsen, has directed all the congregations in our Synod to suspend in-person worship services through the end of April. Therefore, we will continue to conduct online worship services through Sept. Our Sunday services can be found here. The council is still determining how services will proceed in the fall of 2020.
The last outdoor service is scheduled for Oct 4 at 3pm. The council is evaluating a return to indoor worship beginning October 11 abiding by our Covid Preparedness Plan protocols, the state of MN requirements, and the guidance established by the CDC and the MN Department of Health. This means we will hold a 9:30 AM worship service, allowing <75 people in the sanctuary with masking and social distance procedures in place.
• First Communion Services We have postponed our First Communion and Confirmation Services until we can worship in the sanctuary again. At this point, we don’t know when that will be. We will schedule these services far enough in advance so that family and friends can make plans to attend.
• Adult Choir and the Praise Team will not be rehearsing. Rehearsal will resume once we are told that it is safe for groups larger than ten people to meet.
• Daily Devotions Katie Kohler, our Worship and Music Director, and I will be posting a morning devotion five days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday—which you can find on our website. These devotions can be found here.
• Prayer Requests Please submit prayer request and thanksgivings for our Sunday services by emailing them to Pastor Kuenzel's church email at Bruce.Kuenzel@locdelano.com. These prayers and thanksgivings can be for you and your family, for our ministries here at Light of Christ, or for needs in the wider world. If you submit them by Wednesday at 9:00 AM they will be included in the service for the coming Sunday.
- Online Equal Exchange Store - Are you looking for a way to brighten someone's day or do you miss your EE coffee, tea and chocolate? Now you can order these items online (along with the LOC mugs) and have them delivered for FREE within Delano and surrounding communities! Go to our ONLINE STORE for more info... place your order and one of our HS youth will deliver it once the payment has been processed (following all distancing guidelines). Thanks for supporting our youth and fair-trade farmers around the globe!
- Sunday School - Starting April 19th we will be having live Sunday School lessons on Zoom. 3 year old through 2nd grade from 8:30-9:00 and 3rd through 6th grade at 11:00-11:30 am. Details coming soon!
- Spark - 6th grade youth are invited to join Pastor Bruce and Catherine Borman on April 15, 22 and 29 from 3-4 pm on Zoom for the final 3 weeks of Spark. Youth must be registered since we will be mailing out the curriculum to all kids for Pastor Bruce's teaching time.
- Kids Connect Time - Kirsten Kelly, Catherine Borman, and Kim Wortz will be posting a “Kids Connect Time” activity at least five days a week. These activities can be found on YouTube and Facebook.
- High School Fellowship - Our HS youth meet weekly at 8 pm via Zoom to connect and play games. Contact Kirsten for the Zoom link to join us!
- Worship Notes - Confirmation students should continue to complete Worship Notes by watching our online Sunday Services on YouTube.
- Summer programs - We have decided to postpone our Mission Trip to Colorado to the summer of 2021. We have not yet made a final decision on whether we will take our kids to Bible Camp, or to hold VBS “in person” or to do it in a virtual format. Right now, we are in a “wait and see” mode. So much depends on when the restrictions are relaxed, and far more importantly, whether we can hold these events without risking the health of our children and youth and their families.
We will be updating this section regularly with online resources that are pertinent during this time. Please feel free to share ideas with our staff as well! We hope these links will support you in faith and help with some ideas during this time at home. Blessings!
- Coronavirus Conversations Milestone Moment: www.milestoneministry.org
- Illustrated Ministry (free, weekly, faith formation resources for all ages): www.illustratedministry.com
- Family Ministry Tools: www.familyministrytools.org
- Group Ministry: https://www.group.com
- Children's Ministry Deals: free resources for families
- For the Family: How to Lead Your Kids through the COVID-19 Virus
- For those affected by Mental Illness: www.nami.org
• Generosity Please continue to give generously. If you are not using online giving this is a wonderful opportunity to try it out. You can also mail your offering to the church office or drop it off during regular office hours.
• Contingency planning Given the potential economic impact of the coronavirus, the Church Council will draw up contingency plans for our spending/expenses for the remainder of the year, for example, if our financial giving is 90%/80%/70% of our projected estimate of giving for 2020.
• 2020 Update For the last 3 quarters of 2020, restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have resulted in a significant reduction of Faith Sharing Income. While adapting to the constraints of how the missions of Light of Christ are delivered, staff and committees have reduced expenses to the extent that a yearend balanced between income and expenses is expected. Acquisition of an SBA-PPP loan ensured a cash balance capable of meeting current liabilities.
• Food Shelf Support Please continue to bring donations for the Food Shelf and drop them off in the Fellowship Hall during normal office hours (Mon. - Thurs. 8:30-1:30). Given the economic downturn food insecurity will continue to grow. Items also needed the most at this time are personal care items like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hand sanitizer & soap, laundry soap, women's hygiene products, etc. Monetary gifts are also accepted.
• Fifth Sunday Offering In addition, please give generously to our Fifth Sunday Offering this month which is being donated to help support St. Stephen's in Minneapolis. St. Stephen’s mission is to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness in achieving permanent, affordable housing. Monetary and item donations are being accepted through the end of December.
• Medical Vulnerability A priority for Light of Christ during this time is to pay special attention to our senior adults. We will provide them with timely written/printed communication (especially if they are not online). We have volunteers willing to connect with a phone call to assess additional needs such as possibly running errands for essential items including groceries, health & personal needs, prescriptions, etc. It might mean helping them with navigating online ordering of items or other specific assistance they may request.
The same will be true of any families we can help, at Light of Christ and in the community, who may be “home bound” because of a coronavirus infection. Please contact Jinnelle Weis by email at Jinnelle.Weis@locdelano.com or by phone at 952-250-5527 if you need help, or if you are available to help those who cannot or should not leave their home.
• Financial Vulnerability The economic downturn will leave many families struggling financially. We are exploring ways in which we can help these families through a time of underemployment or unemployment.
• Building Usage As of this writing, none of the outside organizations that use our building will be using it in the foreseeable future. The one exception is AA and Al Anon. Our one request of them is that they follow the CDC and MN Department of Health guidelines for small group meetings.
• Building Cleanliness Paul Gabrelcik, our church custodian, is currently at work to do a deep cleaning of the entire building and all the furniture, with special attention to doorknobs, handles, faucets, and any surface that is repeatedly touched. We will also be asking anyone who comes into the building for any length of time to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer when they enter the building and again when they leave.
Since our staff will be doing much of their work remotely, we want to make sure that you can easily reach us. So here are our work email addresses and preferred phone numbers.
Catherine Borman, Associate Director of Children and Family
Paul Gabrelcik, Custodian 612-816-9377
Debbie Johnson, Bookkeeper 612-747-7063
Kirsten Kelly, Director of Children, Youth and Family
Katie Kohler, Director of Worship and Music
Bruce Kuenzel, Pastor
Terri Reuter, Office Administrator
Jinnelle Weis, Shared Ministry Director
Kim Wortz, Associate Director of Children and Family
In preparation for resuming in-person gatherings, Light of Christ has been required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which the Church Council has reviewed and approved. This plan meets the protocols provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. Please click here the view the plan.