COVID-19 Latest Update - 3/23/2020
Dear St. John’s community,
What a blessing that we were able to join “together” for the first St. John's worship podcast. This week's sermon was about seeing God’s grace — yes, even now. I hope it was meaningful for you.
As we continue virtual worship for a time, your feedback will be helpful:
·What time did you listen? Did you listen to the podcast at your usual service time of 8 or 10 a.m.? Or 9 a.m. shared worship? Another day/ time?
·Did the length of service work for you? The first podcast was 20 minutes so as not to be intimidating as we get used to this format.
·What else would you like to see included? The readings and the Lord’s Prayer can be added; what other aspects of worship do you find meaningful? Music is an integral part of worship for many, so we are looking at ways to incorporate it and other voices to the virtual service.
·What other feedback do you have? This is new to all of us, so please share your thoughts.
·Did you share the podcast with others? Did you listen alone? With family? Invite someone to join in? Many in our communities are seeking comfort and strength — sharing the podcast is one way to invite others into the peace of Christ.
Holy Communion is something we all miss. Bishop Mark Holmerud said virtual communion is counter to our understanding that a sacrament includes the Word spoken, an earthly element and the community gathered. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton urges us to contemplate this fast from physical community and the sharing of Holy Communion: how is Christ still present? What do we experience and learn now? Where do we find grace in this?
Pray about these questions and make a point to discuss them by phone or email. Grace and blessings are ours even in the most difficult times – may Christ open our eyes to see them.
Peace be with you,
COVID-19 Latest Update
Dear St. John’s Community,
As you know, San Francisco Bay Area authorities today (March 16) issued a legal order directing residents in Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties to shelter at home for three weeks beginning Tuesday, March 17. The stay-at-home order comes a day after we had already announced after worship that we are suspending worship services and activities at St. John’s for at least a month in order to be good stewards of the health and well-being of our bodies and those of our neighbors. We had hoped to worship together again starting on Easter Sunday (April 12), but we will continually assess this as the news unfolds.
These actions are based in love, not fear. The bible tells us to protect and honor the most fragile in our midst: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.” (Mt. 25:40) This virus can be deadly to the elderly and those with underlying health issues, and with no wide-spread testing, we have no way of knowing if we have the virus.
During these extraordinary times, is it easy to succumb to fear and lose hope. The Israelites wandering in the desert asked: “Is God with us or not?” Our answer is found in Christ: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)
The office will be functioning on a reduced schedule, but we ask you not to come on site unless it is necessary. Pastor Lori and Stephen Ministers are available to talk with you. (Contact Jo Ann Stein in the office at 925.757.3070 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Pastor Lori at 925.997.3478 or email@example.com) Plans are being made for aspects of our faith life together in the weeks ahead, so please regularly check emails and St. John’s website and Facebook page, and look for new information to come soon.
In trust and hope in the God of resurrection,
Rev. Lori Eickmann, interim pastor
St. John’s Executive Committee
COVID-19 Response 3/15/2020
On Tuesday, March 10, 2020, St. John’s Congregational Council discussed how this faith community should respond to what the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared a pandemic – the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Wednesday night Contra Costa County Health recommended all gatherings of more than 50 people should be cancelled, including church services and church events. This notice is to give you practical and theological guidelines for the days ahead.
In prayer, worship and fellowship, separate or apart, we are one in Christ.
We will continue to worship with the understanding that:
- Each worship service at St. John’s usually is attended by about 40 people. About 60 people are signed up to attend the Baja Mission fundraiser Saturday; plans are to continue with that, but mid-week Lent (March 18) is cancelled. As you are comfortable participating in worship and the fundraiser, please take safety precautions such as regular hand washing, avoiding touching your face, etc. Food will be handed out at the pass-through rather than having people serve themselves.
- Those who are sick must stay home from worship and events to rest and recover, and those over 60 and/or with immune deficiencies should stay home as needed. (Sermons are available on the website https://stjohnsantioch.org/sermons/). We will pray for those in isolation.
- Those in attendance should refrain from unnecessary touching; bowing or sharing a “peace sign” with those nearbyduring sharing of the peace not only avoids transmitting germs, but refocuses the act away from “catching up with friends” to a moment of recognizing Christ’s peace present among us.
- Pastor and communion assistants will wash their hands in the sacristy immediately before Holy Communion; the pastor will drop the host into each communicant’s hands.
- We are taking steps to minimize cross contamination of our weekly refreshments by serving prepackaged treats and having coffee served.
- All will continue to pray for St. John’s, our neighbors and all nations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In time and treasure, we pledge continued support.
St. John’s cannot operate without everyone’s financial and ministry support:
- Those who can’t attend worship are asked to send in their weekly pledges or set up automatic giving or a one-time donation on the website at https://stjohnsantioch.org/giving/ You can set up your online donation to mirror your paper donation, including directing a portion to a designated ministry. All online donations are automatically credited to your pledge.
- Small group meetings such as Church Council, the Call Committee, women’s bible studies and the men’s coffee group, and ministries such as Bread of Life, Sunday school, choir, etc. may continue to meet as participants feel comfortable. Ministry leaders should work to ensure the noted safety and hygiene measures are met.
In Christian love, we respect and care for others.
We refrain from placing blame and succumbing to blind fear:
- Let us take precautions without judging others, and pray for God’s protection and guidance.
- A Christian response is found in the writings of Martin Luther:
During the Black Plague of 1527, Pastor Luther wrote that it is preferable for hospitals with trained staff to care for the sick (while each Christian should offer generous contributions), but if trained staff wasn’t available, “…we must give hospital care and be nurses for one another in any extremity or risk the loss of salvation and the grace of God. Thus it is written in God’s word and command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and in Matthew 7, ‘So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.’” Luther counseled those overcome by horror in the presence of the sick should recognize the spiritual warfare taking place—that Satan was driving then to blinding fear, and worst of all, “…to forget and lose Christ, our light and life…”
These are unprecedented times for our Church and our Community. To avoid misinformation we ask that you reach out to a member of your Council to understand our response and to communicate any concerns or questions that you may have. Information is changing daily and as we have more information or as we need to respond differently, we will update the St. John’s community.
Please check in regularly for updates from St. John’s emails, website or Facebook and share the information with friends who do not use email or social media (hardcopies will be mailed to those who have predetermined that as their communication choice).