March 18, 2020

Dear members and friends of Ascension,

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1

When King David began Psalm 122 with those words he was rejoicing that the people of Israel wanted to go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship the Lord.  The rest of the psalm explains that David and the rest of the people who gathered for worship in the temple would be praying for peace and security for their city and their family and friends.  This is a good plan at all times, and especially in times like those we face today.

The discovery of the corona virus and the continued spread of COVID-19 throughout our world, nation, state, and county has provided ample opportunity for fear.  I encourage you not to allow fear to dictate your actions.  Jesus tells us that although we WILL experience trouble in this world we should NOT be troubled.  Why?  Because he has overcome the world by his sacrifice upon the cross and his victorious resurrection from the dead.  He gives us a peace that is unlike the peace that this world gives.  He also promises to be with us always.  That is God’s pure grace at work in the lives of his people.  And the means of grace through which God connects to his people is both his Word (the Holy Scriptures) and the Sacraments (especially Holy Communion).  God desires to pour out his grace on us through these blessed means, and in doing so he gives us true peace in a troubled world.

With those comforting thoughts in mind, allow me to share with you the decision that Ascension’s lay ministry team has made in response to the corona virus pandemic.

Until further notice, Ascension WILL CONTINUE to hold worship services, Bible studies, and church events as regularly scheduled. However, we do understand the many concerns held by our members and friends, as well as the wise advice of government agencies like the CDC and MN Department of Health.  Therefore, our normal worship and activities at Ascension will be modified to implement the various mitigation strategies suggested. Here’s what it will look like:

  1. Ascension will increase our sanitizing practices to include all surfaces that are normally touched.  This will be done both before and after worship and activities.
  2. During worship we will practice social distancing by implementing the following:
    • No handshaking or hugs when greeting each other (the sharing of the peace will be suspended as well)
    • No passing of the offering plate (it will be available to receive your gifts of love before worship) or filling out the friendship registration forms
    • Greeters will be the only people opening and closing entrance doors
    • Worshipers will be asked to leave space between themselves and others who are not part of their family
    • Holy Communion will be distributed using a continuous Communion model as we normally do during our Contemporary worship services (and we are asking you to please leave space between yourselves and the person in front of you while coming forward to receive Christ’s body and blood)
    • The nursery area will also be closed until further notice
  3. During Bible studies and other activities we will practice social distancing by sitting further away from each other and refraining from handshakes and hugs
  4. Our two community meals (Meet-N-Eat and Meal&Movie) will still be held, but we will only provide “take-out/drive-thru” service until further notice

In addition to those considerations, we understand that not everyone will feel comfortable coming to the worship services or activities. We respect your personal decisions to stay home and in fact, we encourage you to do so if you have any hesitation about connecting to the Ascension family in person.  Also, if you are experiencing any sickness symptoms, or if you have been in contact with someone who has recently been sick, PLEASE STAY HOME.  We are currently working to have all our worship services available on-line through our website and Facebook page (both live streaming and recorded).  We encourage anyone choosing to stay home to participate through that medium until you are able to return to the regular worship gatherings.

Finally, because we place the utmost importance on maintaining a connection to the Means of Grace, I am ready and willing to bring Holy Communion to you while you remain at home.  Simply let me or your lay minister know and I will schedule those visits with you.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about Ascension’s response to the spread of COVID-19.  I trust that you will continue to keep our congregation, county, state, nation, and world, in your prayers to the God who saves, whether gathering together at Ascension or staying at home.  Especially remember those who work in the healthcare and emergency services industries, and pray for a speedy end to this pandemic.  As we stay connected to the Means of Grace that God provides to us we will be strengthened by his love so that we can continue to share Christ’s love and grow in his grace.  In closing let me share these words from Psalm 91:

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
    nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

God’s blessings on your day!

Pastor Joel