COVID-19 Updates from our Pastor:

From March 20, 2020

Dear Salem Family,

While so much has transpired in recent days, what comfort it is to know that God remains in control of our universe and each of our lives, and he promises to protect us according to his good will and our eternal welfare.

With that in mind, here are some church-related updates:

  1. Online Devotional Services – Beginning this Sunday, March 22, online worship will be available for you and your family to maintain your regular practice of Sunday morning worship.  If all goes according to plan, the service will be available on our Facebook page and also on our website. The goal is to have Sunday’s devotional service uploaded to these platforms by Sunday morning, so that you and your family can have access to it at the normal worship time of 9:30 AM.  Be sure to set aside this time to view and participate in this online worship.  What a wonderful opportunity for us to demonstrate the importance of God’s Word for ourselves and our children, by gathering in our homes for worship through means of technology!  A devotional guide for this Sunday’s service is attached to this email.  (As an aside, online video-based worship is uncharted territory for us…mainly for me!  Thank you to those who have offered their help and assistance to get up-and-running in a short amount of time.  Be patient as we work out any kinks and make improvements along the way!)

  1. Video Communications – God-willing, video messages will be shared on a regular basis beginning next week.  If you haven’t yet done so, be sure to “like” our Facebook page, and check the website often for updates.

  1. COVID-19 Updates – Speaking of updates, our website now has a page dedicated to updates related to COVID-19 and its impact on Salem’s ministry and activities.  Also, be sure to refer to the calendar on our website, for up-to-date times for individual Lord’s Supper and Pastoral Care hours at church.

  1. Offerings - Your regular, first-fruit offerings are a God-pleasing response to his grace and forgiveness, and are vital to Salem’ mission.  Ministry continues whether we are able to meet together for worship or not. There are 3 easy ways for you to continue to support your church’s ministry:
    1. Online giving – “Give” button on our website.
    2. Drop-off – offerings may be dropped off in person during the scheduled times for Lord’s Supper or Pastoral Care.
    3. United States Postal Service – good old-fashioned envelope and stamp!

  1. Lord’s Supper – As a reminder, the Lord’s Supper will be offered for Salem members this Sunday from 10 AM to noon, on a drop-in basis.  Recommended gathering size limitations will be followed in the building, and social distancing will be practiced.  Communion will be distributed in a single-touch manner (only the communicant will touch the elements).  Special care was taken in preparing and planning this, so that no one will have had direct skin contact with the elements or individual cups, other than the communicant.  Besides this Sunday morning, other times for Lord’s Supper drop-in are noted on the calendar, and in the COVID-19 update from March 17.

  1. Member Care – Our staff has already been reaching out to those in our church family who may be more vulnerable to the effects of Coronavirus, to offer assistance such as picking up groceries and other supplies, helping with technology to be able to view online services, etc.  We are here to help as needed!  Larissa Frey, our Office Manager, along with Natalie Arians, are coordinating these efforts.  Don’t hesitate to contact either of them or myself if there is any way we can be of assistance.

  1. Prayers and Prayer Requests – While we can’t be together as a church family, we can still lift each other up in prayer.  If there is something or someone you’d like to offer by way of a prayer request, please direct that to me at this time, since you don’t have access to the Connection Cards in church.  I will forward it on to Salem’s Prayer Team.  I hope to add a page to submit prayers requests on our website by next week.

I think that’s all for now.  I look forward to being with you “in spirit” at least on Sunday for worship, and in person (with social distancing in effect😊) for those who come for the Lord’s Supper.

 

“In you, O LORD I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” (Psalm 31:1,2)

May God continue to be your rock of refuge and strong fortress.

 In Christ,

Jonathan Hackbarth, pastor



From March 17, 2020

Dear Salem family,

I’d like to share an update regarding Salem Lutheran Church activities in light of ongoing developments related to COVID-19 and its impact.  Last night, the leadership of Salem held an emergency meeting, with a total of 19 individuals in attendance, either in person or remotely – Church Council members, called and hired staff, and various ministry team members.  They shared very helpful and wise perspectives, from which the Church Council has authorized the following measures:

  1. Effective immediately, Salem will not hold in-person worship activities through Wednesday, April 1.
  2. Sunday morning Bible classes and Sunday school will not be held through April 12.
  3. Salem Connect groups will not have in-person Bible studies through April.
God-willing, worship services will resume on Sunday, April 5 (Palm Sunday), Sunday Bible class and Sunday school will resume on April 19, and Salem Connect will resume in May.

 

Let me emphasize that these were very difficult, agonizing decisions.  We know how important God’s Word is at such a time as this, which is why we are working very hard to offer creative alternatives to stay connected and in God’s Word together. We also recognize the rapidly changing developments related to COVID-19, and that things can change by the moment.  These decisions were made based on the best information we had as of our discussions last night.  The following guiding principles were considered in making these decisions:

  • At times of uncertainty and fear, God is our refuge and strength.  Therefore, we do all we can to ensure God’s people are continuing to be spiritually fed and supported. (Psalm 46)
  • Out of love, Christians will avoid putting themselves and others in physical harm, and look for ways to help those in need.  (Luke 10:30-37)
  • God commands Christians to obey the governing authorities he has established, recognizing they provide safety and order (Romans 13:1-5), unless those authorities require us to sin against God. (Acts 5:29)

So, here’s what I can tell you at this time, regarding how we will continue to serve the spiritual needs of the Salem family:

  • Lord’s SupperI will be available at church to offer the Lord’s Supper for Salem members who wish to come as individuals or families to receive the sacrament.  I will take extra precautions to do so in a manner that avoids spreading of germs and multiple handling of vessels and materials.  Over the next 2 weeks, Salem members may come for individual Communion at these times times - Sundays from 10am to noon, and Wednesdays from 4:00 to 6:00pm.
  • Pastoral Care – I will remain available for individual and family pastoral care, whether in-person, by phone, or through virtual methods.  If in-person, I am willing to meet at church or at member homes, as long as appropriate precautions can be followed  in line with current recommendations, so as not to put the health of others at risk.  Along with the times listed above for the Lord’s Supper, I am designating the following times over the next 2 weeks to be available at church for those who wish to drop in to receive a devotion, or just visit, or if you’d like to simply like to spend some time in the Lord’s house for some quiet time of prayer and reflection: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings from 9:00am to noon.  I will certainly be at church at other times, as well, so feel free to check if you’d like to meet or gain access to the church at other times.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time.
  • Video Messages – A group of individuals with background in online technology and video production will be meeting tomorrow to consider ways that we can produce and distribute video messages.  The full extent of this is yet to be determined, but may also include opportunities for interactive Bible classes, as well.  Once we know more, I will be sending information about this.
  • Sermons for the remaining Midweek Lent services – The sermons that would have been preached at Salem for the final 3 midweek Lent services can all be found online at Faith Lutheran, River Falls website, where they have already been preached for their midweek services to date.  You can find them here.  The order would be as follows:
  • March 18 – The Warrior Faces Satan’s Ally, the World
  • March 25 – The Promised Warrior
  • April 1 – The Hidden Warrior
  • Christian Love and Care – There was discussion last night about ways we, as Christians, can assist those in need during this time of crisis.  Ideas such as making grocery and product runs for the elderly or those who are vulnerable to this disease were discussed.  More about this will be shared in the coming days.  But at any time, don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally as you may be in need.  Your family of faith is here to help!
Finally, please continue to follow guidelines and “best practices” being put forth by local and national authorities.  This is a time for us, as children of God, to let our light shine by submitting to the authorities, and demonstrating a preponderance of love and care for one another.

 

I leave you with these words from Psalm 9.  “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  (Psalm 9:9,10)

 

Jonathan Hackbarth, pastor