Pastoral Letter Re: Reopening our Building for Worship

Pastoral Letter on the Path to Reopening our Building for Worship

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the First Letter of Peter, the Apostle addresses his recipients as “the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood” (1 Peter 1:1-2). Centuries later, the church once again finds itself as “exiles of the Dispersion” as for these past three months we have been scattered and separated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time that was
unimaginable at the beginning of the year, we have strived to stay connected with one another through worship materials and announcements on our website, monthly mailings of our newsletter, phone calls to one another, and prayers for the health and safety of each child of God in our congregation. As we have been physically divided, we continue to give thanks for the “ties that bind our hearts in Christian love” as sisters and brothers in Christ.

As our region entered the province of Ontario’s Phase 2 of reopening, it was announced on Monday, June 8 that churches could reopen their buildings for worship at 30% of seating capacity. Unfortunately, this announcement was not accompanied with guidelines that would have provided direction for churches to reopen safely to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There was a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety as to how we might prepare to reopen our building while maintaining proper social distancing, contact tracing, and other precautions. Our main concern is always the health and safety of every person who
might come into the building where our congregation has gathered for worship for over 110 years.

In a letter to the congregations of the Eastern Synod, Bishop Michael Pryse wrote that “it is my strong recommendation that our synod’s congregations not contemplate initiating in-person worship experiences within our church buildings until the beginning of September at the earliest.” Bishop Pryse goes on to note that “for almost three months now we have been physically distancing from one another for the love of our neighbour. That same motivation needs to be paramount as we plan for the future.” As Christ’s great
commandment is for us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12), we are compelled to place love and concern for the well-being of one another at the forefront of all decisions and actions we take in this most critical time in the life of our congregation. It is out of this loving concern for one another that our Congregational Council has decided to accept our Bishop’s recommendation that we continue to worship in our homes and remain separated until September. While we are aware that other churches in
our community are reopening, we are choosing to practice an abundance of caution so that we might use the summer months as a time to prepare our building so that we might safely open and gather together as the people of God.

The Eastern Synod has appointed as Task Force on the Resumption of In-Person Worship that will develop guidelines for the congregations of our synod to support both their preparations to re-open for in-person worship to protect the safety and well-being of all those who gather. The task force (which includes Pastor Jason Ashby, who served among us as an intern) will provide a preliminary checklist by July 1, 2020 with a more comprehensive resource available by August 1, 2020. Our Congregational Council, Worship and Music Committee, and worship leaders will be using these guidelines and meeting regularly throughout the summer so that we will be well-prepared to welcome everyone back to worship in as safe a manner as possible. We will continue to keep all of you informed on our progress and will announce the date of our first worship service and the guidelines for that service well in advance.

This has been a most challenging time to be the Church, and certainly one of the most difficult seasons of my ordained ministry. I am thankful for the opportunities we have to share worship materials on our website and for the many ways we seek to stay connected to one another, but I miss the many opportunities that we once enjoyed to be together for worship, classes, meals, and other gatherings. I miss being able to visit our people in their homes, in the hospital, in long-term care facilities, and all the other places where we met. I miss presiding at weddings in our building and gathering to comfort and support families who have lost loved ones. I long for the day when we are together, but at the same time I want to be careful and deliberate in every step we take for the sake of the health and safety of every beloved child of God in our congregation and community.

May we keep each other in our prayers as we begin this careful, deliberate process of preparation for the time when we may once again “gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing”!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Jeff Laustsen

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Message from the Treasurer – May

Message from your Treasurer

As I look back, I’m reminded that this is my third Message to the members of Zion Church, since the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic became a part of our lives. No words can really describe what each of us has been going through these past few weeks, but I want to share a comment made by one of my fellow Kiwanians that I feel is most profound and something that each of us should focus our thoughts on during these uncharted days. Her concluding comment in a lengthy email to her committee members read as follows: “I hope each one of you is making the most of the ‘gift of time’ that we have been given through this Pandemic.” It is my hope that we are to the best of our abilities striving to make the most of this “gift of time.” May this “gift of time” be used wisely by each of us in the meantime as we continue to move forward on this journey, which if we are being totally honest, hope it would come to an end sooner versus later, but as a wise person shared with me recently in regards to this comment, all we can do is pray for
guidance and leave it in God’s hands.

Taking a comment from my first Message which read: As I sit at my desk to write this letter and based on one of my responsibilities as your Treasurer, namely, to keep you informed on the financial health of your church, I will now share with each of you an up-date as to what has been happening financially during the latter part of April and the first two weeks of May. When I look at our current financial situation, which is far from perfect, I can truly say, however, that I am inspired by our members’ generosity in responding to
the various options that were shared with each of you in continuing to support our Church in these challenging times. We have been able to keep our deficit nearly at the same level as when the Pandemic started in March while at the same time the expenses still continue as before. This is remarkable and I cannot thank our members enough that have responded to-date for your financial support.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

For those members who have not responded financially to-date, for whatever reason, we ask that you prayerfully consider making a donation via any of the options suggested, as we continue to move forward in this journey. Your financial support is needed also.
As I mentioned in my last message, it is still unknown how long this period of closure will last, and we ask for your on-going financial support.

I close by sharing the Doxology that we quite often sing when the weekly offering is brought forward to be blessed. I feel it says it best.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

Gerald Cook, Treasurer
On behalf of the Finance Committee and Congregational Council

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Message from the Treasurer – April

Message from your Treasurer

Dear Fellow Members of Zion:
As a follow-up to my letter dated March 31, 2020, I want to share with each of you an up-date as to what has been happening financially during the month of April. As you know, three options were suggested in the letter to help your church financially.

I am very pleased to advise that a number of members are in the process of signing up for the Pre-Authorized Account Remittance (PAR) program. As I also mentioned in my earlier letter, we are truly blessed with the members that are enrolled in this program, since, it is this income which still continues uninterrupted, during these challenging times. To those members who are in the process of signing up for the PAR program, “thank you very much.” We are also having other members mailing their offerings to the church. To those members who are mailing in their offerings to the church, “thank you very much.” Lastly, quite a few members are either dropping off their offerings at the office or leaving them in the locked mailbox. To those members who are delivering their offering to the church in this manner, “thank you very much.”

I am also very pleased to advise that we now have another option for making your offering. Members can now make a donation through our church website at http://www.zionstratford.com The procedure is as simple as clicking on “Make a Donation” on the home page, reading the instructions and then answering the questions. Once the donation has been finalized, the member receives their income tax receipt very shortly thereafter via their email address. The member also has the option of splitting their offering between the Current Fund and the Benevolence Fund using this method. I want to acknowledge the time and efforts of Gerry Rehberg in bringing this option to fruition. For all his efforts in this regard “thank you very much.” I also want to extend my personal thank you to Liz Bomasuit and my wife Isabel for continuing to come to the church each week to process the offerings. Your willingness to do this each week is very much appreciated.

For those members who have not responded financially to-date, we ask that you prayerfully consider making a donation via any of these options. Your financial support is needed also.  It is still unknown how long this period of closure will last. Therefore, we ask for your on-going support financially for those members who have stepped up-to-the-plate already and for those members contemplating making a donation.

As we all know, these are very challenging times for everyone. Words such as “unprecedented”, “extraordinary” and “uncharted” have been used to describe these times.
Thank you for your faithful and dedicated financial support during these turbulent and challenging times.

It is our hope that this letter finds you, and your family and friends safe and healthy.

Gerald Cook, Treasurer
On behalf of the Finance Committee and Congregational Council

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Message From the Treasurer

Message from the Treasurer

 

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PASTORAL LETTER REGARDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

March 17, 2020

 Dear Friends in Christ,

None of us could have ever imagined that we would experience a worldwide health crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is having serious implications for the lives of people in our community, in Canada, and around the world.  This pandemic has also impacted our life together as the congregation of Zion Lutheran Church.  At the advice of the bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and Huron Perth Public Health, the Congregational Council has made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel all worship services and public gatherings for the duration of the outbreak.  We do not know when we will be able to gather again for worship and other activities within our congregation, but we will continue to keep in contact with all of our members and pray for the health and safety of all who are impacted by this unprecedented virus.

While we will not be able to gather in person for the foreseeable future, there are many ways in which we can stay connected with one another and continue to support the ministry we share in Zion Lutheran Church:

  • We will be posting sermons, worship materials, and other information on our congregational website: zionstratford.com. I will also be posting information and updates on my Facebook page: Jeffrey Laustsen.
  • We encourage everyone in the congregation to stay connected with one another via phone calls, emails, video chats, and other means of communication. I encourage everyone to take out their congregational directories and call a few people, especially our homebound members and all who may have to self-isolate during the outbreak.
  • We encourage everyone to continue to their financial support of our congregation while we are unable to gather for worship. Pre-Authorized Remittance is the best way to continue to contribute to the ministry of the church while we are absent from one another; you can call the church office for additional information.  You may also mail your offering envelopes to the church or drop them off in the mail slot which is on the Erie Street entrance to the office wing.
  • If we are unable to meet for Holy Week and Easter worship, we will move these worship gatherings to later in the year when we are able to gather again. Since every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, our homecoming will be a most joyous celebration of the joyous message that “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

During these uncertain times, we live in the sure and certain hope that God is with us always and will give us the strength to meet these days of worldwide pandemic in the comfort of a holy and certain hope.  May God bless all of us until we meet again!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Jeff Laustsen

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Policy on Addressing Issues and Concerns in the Congregation – Revised

Policy on Addressing Issues and Concerns in the Congregation

“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” Ephesians 4: 15-16

In order to fulfill its responsibility to “promote congregational unity and good will (and) foster mutual understanding in times of conflict” 1, the Congregational Council has adopted this policy for addressing issues and concerns regarding the life and ministry of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Stratford, Ontario:

  • All members affirm their right to express their opinion about the life and ministry of the
  • The congregation operates with a direct democracy that supports members in sharing their opinions openly with the Pastor, congregational council and at congregational meetings.
  • When a member of the congregation expresses an opinion to a council member, the council member shall ask – “what action would you like congregational council to take with this information?”
  • When the member desires to have the information taken to the congregational council, the member shall be invited to bring the information/opinion/issue to the next council meeting and the date and time will be given to the member. The concern, presentation and action taken will be recorded as part of the Minutes.
  • When the member does not wish to appear in person, the council member in question may present the information/opinion/issue on behalf of the member at the next council meeting. The member will be required to review the prepared submission by the council member and make any corrections, if necessary, to ensure the accuracy of the submission.  Once agreed upon, the member will sign the submission.  The concern, presentation and action taken will be recorded as part of the Minutes.
  • If the member desires that the council member present the information/opinion/issue at the next council meeting, the member must give permission to the council member to share the member’s name as part of the presentation. If the member desires to remain anonymous, the information/opinion/issue will not be addressed by the congregational council.
  • A member also has the option to put in writing, signed and addressed to the Chairperson of the Congregational Council, the information/opinion/issue the member wants addressed.
  • In this case, the Chairperson will acknowledge receipt of the correspondence and will share this correspondence with the Congregational Council Executive, who will assess the issue or concern and take appropriate action, or refer it to the Congregational Council.

Amended and adopted by the Congregational Council of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on December 12, 2018.

The Constitution and Bylaws of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, amended February 1, 2015, Article X, Section 7E.

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Synod – Our Ministry Story 2018

our_ministry_story_2018

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