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Hope Council Message Regarding COVID-19

A Message from Council Regarding Church Policy on the COVID-19 Outbreak

Hope Lutheran Church 
Council Actions 
Response to COVID 19
Mar 20, 2020

This time last week we were canceling services for 2 weeks.  In the last 3 days it has become apparent that we will not be holding services for at least 60 days.  Council has held 2 conference call meetings to address the most urgent matters and create resolutions based on local, state, and national executive and national health orders (which are temporary law during a declared state of emergency): 
1. Reaching out to the whole congregation at least one time to make sure they know of cancellation
2. Establishing best practices within the law for employees.  
These have taken considerable work as the standards have shifted dramatically about every 36 hours.  Upon each decision, before full implementation could be made, it was irrelevant.  
This document is to outline the minimum standards for our congregation, council, pastor, and staff.  

First and foremost:  we are a people under the law even as we live in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  In all things we shall extend grace to one another as this virus moves through the land.  This includes the council, staff, and pastor. If one of these becomes ill with the virus, the congregation will be notified, offered an opportunity to fill the gap,  and will support in the best and healthiest ways possible.  

The current Emergency mandates of California as of 20 March 2020 state that we are to remain home and only essential personnel are exempt.  Churches and their staff are not in the 16 categories of essential sectors considered exempt. For the congregation of Hope Lutheran this means:
-No one is to report to work on premises.  Work that can be achieved at home will continue to be done.  Employees are given an opportunity to gather their essential documents and return home.  Council has now approved procedures, guidelines based on insurance and synodical guidance, and necessary costs adjacent to this shift.
-No visitation to one another, including at hospitals or to shut-ins.  This includes the council and pastor. 
-No funerals.  This is currently considered an exposure and is NOT exempt.  
-No worship in person on the premises.  
-No gathering of any kind. 

Considering the level of activity at Hope Lutheran, these four (4) remaining areas were identified as needing address and resolution as of 20 Mar 2020 and remaining concerns such as safety and upkeep of the property and expenses and income will be addressed in the following week.  
Alternatives to Worship
Alternatives to Pastoral Care
Council meetings and mode
Communication to congregation

Alternatives to Worship: 
Recognizing the congregation has a wide variety of access to digital resources, and with no ability to mail items to the congregation, creating a home based worship is the goal.  A home based worship will be e-mailed to the congregation on Saturday March 21. All members will be encouraged to worship weekly from the safety of their space and will also be invited to use technology to join in worship online.  There will be a live feed on facebook (requires an account) and youtube(does not require an account). The pantry remains open to those in need of food and old LBW (green) hymnals are available to take home during that time for free.  
There is a tremendous discussion on the theology of “online- live” communion.  A further letter will follow regards to this matter. In the meantime, the pastor will lead in the way to which she is called by the Spirit, through The Use of the Means of Grace (a formal document in the ELCA), her commitment to her ordination vows, and the needs of the community.    

Alternatives to Pastoral Care: 
The pastor will make every attempt to offer pastoral care within reason for the health and welfare of all concerned
The pastor will NOT endeavor to put herself or others in harm’s way for the sake of in-person care.  We trust the Holy Spirit is with us and is seen in the actions of all humanity in many ways. All possible care will be offered via technological means to include phone, email, and social media. One-to-one meetings may be done via telephone, webcam, or email.  The pastor shall reach up and out for her own personal and spiritual health and well being; spending as much time as necessary to remain a non-anxious presence.  

Council Meetings and Mode: 
In this time of crisis, we must carefully identify what our roles are, and if possible, adjust them to meet the original intent. 
The council will continue to manage the policies, procedures, and business of the congregation.  However, “congregational life” at this time is largely suspended. There is currently not a council member overseeing social justice matters, however as long as there are volunteers, food, and need, the pantry will remain open every Monday and Wednesday from 9:30-Noon.  All volunteers will be required to sign a waiver of health and acknowledgment of risk each day. The pastor will do the same. Council will communicate with the congregation on matters of finance and decision making in as timely a manner as possible, recognizing that information and subsequent decisions are rapidly changing and should our bookkeeper become ill, information may not be as timely.  Council will communicate weekly with the congregation through telephone tree and email through the office manager.  

Communication to the Congregation: 
While it is our desire to offer continued care and community at the level and in the manner to which we are accustomed, that is not possible at this time. 
The council and pastor are neither health care nor government leaders and as such, should not give advice on health and public safety matters.  All members should rely on the CDC and public health entities of our local government for this information. A list of recommended resource links will be included with this document.  The council, pastor, and office manager are encouraged but not mandated to share public documents for management of the COVID-19 virus and outbreak and should include the source of such information.  

Members are encouraged to reach out to one another often in order to sustain a sense of community and care.  
The office manager will continue to manage office correspondence, financial secretary duties, and dissemination of council and pastoral news via technological means.This means there will NOT be mailed letters at this time due to the restrictions of attending non-essential jobs in person.  Currently, no one on staff has sufficient ability to mail letters to the entire congregation without breaking the law which is set in place for our health and welfare. Email will be encouraged for all members and the few that have absolutely no computer access will be called more often. All information disseminated on social media in written form will be available via email.  Members will be given a link which does not require an “account” to follow live worship. Of course, anyone is welcome to reach out to the council or pastor should they desire more communication. The most recent directory is being shared as an attachment.  

In the meantime, what can we do?  Firstly, pray. The Lord hears our hearts and accompanies us in even the darkest of times. LIft up your hearts to the Lord often.  
Secondly, praise.  We have been given a life full of beauty and joy.  This is a hard time and we will know grief in it. None of that diminishes the joy and beauty.  So cling to it and praise God for it. 
Thirdly, call or write.  Send a note to a companion or fellow member.  Call them to check in. Offer them space for whatever they are feeling and do not diminish their feelings.  Just let them feel with you. Offer them a word of hope and grab some scripture together.  
Speaking of scripture, dive in.  You have all the time to read it all the way through.  Discover the Bible again. Find comfort and lament, praise and prayer. Renew your understanding of the story of God with us.  
Finally, live now.  There is enough pain and sorrow for tomorrow.  Enjoy and love today (of course within health standards right now).  Dance like nobody’s watching, love like it is the last time, smile and give this day all the joy it deserves. 

The times ahead are fraught with danger and fear.  Do not let them win. Instead lean not on your own understanding, but on Christ Jesus.  In him, there is hope and promise.  

Featured

Sunday Worship ONLINE- 9 am

Usually you could join us in worship at 2882 Arlington Avenue and we would be thrilled to welcome you in. For now, we must seek community and support as we worship together online through our live worship on youtube. (click on the highlighted words and it will take you right there!).

We will begin with gathering and community the first 30 minutes and at 9:30 we will begin our worship together. To be part of the live and interactive group or to have the order of worship, please sign up for our mailing list.

A Time of Change- by Bishop Andy, Pacifica Synod

From the Bishop A Time of ChangeApril 27, 2020
 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:16-20

Dear members and friends of the Pacifica Synod,

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

I find myself in this Easter season noticing more than I had in the past how much the lives of the disciples changed with Jesus’ death and resurrection. They had lost one of their number, Judas, and had to deal with the reality of his betrayal of Jesus, and of them and their trust. They had to give up all notions of earthly power and wealth, realizing that the Reign of God would not bring them material comfort or political power as they had thought. They were given a new mission-to make disciples of all nations, to baptize, to teach. They were to live as Jesus’ followers, trusting not in earthly power but in the power of Christ that is made perfect in weakness. Instead of living long lives of prestige, James the brother of John would be the first to be martyred, and tradition has it that ten of the eleven remaining disciples were put to death for their faith. It was a harder life than the one they had envisioned, but it was a life filled with meaning and purpose, and filled with hope that the God who conquered death would continue to put to death all systems that drain human beings of life on this earth, and would work in and through them to bring life and joy in this life, and when this life is over, would lead them into eternal life. They embraced a life that brought suffering and lived in faith and hope that God would be at work in and through them to make a difference in the world.

We currently are facing lives filled with more suffering and hardship than we could have imagined just a few months back. Many of us are separated physically from those we love. We see friends via the internet, we talk over the phone, but we are asked to keep our distance from all who live apart from us in order to protect them, and ourselves, from the coronavirus. But, like the early disciples, we do not face these hardships alone. Jesus says to us, “I am with you always to the end of the age,” just as he said it to the early disciples. And because Jesus is with us, we can continue the journey our Lord has placed before us. We can continue to proclaim the good news that God is alive and active in our world, that the Holy Spirit is among us giving us all we need to face the challenges of this day, that God who is mother and father of us all continues to gather us as beloved children and calls us to love each other as a good mother enables her children to love each other because they know how deeply she loves them.

We are in this together, friends and members of the Pacifica Synod. And we continue on this journey together. But many of you are asking, what happens when this journey ends? When can our churches come back together? When will we be able to worship in the same building at the same time, singing and praying and communing as we did in the past?

I would urge you to be patient for a while longer. Our governors still have shelter at home orders for all of us. Hawai’i’s order has been extended through May 31, and California’s continues without a timetable to end. Public health officials have not yet said it is safe to gather even a few at a time. Which means that if we meet too quickly, we will endanger the lives of our neighbors. When Jesus was asked which the greatest commandment was, he responded as follows: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31) The way we show our love for God on earth is by loving and protecting our neighbors. In order to protect the lives of our neighbors, we should keep distance for as long as public health officials request that we do so. This means we should not plan to return to public worship until we are cleared to do so.

When we do come back together, we will need to carefully consider how to do so. The virus will not be gone, and experts are stating that we will need to meet first in smaller groups, probably of no more than ten at a time. Churches may want to meet in person, but there should be consideration for those who will not feel safe to meet-those in high risk groups, such as those over 60 or those who suffer from respiratory or other health conditions. Even if some worship is done in person, those who have stayed at home and need to continue to do so should not be forgotten. Online worship, bible study, and fellowship will be with us for a while.

We in the office of the Bishop are encouraging pastors, deacons, and church councils to discuss how congregations should re-open when our governors and public health officials say we may do so. We encourage these leaders to continue to listen to advice from health officials as to how many can safely gather. Distancing will still be required, and singing will be difficult, as singing can spread the virus from greater distances. Masks may need to be worn at public gatherings for some time, which will make the reception of communion difficult. There are many issues for congregations to consider. Luckily, there are others in our society who are thinking about such issues. The governor of Wisconsin is allowing churches to hold public worship, and the Wisconsin Council of Churches put together a guide for thinking about how to safely do so. I found this a helpful resource in thinking through some of the issues involved in being church during this time of COVID-19, and I encourage you to read it as you think about how your own church may ensure safety for those who gather once gathering is allowed.

No matter when or how we meet again, we will not be the same. The disciples found a new energy and enthusiasm for ministry due to the changes they experienced after Easter. I pray the same will be true for us. As you walk through the challenges of this day, keep your eyes open for the opportunities Jesus brings you to share your faith, to help your neighbor, to live in grace, hope, and love. Let us use this time to give witness in word and deed to the God who loves us and rose from the dead for us. And let us continue to use our lives to praise God by helping our neighbors have all they need to live and thrive.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Bishop Andy Taylor/ he, him, hisPacifica Synod of the ELCA1801 Park Court Place, Bldg. CSanta Ana, CA 92701714.692.2791www.pacificasynod.org

Reflections- April 16, 2020

Life is a Line
 (for now)


It is 7:15 on Friday morning. My husband and I are standing in the early entry senior citizen line at our local grocery store. The opening time is 7:45 and the line is already down the sidewalk and around the corner.

Entry time was a bit touchy from frustrated and anxious customers. We were greeted by a cheerful on-the-spot employee. A manager called out, “no paper products, no flour, eggs, milk, or fresh butcher meats. Several people left the line.
The six feet distancing rule is not evident in our senior line. We came with ID. The picture alone is a sure give away of your age. The chuckle in line was about who really was a senior, just guessing by their hair color. The multiple response was  “we’ll see when the hair dye is gone”.

Just a week later, on a Friday night, there was no line and the mandatory mask and gloves rule was not strictly enforced. Once inside, visible blue tape lines on the floor indicated six foot distancing. Employees were handing out disinfected wipes for the carts. Some shelves were adequately stocked while others remained empty.

When not in line at the grocery store, we are at the church food pantry with other volunteers wearing homemade masks and blue gloves. Two days a week, Hope has the opportunity to provide this much needed community outreach service. Observing the six feet distancing requirement, our guests wait patiently in line for volunteers to gather their needful request for food and personal care items. As some of the volunteers are working to stock the shelves and put fresh items from Feeding America in the freezer or refrigerator, others are bagging fresh donated oranges and avocados.

Each week you can see the toll that this COVID 19 pandemic is taking. The worry, stress and anxiety can be seen on the faces of the growing number of guests that we are passionate to serve.

Volunteering at our food pantry for a few weeks now, we have a deeper, more thankful appreciation for ALL frontline angels and heroes who minute by minute demonstrate their deep love for others and a desire to make a difference. As there are many frontline people there are also many behind the scenes people working tirelessly with determined resolve to support each other and pull together to give relief and hope for a Son filled tomorrow.

Submitted by
Shelly Palestis

Reflections – April 9, 2020

Uncertain Times

There is a thief among us.  Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID 19) is everywhere. This infectious thief knows no boundaries and threatens our very way of life. Avoiding person to person contact and social distancing, within six feet, has become the new normal.   Typical of a thief, he is sneaky and all to often goes unnoticed in our homes and communities. We can limit the survival of the virus (thief) in our environment by cleaning with disinfectant plus frequent hand washing.

Exhausted, but diligent around the clock scientific research and a myriad of individuals, corporations, and military resources have gathered in response to eliminating and destroying this deadly thief who has created this pandemic.

Faith communities around the world are on high alert for this threatening thief. Churches, worship centers, and religious gathering places are mandated to close and shelter in place. However we gather, we are one in Christ.

In response to these directives from our state and government as well as our Synod, Hope Lutheran in Riverside has put forth a herculean effort to stay in touch and communicate with all in need of food and faith-based assurance through live human contact via YouTube and Zoom. This is a tangible way to stay vigilant, help ease loneliness and isolation that has become a growing concern.   

Sunday morning Pastor Kelly became visible electronically. After numerous hiccups and much needed techno-savvy faithful partners, thankfully she was able to go forward with the Gospel message from John, chapter 11.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died. Jesus expressed his grief just as many of us have through these uncertain times, through tears. Jesus wept (v: 35). He was deeply moved and troubled. Pastor Kelly is also deeply moved and troubled by this rampant thief (virus).

Weary from wearing too many hats, she gives us heart-felt assurance that we can continue to reach out to others by phone, skype, video chat and prayers. As we offer up prayers for Pastor Kelly, Lance and their family, friends and loved ones, we are compelled by our faith in the Apostles’ Creed to go with God and serve the Lord anyway we can.  

Submitted by: Shelley Palestis

What? One YEAR Confirmation? It’s TRUE!

Ditch the 3 year program! TONIGHT we kick off our new 1 year confirmation program for both Adults AND Youth!
If you want to learn what it means to be a Lutheran or to affirm your baptismal promise in Christ, give us a try.
Class will be twice a month on Wednesday nights (schedule available).
For more details call 951-684-2205.
This class is free and you will even be gifted a study bible.
Groups will share dinner and then split by age.
This is an affirmed safe space for LGBTQ+community, too!
You do not need to be Lutheran to attend or participate. Just come! Dinner included.
Wednesday Sept 11, 2019 6-8:30 pm

Adult Forum- “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan

“Letters to the Church” is a new Bible Study Adult Forum. Every Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. hear of author Francis Chan’s deep love for the Church as he “guides Christ followers to live out God’s magnificent and beautiful vision for His Church- a vision we may have lost but God has never forgotten.”
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