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

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.  

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 place to call Home

Finding a worship community can be hard. You may have experienced a painful moment in another church or religion. At Hope, we recognize we are imperfect beings and that many people are just hungry for a place where they are not just safe, but can grow. A place to call home. Come and give us a try. You just might find what you were hoping for.

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