RETURN TO PUBLIC WORSHIP
May 18, 2020
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” These are the words of David that begin the 122nd Psalm. We pray that this too is your reaction as we begin to worship together in person. While we are excited to see each other and worship together in person once again, we also want everyone to be safe and feel comfortable while doing so. The purpose of this document is to give you a detailed plan of how we’ll conduct our worship services here at St. John. We give you this information so you can make an educated decision about whether or not it is worth the perceived risks to attend worship in public at this time. No matter what decision you make at this time, you will not be looked-down upon or criticized.
This is our plan going forward indefinitely. The council will regularly revisit this plan, make adjustments accordingly, and communicate those changes to you in a timely manner. The second quarter voters’ meeting, scheduled for April, has been rescheduled for June 16th. At this meeting there will be an opportunity to review and discuss our current worship set-up. In the meantime, if you have any comments or concerns, please contact one of the Pastors or any members of the council.
- Those who have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home.
- Those who are at high risk of serious illness are encouraged to stay home.
- Those who are uncomfortable attending services at this time are encouraged to stay home.
- You are welcome to wear a mask, but they are not required.
- Public services will begin on the weekend of May 31-June 1. We understand that some of you may have been anticipating worshiping together already the weekend of May 24th. The consensus among the council is that this extra week of preparation is needed to ensure our plan of cleaning and sanitizing (including gathering enough supplies and volunteers) is able to be implemented.
- We will offer three services Sunday morning at 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 am, and Monday evenings at 6:30 pm.
- The 7:30 am Sunday service will continue to be live streamed and the worship folder will continue to be posted online.
- Please reserve the first service for seniors.
- The number of worshipers by service will be limited to 75 people.
- Everyone is required to sign up to attend a service. Please sign-up by clicking the box below, or the box on the front page of our website: www.stjohn-appleton.org. If you are unable to sign-up online, please call Church, and we’ll sign-up for you.
- To help with keeping everything disinfected, the basement will be closed for the time being.
- Please remember that your comfort level may be quite different from that of your brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition to protecting yourself, please respect the health and feelings of your neighbors. Out of Christian love, please don’t do things that could make them uncomfortable.
- Ushers or other church leaders will not be policing or enforcing these policies. For example, if members from different families are mutually comfortable sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, that’s not for our church leadership to forbid.
- It’s our hope and prayer that it won’t happen, but if you’re ever diagnosed as having COVID-19, you owe it to your church family to inform us ASAP so that we can in turn inform those members who may have been in contact with you (we do not plan on using any names, but only speak in generalities). Please let us know the dates and times of any services you’ve attended. We do not plan on sharing this information directly with the CDC or local health departments. We would try to do any “contact tracing” in-house.
- Every other row of pews will be closed, ensuring six feet of distance between members.
- One household will be allowed per pew or, in the case of one or two individuals per household, at each end of the pew as long as proper distance is maintained.
- By adding an extra Sunday service, it is our hope that this will enable everyone who wants to worship will be able to while still socially distancing. If this is not the case, we will consider other options.
- Hand sanitizer will be available at the doors.
- High contact surfaces (like pews and door handles) will be disinfected after every service.
- A deeper cleaning will be done after each weekend.
- All items will be removed from the pews—hymnals, bibles, pew registers, pencils, and pamphlets—and will not be used for some time.
- Those who are accustomed to following along in hymnals are encouraged to bring their own.
- As we’ve been doing lately, the entire service will be printed in the worship folder. Worship folders will be single-use only. Households are encouraged to share with each other and take the worship folder home with them.
- An offering will not be collected during the service. Instead, a box will be placed in the entryway for you to support the gospel ministry at St. John and elsewhere. You are also encouraged to make use of our electronic giving opportunities available on our website.
- The Ushers will be available if anyone needs help and to usher members up for Communion; otherwise to avoid contact and to aid with social distancing they will not be standing next to doors or handing out worship folders.
- Take extra care when using the restrooms. Consider letting one person use the restroom at a time.
- If you have a surplus of pertinent items (Clorox wipes, Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, etc.) and want to donate some to St. John—we’ll certainly be needing some as time goes on.
- We will also be in need of volunteers to clean the church between services. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us soon. If needed, we may contact those who sign-up for a particular service to help cleaning.
Before the Service
- There will be no hand shaking before (or after) the service.
- Greeters will not be present as you enter into the sanctuary to welcome you or shake your hand.
- Doors will be propped open on nice days and opened by a council member on other days. Doors going into the sanctuary will also remain open at all times.
- Windows may also be opened to encourage fresh air flow.
- Please do not congregate in the narthex before the service.
- Communion will be offered on our regular Sundays—the first and last Sunday of each month.
- Those who do not wish to commune or are not comfortable communing at this time are free not to come up for the Lord’s Supper.
- The Altar Guild will wear masks and properly sanitize their hands when they prepare the elements for Communion.
- Pastors will sanitize their hands before each table.
- The wafers will be placed in a flat hand; the pastors will be careful not to touch your hand as they distribute communion.
- The common cup will not be used for a time.
- The communion tray for individual cups will be “loaded” with spaces between cups so that you do not touch other cups.
- Communicants will line up in front of the first pew, standing on the marks on the floor.
- Communicants will be ushered up from both sides up the middle aisle and will go back to their pews using the side aisle of the side they are sitting on. A diagram and more explanation will be given on communion Sundays.
- When signing up for each service, please check if you will be receiving communion.
After the Service
- Pastors will not shake hands or greet people as they exit the church—although they will be available to talk or if anyone needs any assistance.
- Members are encouraged not to stay and socialize in the entryway. This is something that can be done more safely outside, if desired.
- To help with social distancing, worshipers will be ushered from the back first.
- For the time being, we’ll still hold on-line Bible Studies—Thursdays with Pastor Gartner; while Pastor Frey’s class will have to find a different time and/or day starting in June.
- No men’s and women’s (or LWMS) studies will be held at this time.
- Keep your eyes open for more information on Confirmation Sunday, VBS, etc.
MARCH 2020 Update
Dear St. John Family,
In light of Governor Evers’ ban on gatherings of over 50 people (and later subsequent decisions), and in concern for the health of our own members and the members of our community, St. John has made the following changes to our ministry programs:
1. St. John’s public worship services have been suspended until further notice. This doesn’t mean that worship will stop. We will still record each week’s Wednesday Lenten Service and each week’s Sunday service, so that you can view them online and participate in them. We encourage you to gather together with a small group of family or friends to worship together.
· You can watch by going to our YouTube page and selecting the correct service here: St John Lutheran YouTube Channel
· You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: Weekly Bulletins.
· Please contact the church office if you can’t live stream or you need help finding or viewing our worship services.
· If you would like to still receive the Lord’s Supper, you may come at anytime and receive private Communion from one of the Pastors.
· If you would like a written sermon or a DVD of the service, you can access written sermons at our website or you may call the office and materials can be mailed out.
2. All other activities have also been suspended (e.g. Sunday School, all Bible Classes, Altar Guild, Ladies and Men’s Bible Studies, Catechism Classes, Lenten Meals, Dartball).
3. We will contact you with any updated information either through our “Bytes of Bread” email or through Facebook. If you are not presently receiving our “Bytes of Bread,” could you please send the church office an email so that we can add you to our list so that we can send out future updates more quickly and efficiently through email. Thanks!
4. St. John’s Church Office will still be open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. to receive phone calls, emails and visitors.
5. Pastors will continue to be available via phone and email. We are determined to minister to your spiritual needs as we are able.
6. Please continue to support the ministry of our congregation with your regular offerings. You can do this in a number of ways:
· You may mail or drop off your regular offering envelope
· You may give online, click on the below image:
· You can also give through our new VANCO Give Plus App. Simply download the app, login/create a username, and then find St. John. This app will allow you to give to whatever fund you so desire, as well as set a one-time offering, or a recurring offering with a specific frequency. For more information ask Tim Springstroh or one of the pastors. Below are the links for the app.
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vanco.gpm
Apple App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/give/id1120840616
As quickly as everything is moving, please remember that this is a fluid situation. We pray that this is only a short-term problem and that we’ll be able to resume our regular ministries after a short while. We plan on monitoring everything on a regular basis to make any needed modifications to this plan.
Please know that our gracious God is still in control of all things. He uses all things to serve his good purpose. It is our prayer that the Lord continue to draw us close to himself as we trust his promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Be well!
In His Service,
Pastor Mark Gartner
Pastor Andrew Frey