“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
– Psalm 119:105
Oct. 20, 2020
Dear Friends of St. Philip the Deacon,
On Sunday, March 15, we made the difficult decision to begin worshiping together via livestream only in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since that time, we have worked hard to be creative and innovative in doing God’s work as a congregation—not only through our regular livestream worship, but also through entirely new opportunities for learning, service and fellowship during an uncertain and challenging year.
Since March, we have also made some safe and responsible moves toward some limited in-person activities. For example, we have continued to conduct small baptisms, funerals and weddings, and—during the summer months—have held small outdoor gatherings for a variety of church groups and activities. We opened the Sanctuary up for personal prayer time earlier this summer, and—during the month of October—have been holding mid-week in-person communion services.
As we enter into fall and winter, we have decided to continue to expand these in-person offerings by holding one in-person service on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. during the first four weeks of November. Since the safety of our staff and members remains our first priority, these services will require attendees to sign up in advance, check-in at an assigned entrance, and follow social distancing and mask protocols. The services will be approximately 30 minutes long and will be limited in attendance to 100 people.
Holding these services during the first four weeks of November will allow us to refine our processes and procedures for ongoing in-person activities and make any necessary adjustments as we look to the future. Based on the changing circumstances related to Covid-19—as well as congregational response—we will determine how or if we continue these services after November.
We recognize that for many in the congregation, this will come as very good news, and we celebrate with you this new opportunity for a return to Sunday morning in-person worship in our beautiful Sanctuary. However, we also recognize that many of our members will prefer to continue to worship virtually, which is why we also feel a responsibility to continue to offer our 9:45 a.m. livestream without diminishing or changing that experience. If you are not feeling well, if you are in a high-risk category, if you have been exposed to Covid-19 or are awaiting test results—or if you are simply not comfortable gathering yet for in-person worship—please continue to participate in our worship life virtually.
In addition to this change in our worship schedule, we will also begin to allow small groups of 25 or fewer to gather in the church facility—again, with strict protocols and safety measures in place. If you are leading a small group that would like to return to in-person gatherings, please contact the church office for next steps. Given the size and complexity of our Confirmation program, we will continue to conduct Confirmation virtually for now.
Psalm 119 reminds us that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. As Christians, we believe this absolutely. We are also reminded, though, that the lamp the Psalmist is writing about is a small oil lamp, with just enough illumination to see the next step or two—it is not a floodlight that illumines the path for miles ahead. In taking these next steps in our life together, I do believe we are “stepping into the light” this lamp provides, without getting too far ahead of where we can see clearly.
As always, I am grateful to each of you for your love and support for this wonderful congregation. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly. And finally, I invite your continued prayers as we take this next step—together.
Tim Westermeyer, Senior Pastor,
on behalf of the entire pastoral team and the Church Council and Executive Team:
Pastors: Pastor Mark Schmid, Pastor Cheryl Mathison, Pastor Valerie Strand Patterson
Church Council: Tom Abrahamson, President, Ben Bienert, Tim Dagoberg, Claudine Galloway, Heidi Hukriede, Alyssa Porubcan, Beth Jacob, Sarah Johansen, Jason Scherschligt, Ed Wasz
Executive Team: Mike Braun, Lana Jones, Bob Paulson, John Schultz