Covid-19 and the Near Future at Mt. Olive
June 12, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
If I have calculated correctly, it has now been 3 1⁄2 months since the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us. Since mid-March we have been worshiping online and celebrating the Lord’s Supper in our parking lot. People are wondering if this situation is ever going to change or end.
It will on both counts. What the future holds for our life together as this part of the body of Christ known as Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and School is what I want to address in this message.
First, I want to remind us all that our Lord Jesus remains in control, even when to our limitedhuman sight and understanding everything stillseemsto be in constantly conflicted chaos. As God has told us through the Apostle Paul, “...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28 ESV]. No matter what may be going on in your life, for good or particularly for ill, it cannot remove you from our gracious God’s hands or separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord [cf. John 10:27-30; Romans 8:35-39]. This has always been true and will remain true throughout the pandemic and beyond until Jesus returns!
Second, I want to share with you some decisions that have been made in consultation with the Elders and the ACTION Board, based on unbiased scientific information shared byDr. Brian Gentry, a member of Living Faith Lutheran Church in Clive and an Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Drake University. Dr. Gentry is a virologist whose area of study is viruses, their characteristics, and how to fight them. He gave us a lot of pertinent information on the virus and COVID-19 as it
impacts churches and their functions. Here is a brief summary of some of the most important points of Dr. Gentry’s presentation which have informed our decisions:
1. The COVID-19 virus cannot survive very long outside of a host cell. Therefore, if a room is left unoccupied by people, within 48-72 hours there will be NO live, infectious virions left. So, as far as this virus goes, after 72 hours surfaces in unoccupied spaces are effectively sterile without any other sort of disinfecting needing to be done.
2. This particular virus does NOT tolerate heat, humidity, or ultra-violet light well. Summertime in Iowa will negatively impact it, and we should expect to see a die back of COVID-19 over the coming weeks. However, Dr. Gentry believes that there is a very high
likelihood that it will resurge in the fall as summertime conditions abate.
3. Many viruses and viral diseases are negatively impacted by Vitamin C (the common cold and the flu). However, Vitamin C does not have the same effect on the COVID-19 virus. This virus is negatively impacted byVitamin D. So, a good countermeasure to the virus is to spend lots of time outdoors in the sun.
4. Dr. Gentry thinks that the release of an approved vaccine for this virus will likely happen in early 2021. Thatsaid, he does believe that anti-viral drugs will be developed, approved, and available by fall to help keep any such resurgence of COVID-19 from spiraling out of control. He does not believe that another lock-down will be necessary at that time.
5. While the above-noted points are quite positive, there are still some negative characteristics of COVID-19 that need to be kept in mind. It is a very contagious virus that spreads easily by way of droplets that one expels with one’s breath when breathing, talking, singing, coughing, and the like. However, masks do help prevent the spread of the virus through these sorts of activities. Likewise, the consistent maintaining of a 6 footsocial distance from other individuals also significantly reduces the occurrence of this sort of aerosol transmission.
Dr. Gentry stressed that the risk of becoming infected with this virus by way of touching contaminated surfaces is VERY SMALL. The regular use of hand sanitizers or hand washing reduces this risk to near zero. Individuals who suffer from compromises in their health condition are at increased risk for both contracting and suffering the severest effects of COVID-19. These individuals are those whose immune systems are compromised in some way. Collectively these include the elderly, very young infants, those taking immuno-suppressant medications (chemo, organ transplant anti-rejection meds, etc.), or those who suffer from illnesses that have immuno- suppressant effects. Dr. Gentry noted that Diabetes is the most significant vulnerability with this virus. This is of particular significance to me since I have been newly diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes.
In light of this information, the following decisions have been made:
We will continue with online, recorded services (through July 12) and drive-through celebrations of theLord’s Supper (through July 18), as we have been doing since mid-March.
We will resume face-to-face, indoor worship services on Sunday, July 19, at 9:00 am. Inorder to take advantage of the COVID-19 virus’ naturally occurring 72 hour self-destruct cycle, we will be holding a single service per weekend, alternating days each week. Therefore, the second in-person service will be on Saturday, July 25, at 5:00 pm, and so on. The schedule will be posted on our website’s calendar.
The initial details on the services are as follows:
• To maintain the appropriate social distance of 6', we will only be using every 3rd pew for service seating. If needed, we will also use 1 pew in the transept behind the organ console and set up chairs in the narthex.
• Every person attending will be required to wear a mask when in the building, except when receiving the elements in the Lord’s Supper. This is in NO way a political statement! It is based on what we have been told by Dr. Gentry, a virus expert. He indicated that if masks were NOT used, because of the added force people use in singing, social distances would have to be increased from 6 to 10 feet. With masks on we can keep it at 6 feet. If you do not have a mask, we will have them available.
• You will be asked to use hand sanitizer upon entry and before exiting. It will be provided. We also ask you to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the restroom. Gloves are NOT necessary.
• The Lord’s Supper will be celebrated in eachservice.Unlike before,theworshipers will NOT come forward to the chancelrail during the distribution.Rather, the elder, an assistant, and I will bring the Communion elements to you where you are seated in the pews. Similarly
to our drive-through communion, the wafers will be distributed in individual paper cups and the wine in small plastic cups. We will collect the used cups for disposal.
• As to service styles, generally if the service is on Saturday night, it will be traditional in form. Generally if the service is on Sunday morning, it will be contemporary in form.
Note: Our very first service will be an exception. July 19 will be celebrated as if it were Easter Sunday. This is appropriate since Jesus’ resurrection is the heart, core, and center of our saving faith. It is also appropriate since we will be experiencing a “resurrection” of our in-person worship after the metaphorical “death” of the pandemic shut-down.
• The offering plates will NOT be passed. Rather, you will have the opportunity to deposit your offering as you enter or leave the worship area.
• Because of my particular health vulnerabilities, I will not be greeting worshipers at the door. I will remain in the chancel. If you need to speak with me after a service please come to the foot of the chancel steps. That said, please do NOT be afraid to fellowship
with one another. So long as you observe the wearing of a mask and stay 6 feet apart from each other, conversation will NOT be risky — again according to Dr. Gentry. Junior Confirmation and 8th Grade Graduation have been scheduled for Sunday, June 28th.
Confirmation will be held at 9:00 am. Graduation will occur at 1:00 pm in the church. These will each be special limited attendance events. Only the confirmands, the graduates, their immediate families, the Elders, the members of the School Board, and the members of the faculty will be permitted to attend. So, for the next six weeks, I invite you to continue to tune into our video services via our website, FaceBook page, and YouTube channel. If it has been awhile since you have received our Lord’s Supper, please join us for our next drive-through communion this coming Sunday morning (June 14) from 9:00-10:00 am. The manner in which we distribute the Lord’s body and blood has reduced the risk of accidental transmission of the COVID-19 virus to as near zero as we can make it. Also, on behalf of Mt. Olive’s lay leaders, I want to thank all of you for your continued generosity in the Lord as evidenced by your ongoing tithes and offerings in support of Jesus’ mission of making disciples through Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and School.
If you have any question, concerns, or need for additional information not addressed here, please do NOT hesitate to contact me. Voice calls or text messages to my cell (515-721-4737) are
the fastest and most reliable ways to reach me. If you send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), please also send me a text message drawing my attention to your email. I receive enough emails that it is very easy for me to overlook one.
Returning to where I began, our Lord Jesus remains in control throughout this challenging time. Whatever the Lord has or will allow, He will work it all for our good as He continues to hold each of us in His loving, caring hands day-by-day.
God’s Blessings to you all,