September 28, 2020

What we’re doing in worship today (1)

Saint Sebastian Interceding for the Plague Stricken, Lieferinxe

What we did in worship today

Our small congregation decided to meet this morning for worship. However, I adjusted the contents of the service to reflect the Covid-19 pandemic. I preached on Martin Luther’s counsel to the Christian leaders and residents of Breslau during the 1527 plague epidemic (an excerpt of which we ran yesterday). We followed the regular liturgy, but here are the sections I adapted.

• • •

The Welcome

When anxiety is high in our culture, corporate worship is a primary location for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and the continuing care of God for all people. Here we can find solace and reassurance in the midst of our fears.

However, we must also remember to use common sense and intentional action with regard to preventing the spread of pathogens as we gather.

First of all, in weeks to come, if you find yourself suffering the symptoms of a cold or other respiratory illness, please refrain from joining us in worship. Stay home and get well!

Second, we are an affectionate congregation that shows our love for each other with handshakes, hugs, and other gestures of physical touch. Today and for the foreseeable future, we will ask that we limit these physical expressions out of concern for one another. When we arrive and depart, and when we share the peace during worship, please greet each other without handshakes and hugs. We also invite you to use the hand sanitizer that is placed in both the back and front of the sanctuary to keep your hands clean.

Third, we will celebrate communion today as usual, and I will encourage all servers to make sure they use hand sanitizer before offering the elements to the congregation. If you have concerns about receiving communion and wish to refrain, we still invite you to come forward, cross your arms over your chest, and you will receive a blessing.

In our service today, our prayers and message will be focused on the current situation we face. I believe we have some distinctive contributions we can make as Christians. One is to offer our prayers for God’s mercy and help in this time of need, and to hear God’s word to us so that we might have the mind of Christ in these days.

The Apostle Paul wrote that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. May this spirit of God lead us and bless us in our worship together today.

The Prayers

We pray for the church, the world, those in need, and for all creation. We especially pray for our lives and those of our neighbors in this extraordinary time of pandemic.

(Pause)

God, our peace and our strength, we pray for our nation and the world as we face new uncertainties around coronavirus. Protect the most vulnerable among us, especially all who are currently sick or in isolation. Lord in your mercy/hear our prayer.

Grant wisdom, patience, and clarity to health care workers, especially when their work caring for others puts them at risk. Lord in your mercy/hear our prayer.

Open the understanding of scientists, lab workers, and those in the public health community, that they may know how to respond as this situation develops. Lead them to increase the medical community’s capacity to handle this crisis and to develop vaccines and methods of care that will bring healing, comfort, and help to those threatened by this virus. Lord in your mercy/hear our prayer.

Give wisdom, compassion, and good communication skills to our elected representatives, to public health officials, and others who address the public with words of instruction and guidance in these days. Lord in your mercy/hear our prayer.

We dare not forget those who are suffering in a variety of ways even as our attention is focused on the coronavirus. Remember all who are sick or injured, those who are suffering from mental illness, those who are hospitalized or in care facilities, those recuperating from surgery, and all those who need your healing touch. We especially remember: ___________________________________________________________.

Lord in your mercy/hear our prayer.

All wise and caring God, guide us as we consider how best to prepare and respond to the extraordinary events around us today in our families, congregations, workplaces, and communities. Give us courage to face these days not with fear but with compassion, concern, and acts of service, trusting that you abide with us always.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

Sending

In times of need we are reminded that Jesus Christ is the bread of life and God’s living water, given for the life of the world. During these times, particularly with communal health concerns, we will continue to gather as long as is deemed wise, as a sign of resurrection hope in the midst of fear and trouble. Here we taste and see the Risen Christ’s presence through word and meal. Here in the Spirit we pray for the needs of a suffering world. And from these moments of gathering together we are sent to care for all our neighbors who are sick, hurt and hungry.

So go in peace, and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Prayers and other materials adapted from content provided for congregations by the ELCA.
Copyright © 2020 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
    Susan

  2. The advice in the UK is to wash your hands frequently with soap while singing ‘Happy Birthday through twice. But my wife came up with the much better idea of saying the Lord’s prayer through as you wash.

    • thatotherjean says

      I like Dsn Rather’s suggestion: sing “If you’re happy and you know it, wash your hands!” instead of the usual “clap your hands”–the whole first verse, twice. You can easily teach it to young children, too.

      • thatotherjean says

        Make that “Dan Rather.” It’s early Monday morning, and I’m less awake than I thought.t

  3. Re: Holy Communion: Since you’ve decided for now to go ahead with services, you might inform congregants before they come forward that receiving Communion in one element only — the bread — is receiving it in full. Depending on how you practice Communion and Communion preparation, this might decrease possibility of disease transmission.

    • Yes, the ELCA gave instructions about this too. Since we use individual disposable cups, I don’t see the need at this point.

      • I wouldn’t ordinarily either, except that my wife observed the plastic cups being handled somewhat carelessly at our church, by altar guild members not wearing gloves while separating them into the holders from which congregants take them as they approach the rail. Same with the cups full of alternative grape juice set aside for children and those not wanting wine. You might want to ascertain how carefully the altar guild prepares the Communion set up, and make changes if needed.

        • In addition, our pastor finishes the consecrated wine after distribution to congregants by drinking what remains from the chalice. My wife found out that the altar guild does not clean the chalice with soap and water, because it was told that soap would damage the metal. They have just been rinsing it with water, for years now. The pastor was unaware of this(as my wife and I had been until she found out), until my wife brought it up in the last Worship and Music meeting, not too long ago. I know since then the altar guild has been looking for a way to clean the chalice thoroughly without soap (I suggested that some dilution of alcohol rinse might work without damaging the vessel), but I’m not sure they found a method. As a result, at the last couple celebrations of Communion I partook of only the bread.

    • Communion really feels like the hardest part of worship to adapt to coronavirus. It’s almost as if Jesus intentionally designed the sacrament to break down the barriers of social distance between us. 🙂 (A great thing under normal circumstances, but not now.)

      One big thing to keep in mind, though, is that there’s very low risk of getting the virus from ingesting contaminated food. You get it much easier by either breathing in droplets in the air, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. (So, for example, in my Episcopal church we hand the elements around and serve each other – the risk there might be more from everyone touching the same plate and cup than from actually sharing the bread.)

  4. In whatever ways local bodies deem best, using all the information and wisdom they can muster, it is a time for the Church to be the Church. We are the Body of Christ, and should act like it. Courage in the face of death was a hallmark of the early Church, along with helping those in need despite the great risk and sacrifice involved. Let’s try to live by their legacy, come down to us through all the centuries. Remembering always the one who conquered sin, death, and the devil, and rose from the dead into new life. Lord have mercy.

  5. CM, I like the manner you addressed the problem and the subject. I fear the worst in an economic sense and the downward effect on faith based organizations will be severe. As a nation and individuals we need to live our national motto. This will be a trial we never envisioned and a trial of our faith. your service showed a combination of faith teaching, faith and common sense. I personally feel overwhelmed, not so much for myself but for our community and feel helpless in what I can do or what we as a nation can do.

    • senecagriggs says

      Dan, as of yesterday, I know am more concerned about the economic collapse more than the Wuhan Virus

      • Indeed, there’s a chance the cure will be worse than the disease. I pray not.

        • Governor Cuomo of NY asking President Trump to mobilize the military in his state and city means that he’s willing to risk big time a cure that could be worse than the disease — that should tell us how bad he thinks the disease is.

          • thatotherjean says

            What he’s actually asking for that the Army Corps of Engineers be mobilized, to help create spaces in which to isolate people who need to be isolated. They’re good at building things in a hurry.

      • senecagriggs, see my post from yesterday topic on this site. It is one of the last ones. I agree, this is major.

  6. My sermon to our little church this morning was similar to yours, including the reference to Luther’s tract for plague time. (Thanks for posting that, by the way.)

  7. senecagriggs, my post yesterday here at 7.04 PM, is how I feel, would like your opinion. I consider Chaplin Mike a great Pastor taking care of his flock, not a calling all have.