A Pastoral Letter on Renewing Gathered Worship
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
The rich grace of our risen Lord Jesus be with you in this Easter season.
Let me begin by expressing my awe and admiration for the Christ-centered, faithful devotion to worship and ministry of all of you as you have continued to glorify God and serve the gospel throughout this pandemic. Please allow me to lift up our pastors, deacons, and persons serving in synodically authorized ministry. They have responded to the call to innovate and adapt pastoral ministry with extraordinary investments of time, energy, and caring. Please be generous with your pastor if she or he shows some fatigue. We all feel the burden of this pandemic in our particular contexts, and pastors shoulder theirs as well in their call to shepherd God’s people.
In this pastoral letter, I am offering both theological and practical guidance for preparing to renew gathered worship in our congregations. We are renewing gathered worship; we are not reopening churches. Our churches have been open for business throughout the pandemic. We will be renewing gathered worship, because simply reproducing the past is not an option. What I am offering is not comprehensive, nor could it be. There are many decisions that need to be made locally by you in your congregations. I offer this as my guidance and as an invitation to further conversation. There are many printed checklists and guidelines available online, geared for gatherings in general and for churches in particular. I recommend that you peruse a number of them, since no one resource addresses every angle of our deliberation. At the outset, I encourage you to look at a piece produced by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. 1 A set of guidelines for returning to in-person worship produced by the ELCA Churchwide Organization will be available as early as tomorrow; check the ELCA website.
I am grateful for the wonderful input from synod staff and from a number of pastors that has gone into this Pastoral Letter. This letter is not simply an individual effort, though I am responsible for everything set forward here.
So, here you are, four considerations and two addenda. God bless your worship and ministry.
Bishop John Roth
(Please follow this link for the complete pastoral letter and additional material.)