This is a somewhat abbreviated update from the email Pastor Biebert sent out 12 Nov. 2020. Please contact him if you have any questions or need additional information.
1. Worship Seating in the Sanctuary
When we elected to rope off every other pew in our sanctuary earlier this year, it was done in an effort to encourage social distancing. However, as our church attendance has continued to steadily rise, it has actually had the opposite effect—forcing people to sit closer together in the non-roped-off pews. We have therefore elected to remove the ropes from the pews. However, we are trusting our members and attendees to use common sense and Christian courtesy when they take their seats in the sanctuary. Please take note of where those around you are seated, and stagger your seating accordingly. If you are the first person to take a seat in an area, sit in a place that will allow those around you to easily stagger themselves in relation to you.
Please see the diagram of six pews below (where the black circles represent people in the pews) to illustrate.
2. Communion Distribution
We are going to re-institute the common cup into our Communion distribution. This decision has very little to do with responding to current statistics. It has more to do with the fact that we have had the greater part of a year to acclimate ourselves to the current pandemic and to process it, and its relation to our worship, in the light of God’s word. Please see Pastor if you have questions about the reasons for this decision. We will also continue to offer individual cups as we did before the pandemic. (Please also see Pastor if you are a non-member and would like to participate in Communion; Risen Savior continues to practice close Communion.)
3. Wearing Masks
The mask situation is kind of a nightmare right now—including from a pastoral perspective. In addition to everyone having his/her own opinion of how effective they are or aren’t, there are a number of businesses that no longer enforce the wearing of masks, even though the governor’s July 2, 2020 executive order is still in effect. There are basically two things to say here:
A. To Those Who Are Not in Favor of Masks or Are Indifferent about Them
Please remember that wherever you go and whatever you do—and especially at church—you are *never* representing yourself alone, but are also representing Jesus. Yes, it is permissible for you not to wear a mask at church; the executive order explicitly makes exception for “any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship.” But not everything that is permissible is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23). Read 1 Corinthians 8 sometime. It’s all about considering the needs and conditions of others first before exercising our rights, and being willing to give them up entirely if necessary. The fact is that there are some people who view masks as a demonstration of Christian love and others who view them as a safeguard against special health conditions that they have. These people will feel, and have felt, extremely uncomfortable at church, and they may perhaps be discouraged from coming altogether, if their fellow attendees are not wearing masks when mingling with them before and after worship.
What good is it that you’ve exercised your rights and demonstrated your “patriotism,” if someone is prevented from or is distracted from hearing the gospel or from seeing Christian love on display as a result? It’s not worth it.
Neither I nor anyone on the council is going to be an officer of the law at church, but the elders and I are repeating our strong encouragement to wear a mask when mingling with others before and after worship. If you want to make a statement, please make it during the week (and still make sure that you are representing Christ when doing so), not at church.
B. To Those Who Are Sensitive to Mask Wearing
Please take your fellow Christian’s words and actions in the kindest possible way. For some of them, masks are extremely uncomfortable and awkward, and church is one of the few places where they can legally be without them. Church is a respite from all the craziness in the world, and for some of them, rightly or wrongly, masks are currently one of the strongest representations of that craziness. If some insist on not wearing a mask and that makes you uncomfortable, do your best to keep your distance or avoid contact with them. If you know those people well, encourage them kindly and gently yourselves to please put on a mask for your sake.
I have been extremely grateful to God that, by and large, our congregation has not let their strong opinions divide them, as has happened in a number of other congregations in our church body. The devil certainly is looking for any opportunity to create division, and he has plenty of such opportunities right now. Let’s be on our guard and not let him find a foothold. Let’s exercise Christian love and look first and foremost to the interests of others before our own.
Thank you for reading this, and I look forward to seeing you at our service.
Pastor Biebert, on behalf of the Risen Savior Elders and Council