Notice from the church: March 18, 2020

3/18/2020

Dear Good Shepherd family and friends,

We are God’s church and are called to be His disciples.

This is our identity, and it guides us and informs us as we face the difficult challenges of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people who have been affected by this unprecedented event and we pray for the safety of all healthcare workers, first responders, and governments around the world who are on the front line working to contain this virus and heal those affected.

Please know that as a leadership team, we are vigilantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation, and have taken precautions to promote an environment that is as safe as possible while continuing to worship.

So, what do we do in such times? We take our refuge in the Lord. No matter where you are, first and foremost, seek the Lord who gives us peace that passes all understanding.

Next, we want you to know that we are doing everything possible to make things as safe as possible for our whole community. As such, and adhering to the advice of our state, local and federal governments, the church Elders in conjunction with Pastor are making the following changes.

  • Sunday services have been suspended for the time being. Large gatherings of people are being highly discouraged, and we don’t want to risk infecting those who are at risk.
  • All REGULAR activities at the church are also suspended. This includes Wednesday services, the Ladies Bible Study, Choir (Adult and Youth), Men of God, Monday and Friday Bridge Groups, Sunday Bible Study, Sunday School, and Youth Groups.

That said, people need to gather around God’s Word and Sacrament to be encouraged and to receive His Grace and Mercy. Scripture tells us again and again that God is our refuge and strength. So, yes, we will continue to deliver God’s life-giving Word, offer the prayers of the people, and distribute the Sacrament, only in a modified format until it is safe to gather together once again as a full congregation.

What will this look like?

  • IN THE WORD: Instead of a full service on Sunday, Pastor will lead a devotion on Sunday that will be available online with a written copy available throughout the week.
  • PRAYER: The Sanctuary will be open for prayer Monday through Thursday 9 am – 1 pm, Wednesday evening from 3pm – 6pm, and Sunday from 9 am – 1 pm. We ask no more than 10 people in the building at a time, and please respect Social Distancing efforts. In addition, we will email our prayer list to everyone on our email distribution list. If you are not getting the group emails from Myra, please call her so you can be added to this list.
  • COMMUNION SERVICES: After we get a handle on the severity of this virus’ impact in our community, Pastor would like to hold small communion services at various times during the week for those who desire to partake. Again, these will be small services to limit exposure and will continue until we are advised to stop, or the threat has passed.
  • HOME CHURCH: The ancient church gathered together in small groups to worship, hear and receive. Again, after we gain an idea of the severity of the impact to our community Pastor would be open to conducting home communion services where several families are able to gather. If you have a group that would like to meet together, please email Pastor so he can put a schedule together for when we start.
  • CONFESSION & ABSOLUTION: Confessing our sins and hearing the life-giving words of absolution is key to our life as Christians. Our weekly devotion will include corporate confession and absolution. For those who desire, private confession and absolution are available upon request, face to face and over the phone.
  • HOMEBOUND: Pastor and the Elders will be checking in with our members routinely. We desire to be an encouragement, to see how you are doing, and see if you have any needs the church can help with. Please, if you do not receive a call from one of us, let the church office know so we can make sure to get with you.

Even though the rhythm of our corporate life will be disturbed, the CHURCH IS NOT CLOSED, and THE WORK OF CHRIST CONTINUES. We are in the world, but not of the world, and we continue to walk together in the love of Christ, emboldened by the promises of God for His people.

As we move forward in these uncertain times, please continue to give to the church. It is through your faithful tithes, gifts and donations that we are able to continue to do much of the work that we do. We run on a very tight budget and even though we are working hard to reduce costs, each and every one of you makes a significant contribution. Please consider the various ways you can continue to give:

  • By mail: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 4257 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563
  • Drop off at the office.
  • Direct through Vanco. (Call Myra at the church office and she will get you set up).

We are facing a time when many are afraid. How blessed we are to have THE Message that takes away all fear, the message of our Lord who is the conquering Savior.

He conquered our sin that we might once again come close to our Father and be shielded in His mighty strength. He conquered Satan who is the master of fear and wants us to be afraid instead of being people who walk in faith and have peace with our Father. As His witnesses, we have this amazing opportunity to show the world where we find our peace, in our refuge who is our Lord.

May we be as bold as Martin Luther as we journey together during these difficult times!

When Martin Luther was dealing with The Black Death plague, he wrote these wise words that can help inform the way we approach things happening in our world right now…

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash no foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

(Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess)

As we monitor – in preparation, not panic – Isaiah 40:10 is a good reminder for us.

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

And in Joshua 1:9 God reminds us: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Let us pray that the precautions we take today will lead to a better outcome tomorrow, and through our faithful witness and practice others may come to know Jesus.

As the situation changes, we will modify and update our practices and communicate them via Facebook and through email.

If you would like to talk, please call me on my cell phone.

May God bless you as we journey together through these days.

Pastor Jim d’Entremont

 

PS: A link to why Social Distancing and taking these precautions is so important at this time: https://youtu.be/fgBla7RepXU