Alleluia's COVID-19 Updates and Announcements
SERVICES in-person and online, Sundays at 9:00 am
Online Services: facebook.com/AlleluiaLutheranWrightstown
Re-Opening Update (7/27/2020)
Hello Alleluia Family:
The Elders have approved having Wednesday Worship in person again, beginning on Wed, August 5, 2020 at 6:30 pm. We are hoping that having another option available for worship will allow for continued social distancing, and some who have not yet felt comfortable attending on a Sunday will feel safe to attend services on Wednesdays.
We continue to work toward being together as safely as possible. Wearing a mask is STRONGLY encouraged.
If you are unable to attend in person, and would like Communion at home, please contact the church office and make an appointment for Pastor Mark to visit with you.
In other news, the Golf Outing for 2020 has been cancelled. Instead, we are working to organize Alleluia's FIRST EVER Online Auction Fundraiser to be held in early October. Please watch for details coming soon about how to bid online. We are looking for donations of items to auction. Please contact the office to arrange for items to be dropped off.
Thank you for your continued prayers, support and patience.
Re-Opening Update (6/29/2020)
Hello Alleluia Family:
I pray that the blessings of summer are filling you with the wonder and amazement of God's beauty.
This past Saturday our Elders team met to review our reopening strategy since we began having in-person services again on May 31st. To help in our assessment, a one-question survey was sent via email asking our members to inform us as to their personal attendance decision and the reasoning behind it.
What we discovered is that the two biggest factors that are preventing people from attending in-person worship are 1) COVID-19 and 2) Service time. Thus, the Elders have made the following decisions that will take effect beginning, Sunday, July 5th.
Our worship time will now begin at 9:00 a.m. This change is meant to accommodate those who would attend but find 8:00 a.m. too early.
We are now incorporating music and singing into our worship experience. However, in order to respect our fellow worshipers, the Elders are strongly encouraging the wearing of masks during the worship time. We understand that the wearing of masks is not a pleasant experience but out of an abundance of caution and care for others we are making this recommendation.
All previous social distancing and sanitation standards and efforts remain in place.
Communion will continue to be offered on its regular schedule via the individually-wrapped wafer/juice cups. If you are in a higher-risk health category and are not able to join us, please contact the church office to schedule a personal visit with Pastor Mark. He will be more than happy to visit you wearing a mask and serve you with the Lord's Supper.
Please remember that summer is always a time of lower attendance. With COVID-19 also added into the mix, a season that typically shows lower offerings is even lower. If you are not yet able or ready to return to Alleluia in-person, we encourage you to still help support the ministry that we are joined in together. Alleluia offers multiple ways to give in addition to standard paper envelopes.
Because COVID-19 continues to be a fluid situation the Elders have determined that a month-to-month review of our ministry will be the standard for the foreseeable future. This means that times, schedules, program offerings, etc. may have to be adjusted monthly. We continue to ask and thank you for your patience in all of this and continue to pray for the day when our fellowship will be restored to a pre-Corona normal. In the meantime, we trust our Savior's promise that He's with us and that everything that He allows ultimately serves His glory and our good.
In the Service of our Mutual Savior,
PLAN to Re-Open Alleluia Lutheran Church (5/26/2020)
Our mission is to help people grow in their faith through Word and Sacrament.
We will do our best to keep our Alleluia family and community physically safe.
We desire to love one another.
We will offer both in-person and online worship options for the foreseeable future.
We will continue to listen to the guidance of our elected officials and medical experts.
GUIDELINES FOR REOPENING
We will practice proper social distancing (6 ft.) and sanitation according to CDC guidelines.
Online worship will continue even after all gathering restrictions have been lifted.
We will take a phased-in approach to worship over the next 6 weeks – from what we offer to the number of offerings, from when we will offer communion and how we can best offer it.
This is a fluid situation, which is something we all need to remember. Things might change quickly because of the virus or we might change things because it is in the best interests of Alleluia Lutheran Church and in keeping with our guiding principles.
Allow people to make worship decisions based on your own comfort level while also respecting the decisions of others.
Those who are sick or have any COVID-19 symptoms should stay home.
Those who are at high-risk of serious illness or in the at-risk category may choose to stay home.
Masks are encouraged but will not be required. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” Keep in mind that the purpose of wearing a mask is not primarily to protect oneself but to ensure the protection of others. The Pastor will wear a mask with the exception of preaching. The Elder on duty will also wear a mask.
Those who are unable or uncomfortable attending in person worship at this time are encouraged to worship online at home with absolutely no guilt.
The worship space may be altered to encourage appropriate social distancing.
The first Sunday back will be different. We will not be able to immediately replicate our worship routine exactly as we were back on March 8th right away.
All service elements will adhere to recommended social distancing standards.
High contact surfaces (like door handles) will be disinfected after every service.
A deeper cleaning will be done in the church, lobby, and bathrooms after each weekend. Members are encouraged to not use the cry room and bathrooms if possible.
Coffee and snacks will not be served now and for the immediate future.
Friendship registers and pens and Bibles will be removed from the seats.
The cry room will be available for parents with young children, if needed. However, books and toys will be removed from the room.
There will be no paper bulletins; the screens will need to be used to guide all attendees through worship.
Offerings may be given online or deposited in the designated baskets in the church and lobby.
Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building.
BEFORE AND AFTER WORSHIP
Shaking hands and extended visiting with others is strongly discouraged.
Worshipers will be ushered out with no formal greeting by the pastor at the back of the sanctuary.
SCRIP will be available via the office sliding window. Those waiting to purchase will practice 6 feet social distancing.
Doors in the lobby and worship space will remain open, while access past the offices will be restricted.
Pastor and elder will be present in the lobby to provide guidance with these new procedures.
Communion will be celebrated with individually wrapped wafers and pre-filled cups. These will be on the altar during the service and consecrated by the pastor per usual. A masked elder will distribute them. At the direction of the pastor, the communicants will unwrap the communion packet and serve themselves. A masked elder will then collect the used communion packets following the reception.
Weekend of May 31st
One worship service on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. No communion. Worship online live as well.
Weekend of June 7th
One worship service on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Communion with individual communion cups. Worship online live as well.
Week of June 8th – end of the month
One worship service on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Follow regular communion schedule. Continued use of individual communion cups. Worship online as well.
July 2020 - on going
a) Where do things stand with COVID-19, and b) How did our attendance and procedures go during the month of June? c) What changes need to be made? d) Are we able to plan for the fall?
COVID-19 Encouragement! (4/16/2020)
Hello Alleluia Family:
The other day I went to Target to pick up a few necessities (masked and lathered-up in Purell, of course). At the entrance to the store was a sign indicating special shopping hours at the beginning of the day for the most vulnerable guests. It's awesome that the few retail stores that are open are willing to provide the elderly and immuno-compromised people with a shopping experience as free from germs as possible during this pandemic.
But even though I am thankful that I'm not in the physical category of "vulnerable," truth be told, I've been feeling emotionally and spiritually vulnerable the longer this thing goes on. All of the social distancing and inability to gather together on Sundays has taken a toll. While I'm thankful to God for the technology that allows us to gather virtually, the reality is that community is ultimately about personal gatherings. Just like I wouldn't feel like a family at home if I didn't live with my wife and kids, it's hard to feel like a family of faith when we aren't able to do what believers are naturally inclined to do. We seem so far, right now, from the Acts 2 model: "All the believers were together and had everything in common... They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." The cynical part of me wants to say, "Sure, that's great but you people never had to deal with Corona!"
God cancelled my pity- party this morning by reminding me the context of the Acts 2 church which was mostly persecution. Remember that Saul and his band of Gestapo-like minions were on a hatred-filled rampage against those they claimed were horrible, followers who were claiming a resurrected Jesus. Remember that Christianity spread mostly because persecution forced people to disperse to places deemed safer - at least for a while. Even in Jerusalem itself, where Christianity was born, the same religious hierarchy that executed Jesus, now took great pride in intimidating,whipping and imprisoning His followers. And yet, they placed their lives in the hands of their living Savior. They didn't allow their pain to extinguish their joy. They saw their hardships as providing more opportunities to share Jesus with others who were still mired in depression and despair and hopelessness.
Kind of sounds like how they would have told us to respond to Corona. Yes, it's hard. Did Jesus ever promise us it would be easy? Yes, it's frustrating not to be able to meet together. The early Christians knew the pain of leaving family and friends when the persecution furnace was getting too hot. Yes, it's hard to be stuck in a situation that seems to have no final resolution. Jesus actually told His disciples that people who followed Him would always be followed by persecution. Yes, the future of life seems uncertain in so many ways.
But... we still have Jesus! And that means we will always be connected by an invisible bond, that can never be broken. Jesus told His disciples before He hid His visible presence: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Jesus is with us right now. He's not sitting idly by; He's not waiting for the next Corona Task Force news conference to decide what to do. He's not worrying about curve-flattening or social-distancing or reopening the economy. He's still the King of kings and Lord of lords. He's still as in-charge now as He was when people arrested Him and led Him around in chains and leg-irons and ultimately to an execution hill outside Jerusalem. He was still the God of the Universe even as His dead corpse was laid in a tomb. He's still calling all the shots because He was raised and remains raised. The joy of Easter Sunday is so many things, but right now I want to simply point you to this reality: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10).
Praying With You and For You!
Pastor Mark’s COVID-19 Update – Holy Week (4/8/2020)
Hello Alleluia Family:
I was reading today that a company in Milwaukee has started taking orders for a new bobblehead - the Dr. Fauci bobblehead. As many of you know, Dr. Fauci is the epidemiologist on President Trump's COVID-19 task force and in many ways has become the face of this entire pandemic. But I'm really getting fatigued by the daily news conferences about COVID-19. Does it seem like life will never be the same again? Parking lots empty in the middle of the day, checkout clerks barricaded from customers by Plexiglas, restaurants reduced to drive-thru, fitness centers closed until further notice. I wonder how long it will be until people watch me preach with the hairstyle I wore in the 80's because every hair place barbers have been labeled, "non-essential." When this started, I enjoyed a little bit of government-mandated vacation and time with my kids. Now I'm scared that our house has turned into a new season of "Survivor".
Of course, the most discouraging part of all this is our loss of our faith community. When God designed his church, he didn't intend for it to be made up of isolated, self-reliant, "Marlboro Men". Acts 2:42-47 describes what church ought to look like. Repeated in that description are words like, "fellowship", "meet together", "breaking bread" and "eating together." We aren’t able to do that. I think one of the blessings that will come out of our current isolation is to understand the blessing we have in our faith community. When we meet for services week after week after week, we can get comfortable, putting our spirituality on autopilot. I think after this is done, most of us are going to think twice before skipping church or even missing that next potluck. The power of community is a true blessing that we long to enjoy again.
But what can we do about now? Our quarantine runs at least through the end of April. Even if Governor Evers reopens our economy, the reality is it probably still won't look the same as it did six weeks ago.
The apostle Paul felt the pain of isolation. As he wasted away in a Roman prison, he wrote to a church he had started in a Grecian city called Philippi. I think all of us can now feel Paul's emotions as he wrote: "God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus." Paul, like us, was desperate for community. Yet Paul still found a reason to rejoice - even in his isolation. Later in this same letter he wrote: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living or in plenty or in want [I don't think Paul would mind if I added, "whether stuck in my house because of COVID-19 or living life like I'm used to living]. And what was Paul's secret? "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Friends, I know this is an incredibly difficult time for us as a community of Christ-followers. I know we long to see one another again. I know we want to partake together of the Lord's Supper to taste the forgiveness of sins in our mouths. But until then we press forward through the One that gives us strength, our Savior Jesus.
Jesus intentionally laid aside the fullness of community He enjoyed with His Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity past, so that He could live in our world of sin and all that stems from it, and them He intentionally experienced the full isolation of His Father, the very isolation of Hell itself on the cross so that we could enjoy fellowship with Him forever. And as much as we long for fellowship with one another, it is the fellowship with the Triune God that is what is true community. And we have that. No pandemic can ever take that away. Even in our loneliness we share an unbreakable bond with one another because we are tied together by a common faith in Jesus our Savior, who promised long ago that He governs everything in this world, to give Him the greatest glory and also for our good. He's preparing us right now not only to long for our renewal of fellowship with one another but also to envision what's even better than gathering in a full church for Easter, and that is being with Him forever in Heaven. COVID-19 can never change that. In the meantime, we continue to pray, we continue to read our Bibles, we continue to bring before our God those most vulnerable to this current pandemic, we continue to ask God to give our government leaders wisdom, and our frontline healthcare workers courage, and our supply-chain workers stamina. And we pray that God would use His powerful Word to show once again that this is our new formula for life: JESUS > CORONA!
In the meantime, let’s continue to cherish the blessing of technology. Remember that we have 2 incredibly important worship experiences this week that will be streamed on Facebook Live (facebook.com/AlleluiaLutheranWrightstown).
Good Friday, April 10, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. (CDT).
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. (CDT).
If you have a traditional Easter breakfast, either before or after watching our live-streamed worship service, take some photos and share them with Linda to put on our Facebook page. Let’s experience community with one another by rejoicing in other people's Easters!
In the meantime, as always, I want to remind you that as your Pastor I am praying for you and with you. I am available for personal visitations if you need them. I'm also willing to come and give you communion, although I probably will come masked, in order to respect the current CDC guidelines. Don't hesitate to contact me or Linda via phone, text, or email.
Quarantined with you in grace, Pastor Mark
COVID-19 Update (3/25)
Our God is still faithful! COVID-19 may have disrupted our daily lives but it cannot disrupt God's constant supervision of the planet that he created. COVID-19 allows us to put everything else in perspective. At the end of the day, one truth remains: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again! Remember that peace empowering perspective, my friends, when cabin fever starts getting the best of you.
As most of you know, Governor Evers has ordered a "Stay Safe at Home" policy through April 24th. Sadly, this means that our time apart, as God's people, will last even longer than we had originally hoped. Even more disappointing, the governor's directive means that our Holy Week services at Alleluia must be cancelled.
So what does this mean for us? We WILL continue to Live-Stream our services via Facebook Live on Sunday mornings at 8:00 am. The video then remains on our Facebook page A link to the video will be added to our website on Mondays. alleluiawrightstown.org
I've received wonderful feedback about how to make the virtual experience as meaningful as possible. Keeping the service as "basic" as possible, there are some things that I will begin to incorporate. 1) Confession of sins and absolution. 2) An object lesson for the children, 3) Music. Music is very important for worship. We've purchased a Steaming license to allow us to add music. Please be patient with this as I want to ensure the quality is good before launching. 4) Communion. I've received positive feedback about house communion. I will consecrate the elements from church on the Live-Stream. If you want to participate, please purchase a bottle of grape wine (preferable) or grape juice. You can use any type of bread. I'll provide further directions during the service itself.
5) If you have any special prayer requests please email those to me (email@example.com) by Sunday morning at 7:00 am. 6) Offerings. On our website (https://www.alleluiawrightstown.org/home) you can enroll in an automatic giving programs (online giving), or you can mail your gift to the church office. Thank you for your amazing generosity even under the economic strain that this pandemic has created for many families.
Office Hours. The governor's directive is that all non-essential businesses and institutions remain closed. While Alleluia's staff is small, we will strive to follow the governor's directive by working remotely. We are checking email daily. The easiest way to contact us is by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We have 1 member who is picking up the mail and checking voicemail (this might not be daily).
I will still strive to make any pastoral calls that are necessary. In other words, if you have a need or concern or situation that needs spiritual counseling or direction, don't hesitate to call me at 920-850-9179. If something can't be addressed over the phone, we will set up a face to face appointment.
Also, please know that we are doing our best to keep track of all of our members, especially those who have limited or even no technology capabilities. We have started to set up a phone-tree, so you may be getting a call (once a week or so) checking on you. For some of our older members, this connection is especially important, since, their connection to Alleluia has been shut down. If you'd like to help with the keep-connected phone tree,contact the office (email@example.com). If you know of anyone that might be in need of a pastoral visit or contact, please let us know and we will follow up. Thank you!
As always, please continue to PRAY. Pray for our government leaders at the national, state, and local levels, that God would give them wisdom as they make decisions, especially about when to re-open things. Pray for all of our healthcare workers who so selflessly place themselves in direct contact with sick people in order to help them, even at risk to their own personal health. Pray for our educators and students who are doing distance learning, that God would bless their efforts. These are certainly unprecedented and uncertain times. But these times, like all of our times, are in God's hands. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen!
In the Service of our Mutual Savior, Pastor Mark Walters
COVID-19 Update (3/20)
I wanted to give another update about various things related to Alleluia's mission and ministry during the current pandemic.
First and foremost, our God is still on the throne. Every COVID-19 molecule is under his complete and total control. While most of the world is in panic and crisis mode, we as Christians know that the God who loved us so much that He died for us, will see us through this current situation. No question that our daily lives have been interrupted in multiple ways. No question that the full impact of this pandemic is yet to be seen. No question that there's much fear in the unknown. BUT...our God reigns. I love God's promise through his apostle Paul: "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." That means that even when we don't have or know all the answers, our God already does. Two things are certain: COVID-19 will bring Him glory and COVID-19 will benefit us for our good, even if we don't know how at this moment.
Second, our church life has been interrupted in ways that none of us could have imagined. But remember our worship life cannot be interrupted for the simple fact that God is way bigger than a building or programs. Nevertheless, God has blessed us with a house of worship and a family of faith especially for times such as this. So how are we moving forward?
The plan for worship this Sunday, March 22, 2020 is to have worship via Facebook Live. While there are other platforms available, I believe that Facebook Live will be the easiest for most people. All you need to do is have a Facebook account and then choose Alleluia Lutheran Church in your friends list. I am planning to "Go live" at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 22, 2020. However, the video will automatically save and can be viewed at any time. Because ACE (Alleluia Christian Education) on Wednesdays is suspended indefinitely I am planning to have our next worship services on Facebook Live on Sunday, March 29th and April 5th, at 8:00 a.m. The service content will continue with our current series: "Wholly Broken."
Holy Week services (Palm Sunday (April 5th), Maundy Thursday (April 9th), Good Friday (April 10th), and Easter Sunday, (April 12th): Should the social distancing requirements still be in place, we will continue to do services via Facebook Live. We will do our very best to make these services as meaningful as possible in spite of not being able to join together.
If you desire to have any intercessory prayers for worship, please email them to me by 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night before the service you would like the prayer included in.
Pastoral visits remain available. I am honored to do my very best to meet the needs of our members in terms of personal visitations and counseling. Please call the church office or my personal mobile number if an emergency arises.
Partaking of the Lord's Supper is extremely important. However, I have not yet figured out a means of doing that en masse.
Thank you for your patience with our church during these unprecedented times. Please join me in praying for our nation, and state and local leaders, as well as our health care professionals, as they seek to guide us and help through this current crisis. We will get to the other side eventually but until then we continue to trust God's plan and protection while squeezing a little Purell and practicing social distancing.
Should anything change, please know we will do our best to keep you updated.
In His Grip, Pastor Mark
COVID-19 Update (3/17)
Alleluia is cancelling all onsite activities including worship services for the foreseeable future. The church office remains open for its regular hours, at this time.
This DOES NOT mean there will be no worship on Sunday. We are working, albeit remotely, to ensure an online service this Sunday. It will be either via Facebook live or Zoom. Keep watching for more info.
As many of you probably know, the CDC has advised now that gatherings be limited to 50 or less which places most of our worship gatherings within that range. In addition, the state and federal government has recommended that gatherings of any kind be limited to 15 or less. The leadership made the decision to cancel all onsite group activities including worship services. This was based not only on what our government leaders recommended but also a survey of what our greater Fox Valley area churches were doing. While we all have different situations the overriding theme amongst the churches was a complete shutdown of activities, particularly, worship services.
As far as your offering goes, depending on how you give, you can still either drop it off or mail it to the office.
Thank you for your patience during this challenging and fluid situation. Yet, we as Christians take comfort in the fact that while we may be pressed down, we do loose hope. Our God is way bigger than COVID-19. He’s giving us this challenge to strengthen our trust in His purpose, plan, and timing. Disruptions to our way of life cannot disrupt His purpose. Also, this virus affords us with incredible opportunities to testify to others about Jesus and the hope that is in us.
As people without Jesus live in fear and confusion, we can point them to the promises of Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
In His Grip, Pastor Mark
PS: wash your hands!
March 13, 2020
Dear Alleluia Church Family:
We find ourselves in uncertain times with COVID-19 changing constantly. As always, it's important to remember where Christians find their faith, hope, and strength. Jesus said, "In this world you will have troubles. But take heart, I have overcome the world!" We don't have all the answers about the virus, and we know that it is serious. We also don't want to be driven by fear and panic in a way that doesn't reflect our faith and isn't based on facts about the virus.
First, let's all commit ourselves to be even more vigilant regarding our personal hygiene routines. From a human standpoint, there are things we can actively do to help prevent the spread of the virus. This includes things such as: Washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds under warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching of the eyes, nose, and throat, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects.
Second, we pray that our members and guests can continue worshipping together, seeking refuge in God's Word, and encouragement from fellow believers. The Elders Team and I will do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our members and guests. Currently, the State of Wisconsin has recommended that gatherings of 250 people not be held and we certainly want to honor our government. Our services rarely have that number of people. Our plan as of today (3/13/2020) is to have worship on Sundays and on Wednesdays, but everything is fluid and might change.
During worship itself, we will implement some practices to keep person to person contact to a minimum. Some examples.
We will discontinue the sharing of the peace for the foreseeable future.
Anti-bacterial gel is stationed throughout the church sanctuary, entryway, fellowship hall, and classrooms. Please use as often as necessary.
We will discontinue hand shaking before and after the service.
When communion is distributed, those serving will continue to practice good hygiene before they serve and anti-bacterial gel will be on the altar for use.
If services are forced to be cancelled, we will notify our members via email, social media, website post, and use TV and radio (as we do for inclement weather).
In closing, allow me to encourage you with these quick thoughts:
Prepare but don't panic (In other words, pray...for our government leaders and health care workers who are on the front lines of this virus.)
Be filled with faith, not driven by fear. (We are dealing with a serious pandemic, which certainly begets anxiety about the future. But let us remember who holds the future - our Savior Jesus. He will provide a peace for us that goes beyond all understanding).
Love People (Be a good neighbor by practicing good hygiene. Be prepared when the opportunity might arise to witness to others who are filled with fear, the reason for the peace you still have in these uncertain times.)
Stay rooted! If church is cancelled remember to read your Bible and pray. Our God is giving us an incredible opportunity to be the light of the world during a very uncertain time.
As your pastor and brother in Jesus, thank you for all you do and know you are in my prayers as is our community, country, and its leaders as we face the virus in the days ahead.
In His Grip, Pastor Mark Walters