Dear members and friends of Cross of Christ,
Our Almighty Creator and Gracious Savior looks us in the eye and speaks to us in love: “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).
During the past weeks our government leaders, counseled by medical professionals, have watched the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They have worked together for our nation’s benefit to slow the spread of the virus. During the past five days the situation has intensified with directives from national and local leadership to temporarily close schools and limit public assemblies. The entire situation has been extremely fluid during these days. Last Friday, a national emergency was declared which asked for gatherings not to exceed 150 people. By Monday morning the request asked gatherings to be less than 50. By the afternoon that number had changed to 10.
At the same time, our church leadership has been in contact with each other monitoring how best to proceed for everyone’s spiritual and physical well-being. On Sunday we made several appropriate changes to our worship to limit human contact. On Monday morning the WELS Conference of Presidents exchanged emails to provide a letter of guidance to all congregations of the Synod. Shortly after, our pastors and Miss Koepsell met to evaluate local ministry in light of this guidance and drawing on advice we had received from medical professionals in our own congregation. Our first concern was to contact between 35-40 adult members who are in the critical age-range, to be certain they have their essentials and to offer any assistance they might need. Secondly, we agreed on a recommendation to give to the Church Council regarding plans for ministry in the coming weeks.
Last evening our Church Council spent considerable time discussing this topic. The difficult decisions about how gospel ministry and worship will be carried out in the coming weeks were weighed carefully as our pastors and elected leaders applied biblical principles to our current health crisis. On the one hand, the discussion was not swayed by emotionally charged media posts or similar comments. On the other hand, we were not bullied by any opinion that suspending worship was a “less than Christian thing to do.” Finally, the love of Christ compelled our leaders to acknowledge:
- the vital importance and blessing of worship and God’s encouragement to gather regularly around his Word and Sacrament (3rd Commandment principles and applications);
- God’s reminder to show respect and obedience to government and medical authorities and to remember them in our prayers as they work to safeguard our nation and local communities (4th Commandment principles and applications);
- our privilege to honor our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and our correlating responsibility to neither hurt nor harm our neighbor’s body, but to help them in every bodily need (5th Commandment principles and applications).
In love for God and his people, Cross of Christ’s Church Council has decided to suspend all gatherings in both Boise and Nampa, including Lent soup suppers, worship, Bible studies, fellowship/outreach events, and Bible-based support groups, scheduled through Saturday, April 4, 2020. The Church Council will evaluate everything in two weeks with the hope and current plan to resume our normal weekly schedules beginning with Holy Communion Worship on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.
However, it is important to understand what this means between now and Palm Sunday. Our pastors and support staff will be working hard to provide us with sermons, services, Bible classes and related videos and online materials. These materials, links and videos will be posted on our website and/or emailed to you along with encouragements and directions to use them. This will include the final three Wednesday night Lent worship opportunities and the next two weeks of Sunday worship. There will also be in-home Bible classes, Confirmation classes and Sunday School materials made available that correspond with the next two Sundays. For those who don’t have the means to watch a video sermon or to download materials, please feel free to contact our church office (or any pastor or Miss K) and we will be happy to provide you with hard-copies of anything you need. In short, we will continue to be fed with the gospel. Families and individuals are asked to do this at their “home altar” for two weeks. In our current health crisis, the godly desire to “meet together” yields to the higher principles of honoring our leaders and loving our neighbors.
The impact of the current health situation has caused a few other difficult decisions for our church family that sneak beyond April 4.
- The Seminary Chorus has regrettably cancelled their West Coast tour to WELS churches. They were scheduled to hold a sacred concert at Cross of Christ on Maundy Thursday. God willing, we will now hold our normal Holy Week schedule which again includes regular Maundy Thursday celebration with Holy Communion. Gifts given to the Sem Chorus via the “blue envelopes” will be tabulated, celebrated, and gifted to the Chorus by mail in the future. (If someone still wants to give a gift to them, you will be able to do that for the next week. Please contact our office and schedule a time to stop by with your gift between now and the end of March.)
- Easter-for-Kids, scheduled for April 4, will be cancelled for this year. The up-front planning necessary, the assembling of a large group and the uncertainty of whether we can return to normal by then means we will need to cancel this event.
- Sadly, the same is true for our traditional Easter Breakfast. It has been cancelled. The need to purchase food well ahead of time, a very large group in food lines and at tables and the uncertainty of where we will be with the health situation demands a year hiatus. If able, a modified fellowship of coffee and treats might be possible.
The Council also is closing off the Gymnasium and Sunday School classrooms during the next two weeks. Please speak to a member of the Council or Cross of Christ Staff if you have questions.
Please stay tuned. In all these changes we hold on to the promise that God will bring blessings from these challenges as we sacrifice for the sake of the common good.
- We are reminded that this is not a covert attempt by governments to rob anyone of religious freedom. This is a serious, temporary medical issue. We Christians can seize this opportunity to let our light shine as a congregation as we serve the people in our community in Christian love and help not to overload our medical facilities;
- In times such as these, we remember that God is richly blessing and carrying us through a global pandemic. It reminds us of our far greater plague of sin. Jesus has cleansed us from that lethal virus by his innocent death and glorious resurrection. In thankfulness, though we worship separately for a time, we continue to honor God with our regular offerings. Giving to God can be done online via our website, by dropping your offering off at church during the week or by saving it for a thank-offering when we return the next time for corporate worship;
- Pray for those with weakened immune systems, for our medical workers who serve day and night, for our community officials for wisdom to guide us, for the unchurched unbelievers who will face a much greater loss should they become a fatal victim of this virus – may God use this to open a door for us to teach them about Jesus, our eternal Savior;
- As we miss our worship and church events, let us gain a new appreciation for the blessing of worshiping with one another, singing together and communing next to each other; thank God for our oneness in faith and for brothers and sisters in Christ who support us;
- The Church Council, Pastors and Support Staff thank you for your patience and trust. Leadership decisions such as these are extremely difficult. We are doing the best we can to provide timely guidance with rapidly changing information in this difficult situation. Every decision involves a great amount of communication and work. We ask for the prayers of our membership that God will guide us with wisdom and faith. There may be more difficult decisions ahead. We always strive to do what’s best for the Cross of Christ Family as we honor our loving God.
If there are any questions, do not hesitate to contact our church office or call/email/text Miss K or any Pastor.
Keep watching for and opening your Cross of Christ emails over the next weeks as updates and communications will continue to roll in.
Also, for additional updates about the coronavirus pandemic and for spiritual resources for this time, feel free to check out our Synod’s website: wels.net.
May our gracious God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Preserver, keep us strong in our faith and confident in his promises.
The Cross of Christ Church Council and Pastors
Brent Masters, President: (208) 866-7176, [email protected]
Pastor Brad Snyder: (208) 996-0862, [email protected]
Pastor John Steinbrenner: (208) 921-4748, [email protected]
Pastor Kurt Wetzel: (208) 996-2202, [email protected]
Pastor Matt Zimpelmann: (208) 861-3623, [email protected]
Miss Kristen Koepsell: (208) 922-8422, [email protected]
Stefanie DeWall and Alyssa Becker: (208) 375-3992, [email protected]