Good Afternoon Hope!
Hoping everyone enjoyed a restful and restorative holiday weekend. As you may have seen in last Friday’s eNews - as COVID case numbers continue to trend down and vaccine rates continue to trend up in Michigan, Hope’s Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) has been reevaluating our COVID-related policies and procedures.
Here are newest updates, effective for Sunday, July 11, 2021:
- Face masks are optional for all attendees at Sunday morning worship services. We encourage all who have a compromised immune system, who are unvaccinated, or who have other underlying health conditions to exercise caution. Mask wearing is certainly welcome – please make whichever choice is most comfortable for you and your family.
- Pre-registration, by phone and online, will no longer be used for Sunday morning worship.
As the COVID situation is fluid and ever evolving, SPC, working in conjunction with Hope staff will continue to monitor trends closely and will work with the guidance from MDHHS, the CDC and Oakland County Health Department to ensure that our policies and procedures are up-to-date with current guidelines.
Many of you have reached out to Hope’s leadership team over the course of the pandemic to share your perspectives and expertise and we are truly grateful for the guidance, feedback and continued engagement.
Grace & Peace,
Amy Finley, Director of Leadership
Sarah Tucker, President
Fellow Hope members -
As our local community, state and nation continue to work towards a full re-opening, so has Hope leadership. We have been diligently working to increasingly provide opportunities for our members to enjoy worship, engage in ministry, and grow in community and faith in person. Today, we would like to provide an update to our community about how we will continue to move forward.
First, the Strategic Planning Council would like to thank the dedicated staff at Hope for their ongoing commitment throughout the entirety of the pandemic. Because of their efforts, we’ve been able to safely and effectively deliver in person worship services since December; and, continue to deliver outstanding virtual services for those not ready or unable to return in person. In March, SPC voted to open our doors to all ministries, so that groups (men’s, women’s, children & families, etc.) could safely come back in person. Many groups have done just that.
We have made great progress and achieved great things! But now it is time for us to take additional steps forward. After much discernment, the following are effective immediately, as approved by the SPC:
Removal of capacity limits for worship services.
Social distancing will not be required during worship services, but available to those who prefer it.
Despite the changes, we will continue to use an online registration process for Sunday worship. This allows us to communicate our changing practices clearly with anyone who wishes to attend.
Additionally, we once again encourage and support all Hope ministries, groups, or others who wish to convene in person to feel welcome to do so.
Hope leadership continues to closely monitor federal, state and local health guidelines on a weekly basis and will use that guidance to inform decisions.
Strategic Planning Council
I hope you are doing well! As I indicated in yesterday’s email, I would provide some insight into my answer to the question of “why are we opening in-person services now?”.
As you know by now, Governor Whitmer extended our ‘pause’ until December 20th in a continued effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Clearly the numbers are concerning and, given those same numbers, begs the legitimate question in regards to starting in-person services, “why now”?
It is a fair question to be sure.
Admittedly the timing isn’t great. However, my decision isn’t based on a whim where I think “we’ve simply been closed too long” or “Christmas is coming, we need to hurry and do this now”. We have been trying to do this a while now and more importantly, it is an issue of pastoral care.
Where many in our community are not only comfortable with church online, but actually quite enjoy it, others are in need of another expression of ‘church’. They are longing for community and connectedness that, for them, a computer or TV screen simply cannot provide.
This is a spiritual need for some; not a spiritual need that supersedes safety, but a need that would be welcomed if safety can be reasonably provided.
I believe that, with the plans we have in place, we can be and will be more than reasonably safe for all who attend and participate as well as for the community at large. With masks on at all times, always socially distant, room capacity kept to guidelines, and cleaning/sanitizing in place, we can provide a more than reasonably safe environment that will allow for the spiritual needs of some to be met.
I want to remind everyone that this is a choice. Part of what we do at Hope is reasonably meet people where they are at. We always have done this. We offer different music choices, different worship times, and more than one minister to relate with. In this time, we will offer the choice of either a meaningful streamed service at 10am (this is not going away) as well as reasonably safe in-person options.
Each member has a choice. The staff has a choice as well.
The staff has also been given the option to ‘opt out’ and some have. No one is being asked to do anything they are not comfortable with or being put in a situation where they do not feel safe.
Everyone has a choice.
As I already stated, for me pastorally, this is an issue of pastoral care, and sometimes offering good pastoral care is about providing choices to reasonably meet people where they are at and I believe we can safely do just that.
Thank you for hearing me out. Thank you for your support of this ministry team with your time, talents, financial resources, and prayer. Thank you for always being there for the other. Thank you for being a community united in the love of Jesus even when we may disagree on nearly everything else.
Thank you and God Bless,
I pray you are all holding during these strange and unpredictable times. Please reach out to the church if there is anything we can do for you.
As you all likely know by now, Governor Whitmer addressed the state yesterday evening with renewed recommendations for the health and safety of the population. After many conversations and opinions being discussed and shared, it has been decided that Hope will ‘pause’ our in-person services for the next three weeks.
Here is what you need to know:
- In-Person services will ‘pause’ for three weeks, resuming on December 13th
- Online streamed service will continue at its new time of 10am every Sunday morning
- Congregational meeting will proceed as planned at 12noon on November 22nd
- We will meet outside, socially distanced and masked
- We will only discuss the Mission Plan (Budget)
- It is expected to be 50 degrees. I promise it will be quick.
- A Special Congregation Meeting will be scheduled in January in order to amend the bylaws to allow for virtual congregational meeting participation in the future.
I know things are hard right now, for all of us. Though it is not ideal in any way, we are still connected through technology in ways unimaginable not all that long ago.
I thank you for your patience and understanding as well as for your continued participation through this community of faith.
Peace to you all,
Pastor Rob Zahn
Dear Hope Members,
The Strategic Planning Council, in concert with Hope staff, has been continuously evaluating safety and health conditions to ensure Hope can continue with robust spiritual ministries while ensuring the health and wellness of its members. To that end, we pivoted all our services, small groups, and other ministries to a virtual format - allowing us to continue to be in community, even at a distance.
We have been overwhelmed by the support, continued engagement, and dedication of our members during this challenging and unprecedented time. Thank you!
As the State of Michigan continues to see improvement in efforts to contain the virus, the leadership team at Hope has started to imagine the return of some activities to an in person format. In order to safely do so, we envision a phased approach as outlined below.
Phase 1 - Starting June 2020 (this month)
- Small groups are permitted to meet in person with the understanding that they will observe proper social distancing guidelines. This can occur outdoors on church grounds, or in other outdoor spaces like parks and backyards. Please note, access to the church building including bathrooms will not be available.
- We encourage small groups and their leaders to choose to meet in whichever format best works for that group whether it be virtual, in person or a combination. All proper masks and social distancing protocols must be followed at all times.
Phase 2 - Starting July 2020
In-person, outdoor worship will begin July 12th at 11am with the understanding that all in attendance will follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask.
- BYOC: Bring Your Own Communion AND Bring Your Own Chair.
- PEACE: In order to both curb continued spread of the virus as well as respect the comfort level of everyone, we will simply flash a peace sign as opposed to any mode of hand shaking, fist or elbow bumping.
- SINGING: There will be some...but you still have to wear a mask.
- BATHROOMS: Sorry…bathrooms will not be available yet.
- More details will follow as we get closer to that date.
The online video stream service will still take place on Sunday mornings at 9:30am in addition to the in-person worship service. Anyone who prefers the video stream service or who is at an increased health risk is encouraged to continue to watch the video stream. Worship in the way that makes the most sense for you!
The building is still closed until further notice. Why? Simply, we are not yet prepared to meet the ongoing recommended and necessary sanitation protocols for a facility of this size.
Phase 3 - TBD
Hope’s leadership will continue to evaluate conditions and will make plans with the goal of moving toward more in person operation if and when appropriate.
We continue to appreciate your ongoing support of ministries at Hope, and look forward to worshipping with you in person in the near future!
Strategic Planning Council of Hope Lutheran Church
Click here to download a copy of this letter
*Hope Lutheran Church is suspending all in-person ministry until April 5th. In the meantime, JOIN US ONLINE every Sunday at 9:30am beginning March 15th.
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Just 24 hours ago, things seemed different…please read carefully.
Priests and Shepherds
Allow me to put two ideas together for you:
“…you are a royal priesthood…” 1Peter 2:9
It is a foundational concept of Lutheranism that all God’s people are ‘pastors’. We all have a responsibility to live the Gospel of Jesus in this world…not just the called and ordained person, but all who follow Jesus.
The word “pastor” comes from the Latin word pastor which means shepherd.
Very few of us have much experience with actual, honest-to-goodness shepherds. If we did, we would know that a shepherd generally leads their flock to places of food and water as well as places of safety.
I put those together to remind us that we are all pastors. We are all shepherds. And we all have a role in protecting each other and the other as well as the congregation of Hope and the church as a whole. That is why this is so difficult.
As far as our society’s response to COVID-19, things have seemingly moved very, very quickly.
- Nearly every professional sporting league has postponed and/or suspended seasons.
- Elected officials and professional health experts at every level of government (Federal, State and Local) are emphasizing social distancing and urging that gatherings of people of various sizes be avoided.
- The Governor of Michigan closed every school K-12 in the state until April 6th.
- The President of the United States just declared a National Emergency.
- Yesterday, the ELCA and Episcopal Bishops of Michigan stated that it is our “moral, civic, and spiritual obligation to care for one another by taking the necessary steps to slow the spread of this virus”.
Unfortunately, the list goes on.
Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, the leadership of Hope Lutheran Church collectively decided to suspend all in-person ministry and resume worship on April 5th unless the situation dictates otherwise. Again:
Hope Lutheran Church is suspending all in-person ministry until Sunday, April 5th.
Yes…this could change in another 24 hours as this situation has been changing rapidly. For now, we feel this is the right decision from a moral, civic, and spiritual perspective.
Please know that leadership and staff did not come to this decision lightly. It is a very, very difficult situation. Nonetheless, we are doing our best given the reality of the world as it is at this moment.
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Creativity and Vision
“In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1:1
If the Bible is authoritative at all, then its first words should be considered foundational. We gather because we believe in a God that creates…a God that created literally everything we know.
Creativity itself is theologically foundational to who God is and to who we are.
This is a difficult situation for sure, but it is also an opportunity. This is an opportunity for us to gather differently than we have before. We are careful to use the words “in-person” ministry, because this is an opportunity for us to explore creatively with love and grace new and exciting ways to gather. With the blessing of technology, we have the opportunity to gather on-line.
We will have more details early next week, but for this Sunday, March 15th we will be streaming worship at 9:30am. Again:
JOIN US ONLINE
SUNDAY, MARCH 15th @ 9:30am
Using the streaming approach, it makes sense for us to put together one online worship experience at 9:30 am. Then we can use our time as ministers and staff to create other, unique, creative and visionary faith experiences and connections with our congregation and beyond in fresh and imaginative ways. We will continue to post the service on the website the following day.
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We are well aware that this decision could have major financial implications for Hope and more importantly the people who benefit from the ministry done through this family of faith.
Remember, that even when services are temporarily suspended, we still have to pay our mortgage, utilities and salaries.
Please, if at all possible, keep this in mind as you consider your giving. If you have not yet done so, please sign up for automatic giving through our website to ensure the continuity of ministry at and through Hope Lutheran Church.
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We know you have a LOT of questions at this time, frankly so do we. We are doing our best to make the best decisions for the Gospel, this community of faith and for the community in which we exist. The situation is fluid and so must we be.
We will continue to keep you updated through our various means of communication.
Thank You and God Bless,
SEE YOU SUNDAY ONLINE!