OSL Responds to COVID-19
Pastoral Letter #17
Week of 8 July 2020

Dear OSL Family,

Because we know that some of you may not have seen last week’s pastoral letter, this week’s letter repeats much of what we shared last week in an attempt to communicate clearly the recommendation from the Governing Board regarding resuming in-person activities here at the church. This is new to all of us, so read this information carefully and if you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with us.

Regarding this weekend: Saturday worship with Holy Communion will resume in the Sanctuary at 5:00 p.m. Celebrate worship will be held outdoors, weather permitting, at 8:45 on Sunday morning. Because we cannot serve the sacrament safely outdoors, we will wait another week to resume Holy Communion in Celebrate worship. Festive worship with Holy Communion will be held at 10:15 in the Sanctuary on Sunday morning.

If you’re not ready to join us for in-person worship, catch us on KTTW (FOX) at 9:00 on Sunday morning and on KSCB (cable) at 1:00 Sunday afternoon. Sunday worship will also be streamed on Facebook Live at 8:45 and 10:15 a.m., and recordings of the Sunday services will be posted on our website on Monday.

First Things
Mission: Our Savior’s is a people forgiven in Christ whose mission is to proclaim Christ and nurture faith that connects to everyday life.

2020–2021 Vision for Ministry: Out of abundance we will joyfully celebrate God’s grace, and boldly embrace and serve all.

Core Values: Worship | Service | Learning | Generosity | Community

In all that we do as a congregation, we are guided by our core values to fulfill the mission God has given us. Our annual vision for ministry sharpens our focus and directs our ministry resources for the current year.

As people of faith, we follow a crucified Savior, one who offered himself for the sake of the world, who was always serving those on the fringe, who was quick to include the “other” even when it meant offending social protocol or religious tradition. For that, he was crucified in weakness and shame.

And yet this is the One through whom God redeemed the world by proclaiming the life-giving news that God’s love is large enough to include everyone and powerful enough to defeat even death. As a result, we who follow Jesus find our unity and sense of purpose not in acts of strength or defiance but primarily in our shared humanity, vulnerability, and need.

Therefore, the resumption of in-person activities at church is grounded in our calling to serve the common good. In all things related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we seek to demonstrate our desire to serve first the interests of our neighbor, particularly those most at risk of infection. In addition, following the example of our Lord, we strive to protect our neighbors’ interests as they define them, not as we determine them to be.

Science of Community Spread
Initially it was theorized that community spread of the coronavirus was achieved through droplets propelled into the air through coughing and sneezing as well as coming into contact with surfaces on which these droplets landed. While this is true, we are also learning that the virus is shared person to person through aerosol transmission. As a result, super-spread events have occurred where groups of people have been sharing indoor space for an extended period even when following recommended social distancing protocols.

The principle to keep in mind when considering how this virus is spread is Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time. The longer people are sharing a confined space and breathing the same air, the greater the chance for infection to occur. This probability is also directly related to the type of activities people are engaged in while sharing a space. For instance, sitting in a room with others with minimal talking is much safer than singing or speaking in unison. Activities that result in greater volumes of aerosol create more risk for anyone in spaces that share the same air handling equipment.

While this virus can cause severe medical conditions, it affects people in a variety of ways. A small percentage of infections lead to hospitalization and even intensive care and a smaller percentage still succumbs to COVID-19, but most infections present in ways that can be managed at home over a ten-to-fourteen day period through isolation, rest, hydration, and basic care, or are free of symptoms altogether. Persons infected with the coronavirus but exhibit no symptoms may still transmit the virus to others.

It is also important to recognize that some groups within the general population are more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, including senior citizens and those who are immunocompromised.1

In-Person Indoor Worship
In-person indoor worship at Our Savior’s began on Sunday, July 5. In-person Saturday worship will resume on July 11 at 5:00 p.m., in the Sanctuary.

Before you arrive:
Our first line of defense against the coronavirus is to isolate the virus. Therefore:

1. If you are at increased risk of severe illness2 (older adults, persons with medical conditions), stay at home and continue participating in distance worship via television, Facebook Live, or by watching the recording(s) of worship posted each Monday on oslchurch.com.
2. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, stay at home and self-isolate.
3. If you “feel” sick or are symptomatic, stay at home and monitor your symptoms, seeking medical care if warranted.

When you arrive:
Keep in mind that our first priority as people of faith is care for our neighbor. This is the way we demonstrate our love for God and each other. Therefore, when you arrive at church for in-person worship:

1. Maintain 6 to 10 feet of distance between yourself and others who are not members of your household.
a. Some chairs have been removed from the Celebrate Center, the Chapel, and the Gathering Place, and pews have been roped off in the Sanctuary to help you maintain this distance protocol.
b. Ushers will dismiss worshipers to prevent gathering in close proximity with others.
c. The Gathering Place will only be used for overflow for each service.
d. Refreshments will not be served in the Gathering Place prior to or after worship. Worshipers are encouraged to leave the building as soon as worship concludes.
e. The nursery will not be open during this period of pandemic.
f. Handshaking and other forms of personal contact will be discouraged.
2. Practice healthy hygiene.
a. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least twenty seconds.
b. Use hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) as an added defense. Hand sanitizer is located throughout the facility.
c. Use a cloth facemask when inside the church unless you are under the age of two, have trouble breathing, or are unable to remove the mask without assistance. (CDC guidance).
d. A limited number of facemasks will be available for those who attend worship without one.
3. Changes in worship practices
a. A maximum of two pastors will be present in the facility on any given weekend.
b. The balcony will be reserved for musicians only.
c. Unison singing and speaking will be discouraged.
d. All Bibles and hymnals have been removed from worship spaces.
e. Printed bulletins will not be used. A digital version of the bulletin will be accessible on personal mobile devices.
f. Offering plates and Noisy Offering buckets will not be passed. Offerings may be placed in baskets and buckets near the entrance to the worship space.
g. Children will not be asked to gather for Kidtalk.
h. Holy Communion will be celebrated indoors beginning this weekend. Households will commune themselves rather than receiving the elements from servers. Detailed instructions will be given in worship.
4. Facility considerations
a. Doors will be propped open whenever possible.
b. UVC emitters will be installed in air handlers for larger gathering spaces later this month. These units eliminate over 99% of airborne pathogens as air circulates through the system.
c. The HVAC system is calibrated to maximize the room air exchange and the introduction of fresh air without excessively compromising personal comfort (blower speed, humidity, etc.).
d. CDC cleaning guidelines will be followed after worship events.
5. Other considerations
a. If you develop symptoms while at Our Savior’s, you will be asked to leave immediately, if possible. If that is not possible, you will be taken to a pre-determined area for isolation until further steps can be taken. Children will not be left without adult supervision.
b. If a person diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the facility, lead staff will assist local health officials in communicating with staff members and congregants about potential exposure while maintaining confidentiality.
i. Areas used by a sick person will be closed off and not used again until properly cleaned and disinfected. A third party vendor may be employed for deep cleaning.
c. No one with symptoms of COVID-19 or who has tested positive for COVID-19 should enter the church until they have met CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation.

Keep in Mind

These protocols may be adjusted as we move forward to further ensure everyone’s safety while worshiping in the facility. Be assured that we are in contact with the Sioux Falls Health Department and are following their recommendations as well as those published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We also recognize that there may be a time in the future when we need to scale back in-person activities here at the church due to another surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. The board and the staff will continue to monitor the local situation and keep you informed regarding the ministry we share here at OSL.

Prayers of the Church
This week the ministry of your prayers is requested for: (healing) Dennis Andachter, Jennifer Kahl, Susan Kincaid, Vernon Waldow, and the daughter of Sherri Bloch; and (grieving) the families of Janet Shelver and Joyce Sande.

A Final Word
Our preaching series this weekend takes us to that familiar parable in Matthew 13 in which Jesus tells about the seeds of the kingdom being sown with wild abandon in the hope that some of those seeds will take root and flourish. Our call as followers of Jesus is to sow with this wild abandon so that God’s grace might find its way into every nook and cranny of creation. What an awesome invitation—to share God’s grace with the world! That’s why we “proclaim Christ and nurture faith that connects to everyday life” no matter what. See you in church.

Be well and press on,

Your pastors at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church,
Rev. Randy Gehring,
Rev. Tim Lemme,
Rev. Justin Kosec

1. Sources include www.cdc.gov; “The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them” by Erin S. Bromage, Ph.D.; “We cannot keep ignoring the possibility of airborne transmission. Here’s how to address it.” By Joseph Allen in The Washington Post online edition.
2. See CDC guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html.

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