Task Force Announces Return to Worship
After an incredible 432 responses on the “Return to Worship” survey, the Task Force has established how and when we will return to worship in person, beginning on July 5 and requiring a reservation. For more information on returning to worship, please go to our “Return to Worship” page.
Considerations for reopening the buildings for other gatherings, including small groups, Growth Gathering, Saturday evening worship, etc., will be determined by the Task Force at a later date. The reopening applies solely to Sunday worship at this time.
Return-to-Worship Task Force Created
Peace leadership and pastors have established a COVID-19 Task Force charged with establishing guidelines and a time table for how Peace will go about reopening our doors for worship. It was decided that putting a task force together was necessary, as the process for reopening responsibly and safely is quite complicated, with a myriad of factors to consider.
Task force members met this past week and are developing a congregational survey to be implemented in the near future. This valuable information will be used in determining how and when Peace will reopen to in-person worship, as well as all of the information the task force is reviewing from recommendations of the CDC, Michigan District of the LCMS, local experts and agencies, and numerous other sets of guidelines shared with Peace leadership and pastors.
Back to Church? Yes, but Not Quite Yet
By Rev. Erik R. Schmidt
Peace Lead Pastor
At some point in the future, we will resume in-person worship on our campuses. We want you to know that we are taking all things into consideration, including the advice of health care experts and our denominational leaders, state and federal guidelines, and especially the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We hope to have more information soon regarding a possible timeline for a return, and there will be a longer article detailing our return as soon as we do. What we do know is that even if the statewide executive order is lifted, we will not return to in-person worship on Sunday, May 3. Simply put, we just do not have enough time and information to be able to plan a safe return that soon. We are, however, very close to a solution that will enable us to take communion by Sunday, May 10, whether we meet in person or online, so stay tuned.
Remember that the church is not a building, and that we are “in church” whenever we gather together in worship of our triune God, be it in person or online. Regardless of our situation, online worship is a valuable part of our worship experience now and in the future. Trust in God, stay safe, and may you have peace in the promises of Jesus, Amen.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear
but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).
Response to Governor’s K-12 Closings
Peace School to Continue Distance Learning Plan in Place
Today, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-35, which orders all K-12 school buildings to remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year — unless restrictions are lifted — and ensures the continuation of education by setting guidelines for remote learning. Whitmer’s order applies to all public, private and boarding school buildings in Michigan and comes as a response to the virus COVID-19’s aggressive spread across our state. It leaves open the possibility of classes resuming if restrictions on public gatherings are lifted before the end of the academic year.
Also today, Travis Grulke, Superintendent of Schools for the Michigan District LCMS, released the district’s response, in which he reminds all district Lutheran schools that “the school year is not canceled.”
“Even though we cannot be in our school buildings, we still have a ton of work to do,” Grulke writes. “Our teachers are prepared to continue delivering great content as they advance through the curriculum, our students are eager to keep learning (most of the time), and our families have a need for their kids to grow as they progress through the remainder of the school year. Taking off five months and not returning to school until the fall is not an option.”
So what does that mean for us here at Peace? We are incredibly thankful that we have been and continue to be ahead of this situation, having already instituted plans for distance learning that many school districts throughout our state are just starting to formulate. On Monday, April 6, Peace’s teachers will continue to provide our alternative learning plan. We will communicate more specifics next week, directly to our school families. For now, we simply ask that our students and families continue to enjoy what is left of spring break. Please pray for the leaders of Peace and the leaders of our state, our nation and our world as we all pull together to get through this crisis. May God’s will and blessings still be seen and more turn to Him as we continue His ministry.
It’s Going to Be OK
By Rev. Erik Schmidt
Peace Lead Pastor
This week marks yet another change for all of us, as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order, requiring everyone to stay at home except when necessary. We had anticipated this, and we want you to know that it changes very little for us here at Peace Lutheran Ministries, as we have already been practicing this in large part.
Worship will continue online with respect for both the governor’s order and federal recommendations of gatherings consisting of no more than 10 people. The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order explicitly exempts “a place of religious worship, when used for religious worship,” so we are not in any violation by continuing to provide an interactive worship experience online, as we gather around God’s Word to give Him thanks and praise. Please know that our worship personnel will be limited to essential persons only, and will be limited to 10 people at most. Additionally, all of us will be practicing social distancing within the building.
Please know that, in spite of the uncertainty surrounding us in this new reality, things are going to be OK. Even if things get worse before they get better, you are a baptized and forgiven child of God, and eternal life is yours In Jesus Christ. We will get through this as best we can – and even though we are limited by physical distance, we will get through it together: online, by phone, and especially with prayer. Put your trust in the living God, for He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46).
and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).”
Click the image above to watch the video by Travis Grulke, Michigan District Superintendent of Schools.
Distance Learning Will Continue
& Will Count at Peace School
By Keith Trent
Peace Director of School Ministries
Today in Michigan, the Department of Education issued a statement that distance learning and online instruction will not count as instruction hours in public schools across our state. This communication is to let you know that distance learning, including online instruction, WILL COUNT and WILL BE CREDITED to students at Peace Lutheran School to meet the required hours of instruction. We are following the guidelines set forth by the LCMS Michigan District, as referenced in the video above by Travis Grulke, LCMS Michigan District Superintendent of Schools.
Peace is so much more than just a school. We are a ministry, and thus we are connecting with our students out of love and concern for them spiritually as well as academically. Our goal is to create as much of a normal as possible during this time of uncertainty. Further, we do not want our students to experience the learning slump that often happens when they are away from school and not academically engaged. This is often referred to the “summer slump,” and there is research to show how much academically students lose over the summer.
We at Peace continue to stay in constant contact with the leaders who have the information that pertains to all our church, school, early childhood and child care ministries. We will continue to communicate that information to you as the situation warrants. Please be patient as we determine how all these decisions directly impact Peace. We vow to continue communicating with you in a timely manner. God’s blessings on your day.
Worship Service Suspensions Continue Through April 5
Editor’s Note: We are temporarily suspending our Thursday Peace Connections electronic newsletters, as we will judiciously email only the most essential information as the situation warrants until further notice.
By Erik Schmidt
Peace Lead Pastor
Good evening, Peace Family,
As we said it would, the situation concerning coronavirus, and how it affects our lives, continues to evolve. Since our last mass communication to you, our national, state and LCMS Michigan District leaders have issued further recommendations as well as outright bans on many gatherings and services, as well as other closings that affect our day-to-day lives. To reiterate: Both Peace campuses remain closed to all visitors for meetings, events and activities. No visitors are allowed on Peace grounds until further notice.
Beyond the closing of our school, childcare and Early Childhood Center, one of the biggest changes affecting Peace is the ban on gatherings of 250 people or more. So, where we had previously said we would be communicating with you weekly regarding our decision to gather for in-person worship, that decision is now out of our hands. From now through (and including) Sunday, April 5 (Palm Sunday), all in-person worship is suspended. We will continue to offer online worship via livestreaming at 9am and 11:15am Sundays, and at 6:30pm Wednesdays. Just this past Sunday, more than 1,200 devices accessed our services via livestreaming and Facebook Live — with arguably more people receiving the Word of God than on a normal Sunday. Praise God!
To be clear, we agree with the ban on large gatherings. Read more about that and why we believe even smaller churches should follow suit in my special-edition blog post here.
We realize that Sunday, March 22, would normally be a Communion Sunday at Peace. We are still in communication about this and will let you know once decisions regarding Holy Communion have been made.
Back to ‘The Story’
This week, we are currently in Chapter 27 of “The Story” — The Resurrection — as a congregation. This coming Sunday, March 22, we will begin study of Chapter 28.
Church Attendance for Students
Originally, third-quarter church worship records were to be turned in this Friday. Because there is no school for Peace and Valley Lutheran students, the forms will not be required this week. However, it is our expectation that all school families continue to worship online with us and record your attendance as usual. The attendance forms can be printed at the links below. Please continue to fill these out, and we will let you know when the time comes to turn them in.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear
but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7
Editor’s Note: There is no Peace worship service on Saturday, March 14. Worship at 9:00am and 11:15am this Sunday, March 15, will be ONLINE ONLY. Lenten worship at 6:30pm Wednesday, March 18, is also ONLINE ONLY. Decisions regarding worship services will be made weekly and will be communicated to you via email. In response to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mandate, Peace Lutheran School is closed March 16-April 5. The Peace Early Childhood Center and Childcare are also closed during this time. ALL meetings, activities and events at our church (Adams Campus) and school (Lawndale Campus) are suspended until further notice. During this time, our campuses will be physically closed, but both offices will receive and respond to phone calls and emails during regular business hours. Watch all our livestreamed services at www.PeaceSaginaw.org/watch.
Click above to watch the video.
By Rev. Erik Schmidt
Peace Lead Pastor
Grace, mercy and especially peace be with all of you from God, our Creator, Protector and Sustainer, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, Michigan’s governor issued a ban on all gatherings exceeding 250 people, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The Apostle Paul tells us to “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1).” While worship is essential to who we are as Christians, so is love for our neighbor. Because of that, we have made the very difficult decision to temporarily suspend all in-person gatherings on both of our campuses, and this includes worship services.
Now let me be clear: we are not ‘canceling’ worship. In fact, we are only changing the way we worship – and only for a while. Our ministry team will continue to host worship services online, to be broadcast at 9:00 and 11:15am Sunday morning, as well as at 6:30pm on Wednesday. For now, there will be no Saturday service. We are not neglecting to meet together (Hebrews 10:25), we are meeting together in a different way, thanks to the wonders of technology.
In order to make sure that the worship experience remains one of family, we need you to join us online, even if it feels a little odd at first. To help with that, Vicar Pahlkotter will be in the online Chat during those services to answer your questions and encourage interaction. We will be making online giving even easier for you, because we know how much you care about our ministries and the many families who depend on those offerings. And the services will continue to be of the highest quality you have come to expect from your Peace church home.
Decisions on when we will resume in-person worship will be made by us on a weekly basis, so please stay tuned to your e-mail, and please keep those you know who are not on e-mail informed.
Now is not the time to scoff at all of the precautions or downplay the significance of these prevention measures. We have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us, and that is exactly what we will do. Please stay at home as often as possible, take care of your loved ones, and take care of yourself. Be safe and be wise.
Now is also not the time to panic. We have all that we need from our heavenly Father, and we look to Him in these crazy times. Cast your anxieties on Him, and turn to Him often in prayer. Pray for your church – for your leaders – for our nation – for the world. And remember that no matter what happens, Jesus is Lord and we live with the all-prevailing “hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began (Titus 1:2).”
My dear brothers and sisters, YOU are Peace Lutheran Ministries. Now is the time to take an active role in bringing Peace to our community by setting an example of love and care for our neighbor, surrounding each other with prayer and encouragement.
And may the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10).”
Editor’s Note: Information is continually changing in regard to the coronavirus. While we want to provide you with the most up-to-date information, especially as it pertains to our church and school, we also want to be sure that we are giving you the most accurate information possible. Please have patience as our plans evolve and we work to communicate those to you.
How We Are Responding to the Coronavirus Threat
By Rev. Erik Schmidt
Peace Lead Pastor
We understand that there are many opinions on the nature of the coronavirus and what level of risk it represents. The reality is, much about the virus is unknown, and most of what we can do to protect ourselves from the coronavirus is just as effective against the flu and other illnesses. Thus, amid ongoing prayer and discussion between Peace’s leadership and in an effort to best exhibit love for our neighbor, we are committed to the following response to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak:
Worship is essential to who we are. Although we are aware that Michigan Gov. Whitmer has advised against gatherings of 100 or more people, we will for the time being continue to gather around God’s Word and Sacrament as His family. However, we also have the ability to livestream worship services, and you may still be present in worship via this medium even if you cannot be physically present. Therefore:
- If you are sick or even not feeling well, please stay home and worship via livestream.
- If you are in the high risk demographic, including those whose immune systems are compromised, please stay home and worship via livestream.
- If you feel like you are too worried or concerned to be able to be fully present in worship here, please stay home and worship via livestream.
- Please do not feel as though you have to be physically present in order to worship during this time; that said, if you do stay home, challenge yourself to fully participate with us by gathering as a family, singing the songs, remembering to give your offering online, and joining in the chat feature, where a member of the pastoral staff will be online and able to respond to your questions or comments during worship services while we are walking through this challenging season.
- If a decision needs to be made to cancel or suspend corporate worship services, Sunday services will still take place online, as the pastors and other leaders will continue to plan and lead services which worship and glorify God.
We will temporarily suspend the greeting time in worship, and are asking you to refrain from handshakes for the time being. Human contact is an important part of our life together, and both hugs and handshakes have the ability to convey to one another the love of Christ. However, we may still convey that love with a smile and a greeting while temporarily suspending physical contact.
- Greeters will remain in place, but will refrain from shaking hands for the time being.
- Pastors will continue to greet after service, but will also refrain from shaking hands for the time being.
We will continue to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We have careful procedures in the way we prepare and distribute communion. Pastors and communion assistants will wash hands incessantly prior to their service, and will keep hand sanitizer readily available at both the altar and communion tables, using it immediately prior to communion.
- We are temporarily suspending the use of the common cup. Although the common cup is much safer than people think, we will take the added measure of using only individual cups for the time being.
- As always, the host (wafer) will be handed to you as you come to the table.
We will maintain an exceptionally clean building. We have professional custodians on staff who do a wonderful job of keeping both campuses clean, and they are taking added measures to sanitize contact points.
We will never abandon our people. The sick and homebound will continue to be visited. In the event that physical visitation is impossible because of hospital and nursing home regulations, contact by phone will continue until visitation may resume. Christ went toward the lepers and the sick, not away from them, and during plagues, Christians have been known to walk into the burning city, not away from it. We will take all necessary precautions, but the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” always incurs a level of risk.
We will pray AND sanitize. It is not an either/or, it is a both/and. We do not say “pray” and then act carelessly. At the same time, we do not overestimate our precautionary measures. Many things are beyond our ability to control, and times like these drive us to prayer and obedient trust.
We will not fear. There is a time for concern, but we refuse to give in to fear. The stock market may crash, but we will remain generous. Sickness may spread, but we will remain faithful. Our trust in God is not dependent on our circumstances, and our faith is not only for times of blessing.
When Martin Luther was dealing with The Black Death plague, he wrote these 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 (from the letter ‘Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague’).”
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7
We are also paying close attention to and implementing the recommended community mitigation strategies for schools and childcare facilities, including but not limited to the following:
- Educate students and the community about viruses and prevention.
- Encourage staff and students to stay home when sick.
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, keyboards, desks, cell phones and light switches.
- Limit large gatherings such as assemblies and inter-school interactions.
The custodial staff with the assistance of our entire staff are implementing prevention strategies as being recommended.
What Can You Do?
The following good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases are recommended:
- Stay home if you are sick, and advise others to do the same.
- Always cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and warm water are not available.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Get your flu shot if you haven’t already. While the influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19 infection, it can help keep you healthy during the flu season.
Michigan District Response
LCMS Michigan District President David Maier shares a statement and word of encouragement regarding COVID-19. You can watch his video here. In the video, he references a couple of links for your benefit:
Peace Postponements & Cancellations
The following Peace activities and events are postponed until further notice (or canceled if noted). Other activities and events may be impacted in the near future. Please call to verify any events before attending.
- All remaining Wednesday night Lenten dinners are canceled. Wednesday Lenten worship services are still being held as of now.
- The March 15 and March 22 Sunday evening Youth Services and small-group studies are canceled. Confirmation classes are still being held as of now.
- The Kindergarten Roundup on Saturday is postponed.
- The Peace middle school “Masquerade” dance Saturday is postponed.
- Peace spring play, “Stone Soup,” is postponed.
- The “C” Basketball games scheduled this weekend are canceled.
We Continue to Monitor
the Coronavirus Situation
We are writing to let you know that we are continuing to monitor the news and information coming out about the coronavirus, and we are making decisions accordingly. We are in constant communication with each other and relevant agencies, and we will remain in communication with you as the situation warrants. Our heightened protocols regarding sanitation and sterilization continue at both Peace campuses. Your safety remains our top priority. Please remember to be calm and careful, and in Whom we place our trust:
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 — Peace Leadership