March 14, 2020
Dear friends at St. Mark,
After much thought, prayer, and conversation the Church Council has decided to suspend worship services and close the building at St. Mark through the end of March. This is not a decision we have come to lightly. Our hearts are heavy. Worship is central to who we are as the people of God and we feel a deep concern for the 12-step groups who use our facilities. This decision was made with great care for each one of you and genuine desire to “love our neighbors.”
Our Synod is leaving this decision to each individual congregation. Both the Northwest Washington and Oregon Synods of the ELCA have strongly recommended churches cancel worship “for a season.” Other denominations have made this decision at a regional or national level to take it out of the hands of individual congregations. All the schools in our state (and in Oregon) are now closed until April 24 per order of the Governor. We want to do our part to be as proactive as possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and are not able to ensure the State mandated level of cleaning required after each group uses our facility.
We care about our community. We know you do too. We (all of us) want what’s best for our congregation and our people. Our biggest concerns are our most vulnerable members and the high potential of transmitting this virus to others when we are not even aware we have it.
To be very honest, we do not have all the answers at this moment in time. We have never faced health concerns such as this. We are doing our best to make the best decisions for the welfare of everyone. The Church Council and your church staff will be in touch with you and will continue to find ways to keep us connected as the body of Christ.
What we do know is this:
- We will not gather at St. Mark for worship on March 15, 22, or 29.
- All Lenten mid-week services and soup suppers are canceled.
- Choirs, Bible Studies, Sunday School, Quilting, SMOGS, Confirmation, and all other church activities are also suspended during this time.
- All church meetings will need to be conducted in alternative ways such as email, phone conferencing, or Skype.
- Breakfast groups will need to discern whether or not they will meet in a different location, such as one another’s homes.
- All the community groups who use our facility will be notified the building is closed.
- Service to our Clean Kids guests will also need to be suspended.
- Pastor Eric, Pastor Beth, Vicki Labensky, and Terry Shaw will explore different platforms to offer opportunities on line, by phone and by mail for people to be connected and continue to grow spiritually.
- We will post weekly sermons and other worshipful material on our website and on our church Facebook page.
- Your pastors will continue to be available to you at any time and will be in contact with you. Please do not hesitate to call, email, or text them. They desire to serve us faithfully.
- Church council will re-evaluate this suspension of worship and activities and the closure of our building at the March 31 meeting.
- You will receive more information and updates soon.
During this time of “social distancing,” we encourage you to find ways to reach out to one another. Pastors Beth and Eric will continue to provide pastoral care and spiritual guidance. Please call, email, or text them if you have any specific needs. They will maintain a schedule of visits by phone and in person—and if they have not yet reached out to you and you want one, please let them know by reaching out to them.
While our building is closed and our activities suspended, we encourage you to continue in your regular giving to our mission and ministry at St. Mark. You are welcome to give online at www.stmarklacey.org, through automatic banking, or by send your offerings in the mail to: St. Mark Lutheran Church, 2109 College Street, Lacey, WA 98503.
We will do our best to reach out to members who do not have email. Pastors will be at church tomorrow morning in case anyone comes.
The situation with COVID-19 changes rapidly. We may never know if actions like this reduce the number of cases or slow down the spread of the virus or not. However, we are wise and compassionate to do our part. This is a way for us to love our neighbor.
God bless you and be with you.
Your St. Mark Church Council –
Lisa-Ann Roura, Kate Delozier, Jerry Cooley, Susan Lewis, Vicki Powers, Jenny Bona, Darrin Labensky, Pastor Beth Utto-Galarneau, and Pastor Eric Utto-Galarneau
Church Council can be reached by emailing : firstname.lastname@example.org