Dear Partners in the Gospel and the Lord’s Church,
“What’s next?” Many of us have a found ourselves asking that question in many circumstances, including recent COVID challenges.
But before we despair, disengage, become bitter or lose heart, we are reminded, “He (Christ) is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” (Colossians1:17) We are being held together, and you and I are being held in the blood stained hands of Jesus. We rejoice in His eternal promises. No wonder we are hope-filled and grateful. I sincerely thank you for all the time, effort and wrestling over the last year and now again. Your labor is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58)
In a phone call with a lay leader last evening, we discussed recent mandates and how congregations and schools deal with these new challenges. We seem always to be asking, “Now what?” In these discussions the Lord will provide grace, strength and wisdom especially “peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20) While not always obvious, we ask “What is in the best interest of the congregation and those who gather?” Never far away is, “How does this decision effect not only my personal perspective but also my neighbor whom I love in Christ?” As hard as it can be, there are times we need to set aside our personal opinions for the sake of others. We do not set aside the Word of God!
Governor Pritzker mandated, effective August 30, 2021, that face masks will be mandatory, regardless of one’s vaccine status, in all public indoor spaces throughout the state. We have been in direct contact with the Illinois Department of Public Health and have been informed that the mandate does include houses of worship. In all our conversations with the Alliance for Defending Freedom, we have heard that it is their understanding that there is not a religious liberty issue when dealing with mask wearing in public worship or in our Lutheran Schools.
Wearing masks does not limit our opportunity to assemble to hear God’s Word and receive His sacraments. It does not prevent us from carrying out the godly task of teaching children in our schools. Out of consideration and respect for the government as well as for the vulnerable among us, it would seem wise to comply with this mask mandate.
We encourage engagement with our federal, state and local leaders as part of our calling as Christians who are citizens. We have many ways to express concerns as well as care for our country and community. We are regularly praying for good government.
Included in the Governor’s orders is a mandate that school workers either be vaccinated or submit to a weekly COVID test to show they are not carrying the virus. As always, we would urge, in Christian love and care for our neighbor, that each of us would respect the health decisions of each person, as they determine whether they will be vaccinated or undergo weekly screenings.
For our churches and schools please consider the following items as we adjust to the government’s response to the current health crisis:
- Check with your local health department officials in regard to how they plan to address the latest mandates in relation to churches and schools.
- Check with your insurance carrier regarding your church/school’s practices in relation to the latest mandates.
- Connect with local sister churches and partner ministries to glean from one other “best practices” in responding to the current COVID situation.
- Have your lay leadership boards along with lead staff review your current worship practices for distribution of the Lord’s Supper, gathering of offerings, use of hymnals, sharing of the peace, sanctuary seating, etc.
The Northern Illinois District contacted Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF) with some specific questions given to us by church and school representatives related to the Governor’s Executive Orders on August 26, 2021. (The ADF is an organization that strives to ensure religious freedoms continue.) Please see attached link for an excerpt of an email response from ADF as well as links to other relevant information.
You can continue to find updates on our web page at nidlcms.org/coronavirus
, and should check this resource frequently.