Your Parson’s Post
Holy days are ours as we seek to keep up with one another in different ways. We likely find ourselves missing physical touch.
Instead of being together in worship, as is our custom, perhaps we reach out with a phone call, a letter, a text. Perhaps we participate in worship by watching or listening to meditations online or in televised offerings.
These expressions of care are holy. They matter. They help to dispel the lie of isolation. But we long for more. We long for touch.
The Easter message is God’s insistence that, through Christ, hope and life and touch win. Jesus lives that promise, and we again hear that promise in the traditional Scripture reading for Maundy Thursday. John 13:1–17 is all about touch.
“After Jesus had washed their feet, had put on his robe and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, or are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
Multitudes of health care workers are living this holy work as they care for the ill. We pray for and with them. We respect COVID-19. We work and speak against its power in our lives, for the sake of the world. As we continue to be patient by following medical guidelines to stay home and to stay apart, we miss one another. Our relationships with one another matter. When we are apart, we lack.
On Easter morning, when Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, John 20 describes her longing to hold the risen Christ. When Jesus calls her name, she responds, “Rabbouni” or Teacher.” Jesus says, “Do not hold on to me…” and invites her to tell the good news. Mary goes and proclaims, “I have seen the Lord.”
We, too, have seen the Lord. Regular worship life has helped us meet Christ. Now we continue to see the Lord, despite this pandemic. In these days of physical distancing, we do not physically “hold” or touch the Body of Christ. In our lives of faith, we have been touched by Christ’s living body. We have been changed by it. Because of this, we are equipped and called.
“Don’t touch” is a strange word for Holy Week and Easter. But it is our word these weeks. As health care workers give of themselves, we restrain ourselves and abide in the promise, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) May we experience Christ’s abundance even as we live this “together apart” time.
Update from Bishop Jim Gonia
Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
So that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
These words from Psalm 90 seem fitting as we live into a time of utter disorientation personally and societally. The world we knew last week is not the world to which we awoke this morning, and next week’s world may feel light years from todays. Feeling disoriented, asking “how long?” and pleading for compassion are all appropriate responses! Yet as the Psalm goes on to remind us, our lament is not the whole story. Amid any and all disorientation, the one consistent factor is God’s steadfast love. That is solid and unchanging. Which means there is still reason to rejoice and be glad.
As part of our conversation about Church Becoming, I’ve been giving lots of thought to what needs reframing in our life as Christ’s Church for the sake of vital ministry and witness to the gospel. What if this experience of disorientation becomes a catalyst for reframing key understandings about WHO we are as Christ’s Church, WHY we do what we do as Christ’s Church, and HOW we live and engage the world as Christ’s Church? Trusting that nothing is wasted in God’s economy, this time of disorientation may be a powerful tool for the Spirit’s innovation in our life as the church, inviting us to live and think in ways we never imagined.
Given the recent CDC statement about what is needed to contain the spread of COVID-19, my recommendation to Rocky Mountain Synod congregations about suspending public in-person worship, events and meetings extends to May 10. That is to say, I strongly suggest that congregations plan for alternative worship and ministry for the next eight weeks. Obviously, if the situation changes for the better, this can be reevaluated.
The question has arisen about how congregations who are not meeting in person should handle the celebration of Holy Communion. In the recent document posted on the ELCA website: “Worship in thPlease wait to copy until pastor re time of public health concerns: COVID-19/coronavirus.” The following guidance is given: In cases of virtual worship gatherings, the sacrament of Holy Communion is not to be celebrated. “The Use of the Means of Grace” reminds us that Holy Communion takes place in the assembly (Principle 39). Even in times when a community cannot gather to share the sacrament, Jesus shows up, and we are still part of the body of Christ. Consider how to honor the body of Christ in your virtual community.
Many are asking for conversation about the adequacy of this guideline under our current circumstances and wondering if some other options might be considered. Bishop Eaton has asked the ELCA worship staff to explore this more fully and to offer their perspective. As we await that response, I encourage congregations worshipping virtually to utilize the rich resources of our liturgies and tradition, including services of the Word, to nurture faith life during Lent. Once we have heard from the ELCA worship team, I will convene a Zoom conversation about this topic so we can have a conversation together, hopefully before Holy Week and Easter.
Thank you for your powerful ministry during these extraordinary, disorienting times May the Spirit continue to reform and reframe us together so that we might more fully become the church more needed for the life of the world.
Update from Church Council President Rick Moler
Dear fellow members of Ascension Lutheran Church,
I would like to update you on Ascension’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At a special meeting on March 22, your Church Council decided to follow Bishop Jim Gonia’s recommendation to suspend all public gatherings until May 10. This includes worship services, meetings and educational gatherings at Ascension. I urge you to review the bishop’s letter included in the mailing.
This does not mean the church is closed. We may conduct our ministry in a new and different manner to keep everyone safe and healthy, but we are definitely OPEN. Pastor is working with both the worship and evangelism committees to refine worship opportunities for our congregation. Please visit ascensioncheyenne.org for updates or opportunities. We have also asked the education committee to explore opportunities to keep our youth engaged and learning. The office is operating remotely; calls are being answered, and we continue to be about “the work of Jesus in our world”—just differently.
If you have any comments, questions or needs, call the church office, Pastor Rebecca, me or a council member. We are conducting church meetings via Zoom, including our regularly scheduled council meeting on April 9. If you need to meet for church or committee business during this time, contact either Barbara MacKenzie or me to arrange a Zoom meeting.
A separate enclosure in this mailing has opportunities for you to continue to support Ascension with your gifts at this time while we are challenged to work in the world as it is, not how we pray it could be.
If you have ideas about how we can keep you informed of changes or provide support, we welcome those comments. I urge you to remain in contact with your church family in an appropriate manner—perhaps a phone call, a card or note, email or text? Think of the people you shared the peace with at a worship service and check on them. I am reminded prayers are our way of asking and meditating is our way of listening. Please do both!
We will continue to monitor the status of this situation, along with the synod office, and hope we can resume worship before May 10. If that is advised, we will let everyone know. Please keep all of Ascension along with the rest of the world in your prayers.
Yours in Christ,
Although we were not together on Palm Sunday, we awoke to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle front page picture and story about the work led by Denise Martin and her volunteers to make palm crosses from frond leaves. The crosses were then mailed to Ascension members.
Rocky Mountain Synod assembly to go digital
Only a few weeks ago, Ascension Lutheran Church was preparing to be one of five sites of the Rocky Mountain synod’s two-day assembly at the beginning of May using the technology of teleconferencing. Ironically, the fact that the synod was already planning to conduct business via Zoom made it easier for the RMS Council to move the assembly to an all-digital format and collapse it into a half day.
Now the assembly will be from 8:30 a.m.─noon on Saturday, May 2. The agenda will include worship and morning prayer, passing the 2020─2021 budgets, approving updates to the RMS constitution, hearing the state of the synod address from Bishop Jim Gonia and hearing the keynote address and other programming.
In addition to Pastor Rebecca, voting members from Ascension are Marcia Talley and Tim Leberman. Others who would like to listen to the proceedings may register for $25 at https://www.rmselca.org.
Church can mail copy of Christ in Our Home
If you would like us to mail a copy of the April/May/June issue of the Christ in Our Home daily devotional, call the church office at 634-6575 and leave a message or email your request to [email protected] Our usual number of booklets has arrived; they are waiting for you. We simply need your help in knowing who would like to receive a copy.
Family Promise needs cash for housing, food
The entire Ascension family can participate in supporting Family Promise. Although families will not be hosted at a church for now, we can help defray the cost of housing and food. The plan is to house up to three families at the Microtel Inn and Suites at a weekly cost of $700 a room until April 11. Currently, one single mother and her 2-year-old are receiving evening meals from the regular rotation volunteers and counseling/support services from the director and case manager. Another single mother with two children is being interviewed for acceptance into the program. All donations would go toward hotel expenses or grocery/food gift cards for participants’ use. Checks or gift cards may be mailed to Grace United Methodist Church, 2950 Spruce Dr., Cheyenne, WY 82001, where the organization is housed. Although the church is closed, Family Promise employees are checking their mail and messages.
Written ideas sought for $70,000 gift
While you are social distancing at home, the Church Council wants you to put on your thinking caps and provide input on what to do with the $70,000 gift from Christ Lutheran Church upon its Holy Closure. The first step in the process is to gather ideas and thoughts on how to utilize part or all of the money by submitting them in writing to Council member Rick Flohr or any other Council member. Make sure each idea is on a separate sheet of paper; be specific about your idea(s); include any necessary details, and explain the importance to Ascension. After the ideas are gathered, the next step will be a town hall-style meeting. For information, email Rick at [email protected]
Ascension scheduled to work August 22 on Habitat home
Ascension Lutheran Church will provide work crews for the Cheyenne Habitat for Humanity Faith Builds project on Saturday, August 22. We will work shifts from 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 as well as provide the meal and snacks that day.
On May 1, a “ground blessing” has tentatively been scheduled at the home site at 1305 Sonata Lane in south Cheyenne near West Prosser Road.
This is the first Faith Builds house project in Cheyenne and the 50th house locally and is made possible through an $80,000 Thrivent Financial matching gift.
The home is designed for Jamie Stephenson and his three children, ages 13, 8 and 6, who work with church partners to construct a home for themselves.
Pantry needs canned meals, canned soup
Are you making your grocery list? We have some ideas to help stock Ascension’s Free Little Pantry. The emphasis for April will serve up high-protein snack bars. May will be cleanup month featuring toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste and brushes, combs and soap. These will be used as extras to the normal food needs.