In Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Recommendations from Bishop Mike Rinehart as of April 1, 2020

Right now the world is spinning with anxiety. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

Recommendations

The recommendations in this letter supersede all earlier letters and recommendations. Our current recommendations have been the suspension of in-person worship and communion until further notice. This does not change in this letter.

Louisiana residents are aware of Governor Edwards’ stay-at-home order, issued on March 23. This requires residents of Louisiana to stay at home unless providing or securing essential services, visiting a family member or traveling to a place of worship.

Texans are aware of  Governor Abbott’s stay-at-home order, issued yesterday, that goes into effect tonight at midnight. The order has suspended on-campus learning at schools until May 4 at least, and orders Texans to stay at home unless providing or securing “essential services.” Gov. Abbott designated churches as essential services. The order says,

If religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, they should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While I appreciate the impulse of religious freedom, I would dissuade congregations from having parking lot services, especially in urban centers. Why risk putting the most vulnerable in danger? The most loving thing we can do right now is make the sacrifice to stay home and keep them safe.

Other updates:

  • Is Synod Assembly going ahead May 22-23? At this time we are suspending registration for Synod Assembly in New Orleans. Please do not make any changes to your registration at this time. Staff and Synod Council are monitoring the situation and will keep you apprised. A determination will be made in early April.
  • If you are a pastor or deacon and test positive for coronavirus, please notify the synod office as soon as possible. We need to know, and we may be able to help you get pastoral coverage.
  • If you have small groups, have the leaders check in by phone. If not, divide congregants among council members and other leaders, and have them check in as a caring gesture.
  • Think about finances with your leaders. Encourage people to continue their giving so that the ministry of the church can continue, and staff are supported. Promote online giving and sending tithes and offerings in by mail. Have a frank conversation about finances with your members. Churches have salaries, mortgages, utilities and ministries to maintain. Think about best financial practices, including who will process checks that arrive by mail, always in groups of two or more.

Updates and Resources

Synod Updates ELCA Updates US, World, & Local Updates Resources for worship
Bishop’s Letter – April 1, 2020 March 27 2020 – Address from Bishop Eaton Centers for Disease Control (CDC) How to Stream Your Worship
Bishop’s Letter – March 24, 2020 March 12, 2020 World Health Organization How to do Facebook Live
Bishop’s Letter – March 16, 2020 March 6, 2020 – Address from Bishop Eaton TX Dept. of State Health Services Faith-Based Response to Epidemics
Prayers during Coronavirus ELCA Resources around COVID-19 LA Dept. of State Health Services Sundays & Seasons Licensing Extension
Bishop’s Letter – March 11, 2020 ELCA Advocacy in time of COVID-19 CDC-Faith-Based Leaders One License Extension
Synod and Congregation Technology Discounts (includes information about Tithe.ly and Vanco) Houston COVID-19 Updates ZOOM for Congregation Use
New Orleans COVID-19 Updates Augsburg Fortress Expanded License
Google Hangouts
Adobe Connect
loom – Recording
Resources for Vital Church
Comcast Internet – Response
Online Giving – Tithe.ly
Online Giving – Vanco

Congregations Currently LiveStreaming Worship can be found here

If your congregation has online worship available – please submit that information here