Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued a "Shelter-In-Place" order effective 5:00 pm Saturday, March 21 through April 7. This impacts the next three Sundays in Lent and takes us up to Holy Week. The intent of this order is to slow the spread of COVID-19 within our state. All non-essential services must close during this time. You will still be able to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, banks and post offices. There is quite an extensive list of essential services from USA Homeland Security. The church is not listed under any of them. We may beg to differ.
Is the Church and its services an essential service or not? The present crisis is a health issue. It is not a matter of church versus the state or the government preventing us from worshiping in our customary way. It is legitimate attempt to slow the spread of a deadly virus among us. As such, the 4th Commandment would ask us to honor our governing authorities and abide by the order. It is for you and the good of your neighbor and at-risk loved ones to not expose them during this critical time of the virus spreading.
As such, some congregations have cancelled services during this time. Others are recording them and making them available on social media. Pastors should prepare a weekly message that can be shared with their members electronically or in printed form. We need each other, now as much as ever, even though for a little while we will need to practice good social distancing during this fortnight.
Pastors should make themselves available to bring Holy Communion to their members by appointment. He could come to your home. Another option is to have a day set aside where the pastor could meet with you and your family at church for a brief service of the Word and Sacrament. Should the "Stay-In-Place" order go beyond April 7, we will need to consider further options to bring God's gifts to His people. For instance, Good Shepherd, Collinsville is holding a Service of the Word in their parking lot. Using FM Radio the service will be broadcast on a specific frequency for people to listen in their cars. The Lord's Supper is not being offered at this time. This option may be something to consider if this crisis continues for months
LCMS President Matthew Harrison and the Council of Presidents have been in regular contact throughout this crisis. We continue to discuss ways of being faithful Christians and the Bride of Christ in a time of epidemic. The ideas in this note are happening in Southern Illinois and throughout the Synod.
The Lord will see us through this time. Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us. He is with us always until the end of the age. The Lord Jesus continues to build His Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Until at least April 8th, the SID Office will be closed. Jeff Fick, Leslie Sramek and I are working from home. You may contact us through out regular emails, we will have call forwarding from the District phone to Leslie's cell. If that doesn't work you can reach us individually. When calling President Scharr you may be immediately connected to my voice mail. Please leave a message and I will get back with you.
President Scharr is 618-201-5597
Mr. Fick is 515-230-6459
Ms Leslie Sramek is 618-972-6577
On a personal note, I had outpatient surgery on March 12. Surgery was successful and I have been back to work all week.
Rev. Timothy Scharr, President
Southern Illinois District - LCMS