Rev. Nate Loer of Immanuel Lutheran and Rev. Amy VanValkenburg of Joyful Spirit Methodist shared their thoughts as a faith perspective to the coronavirus pandemic.
As people adjust to the daily changing news and ways of life due to COVID-19, Loer and VanValkenburg encourage people to listen to community leaders and federal, state and local government officials. They also hope to focus on community needs and connecting with people.
“Jesus tells the story that reminds us that the neighbor is the one who is in most urgent need. So when we think about the people who are at highest risk, for one reason or another, we want our actions to serve them best of all,” Loer said in reference to the Bible passage of Luke 10:25-37.
One of the ways Wadena area churches often serve the community on a weekly basis is through food, whether coffee and snacks before church for fellowship purposes or hosting monthly community meals, food insecurity is a concern that Loer and VanValkenburg plan to keep addressing in safe ways. The churches are planning deliveries for food and other necessities.
“Do not take any risks that you do not have to take but at the same time put Christ on,” VanValkenburg said. “We have to feed people. My mom’s ministry is nursing, she needs to be a nurse. … We need all the people who have these life-sustaining roles to be doing their work without fear and if we’re going to do that, if we’re going to encourage and support those people in doing that, we also need to take care of them.”
During these times, Loer and VanValkenburg say it is important to care for one another and value relationships and connectionalism. Both churches are planning to engage with people over the phone as a way of offering support, conversation and time to pray together along with possible Zoom meetings and additional messages on YouTube. As technology is becoming key to relationships, VanValkenburg also discussed the need for making all people feel included whether or not people have reliable internet access.
“It’s so meaningful to reach out and give somebody your time. … That is the gift that you can give somebody right now,” VanValkenburg said.
Throughout these times of connection, people still need “apart time,” as VanValkenburg said mental health professionals are talking about. These times are where people could develop spiritual practices, such as reading a devotional book or taking a walk, which allow for choosing peace over panic. Another way to develop this mindset is navigating one’s emotions and remembering God’s promises, as Loer said.
“(Enter) into that tradition of lament. I think it’s OK to be angry, I think it’s OK to be upset, it’s OK to be sad about what we’re losing in this time where we can’t be together, so finding ways to express that with a trusted friend or a pastor in the context of a trusted community and to grieve but to do that in appropriate ways,” Loer said. “Also, to remember the promises that our faith teaches us and … if we look at this as a way to serve others, I think we’ll be in a much more peaceful place about it.”
A few Bible passages that come to mind for Loer are in Psalm 46, 27 and 121, each with an understanding of who God is and how he is present to help.
“This is a time when we’re being asked to be still, to minimize our social contacts and yet living into that confidence that God is still God,” Loer said in reference to the Bible passage Psalm 46:10.
For VanValkenburg, a few Bible passages that come to mind are Psalm 91, 139 and 23 as well as Proverbs 18:10 and John 9:1-41. With each passage, VanValkenburg said the verses are not to explain current circumstances but to be thinking about how the Bible’s teachings apply to real life situations.
As area churches are reorganizing services and ministries to the public, Lent traditions of having meals and services together are no longer possible, so the churches are putting the pieces of finding ways to celebrate these traditions on the plane as it flies, as VanValkenburg explained. Loer said “the proclamation of God’s Word” will undoubtedly continue.
“Lent is certainly resonating with me in a different way than ever before, it kind of does feel like we’re actually in the desert,” VanValkenburg said. “Lent is often synonymous with the theme of fasting … and maybe disparity even … It’s more important than ever right now to be trying not to operate from fear but instead operate from an understanding that fasting doesn’t need to bring fear but instead this time being given us under an unfortunate circumstance we can leverage the human capitol in our lives in new and different ways.”
- Epicenter: All regular scheduled activities are canceled, including Sunday morning services, Wednesday nights and life groups, until further notice. Messages will be provided online through the church’s YouTube channel, Epicenter Church.
- First Congregational United Church of Christ: Events and services have been canceled for March. The message will be posted on their Facebook page and YouTube channel, 1st Congregational UCC of Wadena.
First Missionary Baptist Church: Sunday preaching is at the church at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. though Sunday school is canceled. Wednesday services are at 6 p.m.
- Grace Connection: Services are canceled through at least March 31 as well as home groups. The service will be on their Facebook and their website at www.mygraceconnection.com/ at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.
- Immanuel Lutheran: Suspending public worship until further notice. The Sunday radio broadcast of worship on KWAD 920AM will continue at 9:30 a.m. Lenten Wednesday worship through April 1 has also been canceled.
- Joyful Spirit United Methodist: In-person services are suspended at least until April 5. Services will be broadcast on their YouTube channel, Joyful Spirit UMC.
- Southbrook Baptist: Sunday service will be on Facebook Live at 10:30 a.m.
- St. Ann’s: Public masses are canceled until April 13. On Tuesdays through Fridays at 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 8 a.m. mass will be on Facebook Live on St. Ann & St. John the Baptist Parish Cluster page.
- St. John Lutheran: Will continue having Sunday services as well as Lenten service on Wednesdays for now.
- Wadena Alliance: Canceled church programs and events through March 29. The Sunday morning service will be livestreamed on the church’s Facebook page at 10:30 a.m. as well as uploaded to the church website in the early afternoon. The church offices remain open as well as the church building for prayer on Sundays.
- Wadena Assembly of God: Sunday services will be on Facebook Live at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday ministries are canceled.
- Zion Free Lutheran: Sunday services are canceled through March 29 and messages will be posted online. Wednesday night services and confirmation classes are also canceled.
This is not a complete list and this list is likely changing daily. Please call ahead or visit their website for more information as this health pandemic continues to change schedules.
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.