Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear People of Immanuel, 

This update on Friday, March 13, includes decisions regarding the public gathering of worship at Immanuel Lutheran, messages from our ELCA Presiding Bishop, and prayers to respond to the COVID-19 Virus. 

After much prayer and consultation, Immanuel Lutheran Church will not meet together for public worship on Sunday, March 15 or Wednesday, March 18. We will be gathering on Sunday, March 15 at 10 AM for worship, but only through our virtual live stream Our livestream service will include scripture readings, prayers, music, and a sermon. Each week, we will keep you informed via email, our website and Facebook about our plans for gathering for public worship.

We will be welcoming the church community of Our Savior’s Lutheran in Bonner to join us through our virtual live stream. Pastor Eric Huseth, Pastor Molly, and other worship leaders will be working together this weekend and in the weeks ahead to continue to proclaim our hope and strength in Jesus Christ in the midst of life‘s joys and sorrows, worries and troubles.

While to date, Missoula has no confirmed cases of COVID-19,  we recognize that the demographic of our church is in a higher risk category for serious illness due to this virus. With this plan of action, we have decided to respect the disease and not take unnecessary risks. We plan to find alternative ways to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of our church and our neighbors. We make this decision in order to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable. Please review Pastor Molly‘s letter written on Thursday, March 12 for more information regarding ways to pray and to care for your own health and the health of those around you.

Many members may be concerned about how to support the work of their congregations, synods and churchwide ministries if they are ill or choosing to stay home to reduce the risk of getting or spreading the virus. Immanuel Lutheran Church, along with many other ELCA sponsored ministries, do accept donations online. CLICK HERE to donate to Immanuel online.

ELCA presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton recently responded to the COVID-19 emergency. She reminded us that in 1527, the plague returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier, the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. Understandably, people were anxious and wondered what a safe and faithful response might be.

To provide care for the neighbor, Luther recommended that pastors, those in public office, doctors and public servants should remain in the city. Luther himself remained in Wittenberg to care for his people. He recommended that public hospitals be built to accommodate those with the plague. He condemned those who took unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in danger of contagion. Luther also encouraged the use of reason and medicine, writing, “God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body. … Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence” (“Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague,” 1527).

Presiding Bishop Eaton also reminds us that “‘Through all things, we continue to trust God’s faithfulness and promises, particularly the promise eternal life. Paul writes: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).


God, our peace and our strength, we pray for our nation and the world as we face new uncertainties around the coronavirus. Protect the most vulnerable among us, especially all who are currently sick or in isolation. Grant wisdom, patience, and clarity to health care workers, especially as their work caring for others puts them at great risk. Guide us as we consider how best to prepare and respond in our families, congregations, workplaces, and communities. Give us courage to face these days not with fear but with compassion, concern, and acts of service, trusting that you abide with us always. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gracious God, it is good for us to gather as your beloved in community. We treasure your presence with us in word and meal, song and prayer. Be with us in these days when gathering together as often as we would like is not possible. When we must be apart for reasons of safety, we trust that you surround us with your sheltering wings. Encourage us in connecting as we are able, reaching out to our neighbors in need and being persistent in prayer. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our constant companion. Amen.

The peace of Christ be with you always,

Pastor Molly Sasser-Goehner