With the lifting of some of the Co-Vid 19 social restrictions in Montana, our leadership has been considering if, when, and how Immanuel could begin gathering for worship together at church instead of only on-line. We formed a worship team with council representation to address the hopes, challenges, and logistics for such a move. We met virtually through Zoom. Our team included Gaynelle Stamm, Laura Bishop, Jean Larson, Ike Marks, Judy Nakamura, Jim Bendickson, Allen S-G and Pastor Molly. The team shared prayer, what worship means to each of us, information from a Missoula County Health Department nurse, and a discussion informed by the ELCA’s published “Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship.”

June Worship Decisions

  1. In June, Immanuel will NOT meet in person for worship. We will continue gathering for Sunday on-line worship only. Click here for recorded/live Sunday worship.
  2. We will focus energy, effort and resources to connecting church members to each other in small groups through virtual and maybe even face-to-face ways.
  3. We will plan for a late June, Wednesday evening in person worship  following social distancing restrictions, etc.
  4. We will continue to offer a “Kid’s Time” following the on-line worship. 
  5. Throughout the month of June, Atonement, St. Paul, and Our Savior’s-Bonner Lutheran Churches likely will begin to return to their own churches for worship on-line and/or in person.
  6.  Missing Pastor Molly’s Sermons? Word on Wednesday will continue so that you may hear Pastor Molly preach each week. Click here to watch a recorded WOW.

Why TO Gather Now

The team discussed the following reasons for why we could consider gathering together for Sunday worship.

  • To strengthen the bonds of Christian community; we need each other.
  • We encounter Christ in the physical presence of one another.
  • To offer hope amid anxiety and fear.
  • Missoula county, as of May 19, has had no positive tests since April 21. People are still being tested every day.
  • Currently, the risk of transmission is low in our area.
  • Most of the recent cases in Montana have occurred when people from out of state enter Montana and do not quarantine.
  • Following strict social distancing and other prevention guideline will create a safe atmosphere to gather together.
  • Vulnerable people and those who have been out of state or in contact with someone out of state could be asked to stay home.
  • We may trust our people to be sensible and follow restrictions and guidelines we set up.

Why to NOT Gather Now 

The team discussed the following reasons for why we might want to delay gathering together for Sunday worship.

  • The delight in gathering together for worship is not greater than the risk to the health and well-being of our church folk and the Missoula community.
  • People are finding meaning through the on-line worships.
  • Concern for Immanuel’s vulnerable and aging population (Do not want to tempt them to put selves at possible risk.)
  • Science of the history of the virus’ transmission in an enclosed building over a period of time is a great concern.
  • The unknowns of how the upcoming tourist season and the lifting of restrictions will impact community spread. (Most of the recent cases in Montana have occurred when people from out of state enter Montana and do not quarantine.)
  • Worship together now would be very different with many of the parts that make it meaningful left out (passing of peace, communion, greeting, singing, fellowship).
  • It would take a lot of energy, effort, time, staff and volunteers to do either an outdoor or an indoor worship under the current guidelines.
  • Right now, it could be more fruitful to focus our energy, effort, time, staff and volunteers in building community through smaller groups that follow social distance restrictions.
  • While each congregational context is unique, the ELCA’s published “Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship” for its congregations is more restrictive than our current state, county, and city guidelines.

Other considerations:

  • In these days of pandemic, things seem to change week to week, even daily. We will need to continue to be flexible.
  • Keep up to date on Missoula county and City rates of infection and transmission.
  • Keep up to date with the recommendations of the CDC; they are credible and science based.