July 8, 2020
Dear Members and Friends of St. Luke’s,
Council and staff are talking regularly about how and when we can host in-person worship services. At our most recent review on July 6, we heard preliminary plans from the pastors and program staff of beginning back to worship at St. Luke’s with small, socially distanced Wednesday worship gatherings. These would be fifteen to twenty minutes at most. Sunday services would remain virtual and online. Unfortunately, the recent increases in COVID cases in Dane County has put any plans on hold. We would need at least two weeks of lower levels of data across the health department’s metrics to institute such a plan. But we do want you to know that we are thinking creatively and are committed to continuing these conversations as the county guidance shifts.
Until we can worship together, we encourage you to be safe but stay connected:
If there’s another family in your social bubble, watch an online service together. You could even serve coffee, goldfish and cookies!
Do you have a small group that typically meets during the school year? Schedule a summer social gathering at church or meet outside at a park or someone’s backyard following public health guidelines.
Join a Friendship Boat which is a small group offering social and spiritual connection through regular group phone calls. Enjoy devotions, news from the church, and Friendship Hall style conversations. Contact Paul Harshner to join.
When the time comes, you can decide what is best for you -- returning to group worship or watching our online service from home. No matter your decision, you remain part of the St. Luke’s community.
The council will have their next regular meeting on Monday, July 20 and will have another chance to review the status of public health in our area, and how to plan any “return to public worship” within that framework.
St. Luke’s Church Council
JUNE 14, 2020
Dear friends of St. Luke’s
We miss you.
As Council members, making the decision to close church in March was really hard. What’s even harder is knowing when to return for worship. We are called to Love Our Neighbor and we take that very seriously. The health and safety of all people is our first and foremost concern.
We don’t have a date for returning to in-person worship, but with prayer, guidance and planning, we are committed to making the wisest decision for St. Luke’s and our community.
Our “Returning to St. Luke’s” survey completed by over 300 households has been a helpful resource and affirms what many of us are seeing in our lives -- some folks are ready to re-enter society safely, and some will stay at home for the foreseeable future. We want to share information on our discussions on re-opening our church building and returning to worship.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Luke’s has been following guidance from state and local public health departments and maintaining close communication with pastors and staff. We appreciate everyone’s support as we’ve continued with virtual-only worship. While some other churches are resuming in-person worship, here are some of the key reasons St. Luke’s has not:
We want worship to be the best possible experience. We would not feel comfortable offering communion in the usual manner or in having the congregation sing. Friendship Hall would not be available for coffee, cookies or conversation. The number of services on Sunday morning would be reduced. Right now, we feel the health risk is too great considering the limits placed on the worship experience.
To follow capacity limits, we would need a sign-up system and likely have to turn people away – either online or in person. We are a welcoming church and always want to demonstrate that.
We are mindful that resuming worship means our pastors and staff expose themselves and ultimately their families to hundreds of people each week.
The shortage of cleaning supplies we see in stores is also happening commercially. St. Luke’s staff is doing their best to acquire enough supplies to execute cleaning protocols before committing to returning to worship.
St. Luke’s is opening our church building for scheduled small group meetings. Small groups such as committees, Bible Studies and caring ministries are welcome. You can schedule your meetings online or by contacting the office. We’re hopeful this allows some to re-connect in a way which feels safe. Opening church to small groups will also give staff experience in handling traffic flow and cleaning protocols. It’s much wiser to ease into re-opening rather than speeding through and hit speed bumps. Our guide for small groups is enclosed.
Pastors and staff are closely involved with the logistics of how and when we can return to worship. When in-person worship resumes, know that online worship will always remain an option. As a Council, we are so thankful for our amazing staff who embraced technology and keep us connected through music and message to God’s word and our St. Luke’s community. When the time comes, each person can decide which worship is best for them – returning to group worship or staying at home. No matter your decision, you remain part of the St. Luke’s community.
We will continue to keep you posted.
With God’s peace –
St. Luke’s Church Council Members
Anne Marie Weber
“Give us, O God,
All the courage we need in this place.
Give us courage
To bear uncertainty with hope,
And long delays with patience.
Give us courage
To keep on trusting when we cannot understand,
And help us always to remember
That, in this as in everything,
It is the ones who stick it out gallantly to the end
Who will be saved.”
Prayers For Help And Healing
Dear Members and Friends of St. Luke’s,
During the past few months we have been challenged to live out our faith in whole new ways. As Christians what has been required of us is what the prophet Micah proclaimed: “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” For members of St. Luke’s, the very idea of being a “good neighbor church helping others in need” has been tested. As your acting lead pastor, I want to attest to the fact that all signs point to the fact that we have indeed lived our commitments and stayed faithful to our Christian calling. Now, going forward this same need to care for “the most at-risk among us” and to show love and concern for all people will continue to need to be exercised.
Your church leaders have been at the forefront of this “living out of our faith.” The council and staff have remarked often on how wonderful the people of St. Luke’s are—in their continual financial support, in their wanting to stay connected to the church through responding to surveys (communication and factors needing to resume St. Luke’s services and activities), and in the way in which you have responded to what we have offered. Your encouragement has been important to our ongoing work. We want to thank you for being faithful and supportive.
In the next month we will be asking for your support and prayers as we make plans to be together in some kind of corporate, public way again. The staff and council will input to a representative task force of six people to put together a tentative plan to present to the whole council on June 15. We will be following Public Health for Madison and Dane County directives, as well as the input of the Wisconsin Council of Churches and our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Although our resumption of worship and small groups may be too slow for many, and too fast for others, we will try to reflect love of kindness and good neighbor discipleship in our plan. We will let you know as soon as possible what the stipulations of a congregational plan to consider all things and all people will be.
All of this is, of course, dependent on health considerations continuing to get better. We will be mindful that although we might set forth on some kind of trajectory toward “the new normal” it will be a phased-in approach that could be turned around by factors that even through our best practices toward others cannot be controlled.
Meanwhile, church continues with many new facets. Sunday morning worship continues online and virtual Vacation Bible School will take place in June. You will want to watch our services and have your children and grandchildren registered and take part in VBS. Many other ministries, many of which are sampled in this letter, express our lived-out faith (discipleship) in an ongoing way.
I love the saying that “a church is only as good as its people.” I am very thankful for you good people because you are doing well as being the church in Middleton and Dane County right now! Blessings to you, and we hope to see you sometime in the not too distant future in the church building.
Sharing a Lived Faith,
Roger H. Black
Interim Bridge Senior Pastor
MAY 14, 2020
St. Luke's will continue to follow Dane County's Safer at Home ruling along with the recommendation from the Wisconsin Council of Churches. We will continue to not hold services and events inside our building and we will continue our ministry online until further notice. You may check the South Central Synod of WI website (scsw-elca.org) for additional information.
Monday, March 30, 2020
A letter from fellow St. Luke's member, Randy:
Not trying to make lite of the seriousness of this horrible Pandemic, but I remember something that happened to me when I was a radio announcer, in Madison, a number of years ago. I was on the air, and said something that I thought was funny. One of my listeners called in to thank me for making her laugh. I mentioned that people like to laugh, and immediately the tone of her voice changed and she said very seriously, “No, people need to laugh! If you knew all the hurt that people are experiencing, laughter can offer some relief.” Over the next few months, I communicated with this listener on a regular basis and found out that she was married to a very abusive acholic husband who would physically harm her. She said she needed to laugh. That story will always stay with me.
I have witnessed some very significant and major events during my life: The Cuban Missile Crisis; Civil Rights Unrest; Assassination of President Kennedy, 911 and now a global Pandemic.
I have also experienced some personal crises: cancer diagnosis, and divorce. I remember asking God at the time, why was this happening to me? Well, I am now a 41-year cancer survivor and have emotionally healed from my divorce. I am now a lifetime member of the “Empathy Club.” One requirement of membership to this club is to share with others, your experience with these crises and to show love and genuine empathy toward others who are going through what you experienced. A few years ago, someone at St. Luke’s met with me and shared that she was dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis. My response was “I think I know what you are going through, as I am a cancer survivor.” I was able to better understand her feelings as I also experienced the same set of questions she was now dealing with. I was able to show genuine empathy, and think this conversation helped her.
You might not realize it now, but everyone who is experiencing the multitude of emotions associated with this Pandemic, will have a greater appreciation of many of the things we once took for granted. After this Pandemic ends, and it will, we will all have greater empathy for others and for what we, as Christians, are called to do: Act with kindness and compassion; love each other, including those who we might disagree with; help those who are less fortunate, and forgive one another.
There are some who might wonder when this self-isolation will end. I don’t know, but I am prepared to do my part to defeat this Coronavirus Pandemic. During World War II, Anne Frank, who was only 13, hid from the Nazis and maintained her isolation in a very small room for 781 days. Anne kept a diary of her isolation, and if you haven’t, I would encourage you to read this book. I am not saying we will be sheltered for 781 days, but Anne Frank did endure this.
Each day I go for a long walk (I also practice social distancing) to continue exercising during this time. During this walk, I listen to the wonderful songs of the birds, who have no idea there is a Pandemic. I also talk to God, and pray for the medical researchers who are diligently working on a cure. I pray for those in the medical profession who are putting the needs of others ahead of their own. I pray for those in law enforcement and first responders. I pray for those in the food supply chain (producers, truck drivers and those who put the finished products on the shelves). I pray for the postal carriers, (it is nice to receive mail, except for the bills). I pray for the custodial workers who are disinfecting and keeping areas clean to keep this virus from spreading. I also thank God for the blessings I have received and continue to receive.
We will get through this, and I can’t tell you when? During this crisis we must remain strong in our faith, and display the kind of Christian compassion that Jesus taught us. May we remain united with Christ, and united in our commitment to each other.
Monday, March 23, 2020
A Letter from Bridge Interim Pastor
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
I began with the New Testament blessing because above all things your pastoral leaders at St. Luke’s (Pastor Jerry and I) pray for a blessing upon you and yours in this time of uncertainty. We are doing our best to “be the church together” in a very unique time at which is it impossible for us to be together beyond our own nuclear families. In the meantime, we have had to increasingly close off physical opportunities in our building. As of Monday noon, “all nonessential businesses” are closed by our Governor Tony Evers. Although we have yet to interpret this through the eyes of the church, it does communicate to us how seriously we are to take even gathering at appropriate social distance to do the work of the church in the building. We do honor and respect our civil authorities and are living out Jesus’ command to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Fortunately, all of us staff persons are available through e-mail and phones (cell phones at home), and can be reached. Most of us are able to do our work on your behalf, although we have to be ever creative to accomplish it.
The St. Luke’s building is closed until further notice. Please respect the building being closed by staying at home. Please respect others by doing social distancing with everyone outside of those families or friends in your residential units. We should look at this time as doing what is necessary for the best of all.
Lots of communication is going on between staff and members, as well as between members themselves. Members of the staff are reaching out to older members with phone calls and messages, including with asking for what needs we can help meet—partially discoverable through an enclosed survey. There are social media contacts being made through Facebook and Instagram. There is a web presence which can be accessed through the St. Luke’s app. We are doing what we can to stay connected.
Worship and educational offerings are all online. New material is promised to come on the website and the St. Luke’s app at 10 a.m. each Sunday and 6 p.m. each Wednesday. Beginning this week those offerings will be taped individually by those who participate in the worship services, and not be from the sanctuary. They can be found on Youtube as well-—a short time after their initial posting. Confirmation, middle school, and youth materials are available via video from Jay. Sunday School and other children’s materials are also available—both being present on the website and app. Keep checking those two sources for updated resources. We are posting daily inspiration—a daily devotional from pastors—on the app and website as well. New offerings may be created from time to time.
We recognize this as an incredibly hard time not only for our social and emotional lives, but also for our financial lives. As individuals many of you are (and perhaps increasingly will be) challenged financially. The congregation of St. Luke’s, which is made up of all of you, is also going to be challenged. Perhaps now is a time to think about equity, even more than equality. If you are stable and blessed and can afford to support the church in an ongoing way, please do so. If you are experiencing extraordinary challenges in this area, perhaps you might have to step back for a while. But please know that each household, including the household of faith at St. Luke’s, needs some support to continue to carry out our vocation (which, in terms of the church is our ministry).
“We are the church, the body of our Lord.” Certainly, in Lent we realize Jesus suffered greatly. We as the body of Christ may be going through a very hard time. But we know that ultimately the victory has been won, as it was won through Jesus through the death and resurrection. May we keep our heads up, our bodies separated as necessary, and our thoughts and prayers there for our church and one another.
In God’s Service, Pastor Roger Black
Thursday, March 13, 2020
Dear Members and Friends of Our St. Luke’s Family:
In recent weeks, St. Luke’s has been implementing preventive measures in light of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). After much deliberation, the entire leadership of St. Luke’s has decided to take the cautionary action of cancelling Sunday services and activities for March 15. We will be in further conversation to determine whether future actions are also called for.
In her message of yesterday to this church about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said that even though "this is a time of disruption. It is also a time to live and act as faithful people of God." "Circumstances now are forcing a change in our behavior," said Eaton. "But let's see this as an opportunity for us to pause and reflect, to breathe, and to think about what it means to be the body of Christ. How do we stay connected when gathering is discouraged? How do we care for our neighbor?"
We know that God is in control and that we must depend on his power and love to see us through this moment in time. We encourage prayers for healing of those who have contracted the virus and for all who are so selflessly giving of themselves to prevent its spread.
Please continue to watch for further information regarding digital programming being planned; along with, the Good Neighbor Church response to urgent needs. St. Luke’s is a genuine family of believers who take seriously, “caring for one-another,”
Let’s never to forget the promise in 1 John 4:18, “God’s perfect love drives out fear!” We are in the hands of our creator God… can anything be better?
God’s love, peace and understanding,
St. Luke’s Leadership
P.S. Pastors and Staff are available by email.
Novel coronavirus is rapidly evolving and the incidence of this disease is rising in our community. Here is the current State of Wisconsin guideline for testing local patients. This only meant as a guide for current practice. Please use reliable sources such as those mentioned below for updates and changes. The bottom line is to stay home, wash your hands, and do not panic. The more vigilant we all adhere to these guidelines now, the sooner our lives will return to normal.
Go to the Hospital if:
You have a cough AND fever AND shortness of breath OR chest pain. Or if you have cough/fever AND have either travelled to an area of high exposure in the past 2 weeks OR known exposure to someone who is CONFIRMED to have the disease. Do not hesitate to come to the hospital if you truly feel ill - we have the resources to see the sickest patients just as you would trust your hospital to do in any other circumstance
Call your doctor if:
You have fever AND cough AND have other health problems such AS: COPD (Emphysema, chronic bronchitis), CHF (congestive heart failure), Diabetes, pregnant, Immunocompromised (chronic steroids, chemotherapy, active malignancy, etc) AND/OR you are over 65.
Stay home if:
You have mild symptoms that might possibly be attributed to coronavirus (fever, cough, sore throat). We are not testing mild cases right now as it would overwhelm resources. Also, if you have been exposed to coronavirus but do not have active symptoms of fever, cough, chest pain or trouble breathing - testing is not advised. In these situations, stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days total.
Jeff VanBendegom, MD, FACEP
Associate Professor of Medicine
UnityPoint-Meriter Emergency Medicine