Covid-19 Update
Last updated on March 28, 2020 at 7:00:24 AM
Dear Members of Salem,                             March 27, 2020                                                                                                                       
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”  (1 Peter 1:3) Does that sound like an odd way to begin a letter at a time like this?  It really shouldn’t and here’s why.  While we are all aware of how upside down life has become due to the social changes we have been experiencing lately, there is one thing that will never, ever change - Our God!  His mercies remain new every morning. His promises are solid and sure.  His grace never wavers and his sincere love for us will never fade away. 

Yet, we argue, “But, I just lost my job!” “But, my family is getting on my last nerve!” “But, I can’t get to the gym!”  “But, my favorite hangouts are closed!” “But, I miss my friends!” “But, my investments aren’t looking so good!” “But, my loved one is really sick!”

Allow us to share with you the context of Peter’s words above.  At that time, the newly formed and yet rapidly expanding Christian Church was under vicious attack.  The Roman Emperor, Nero, had made it legal to imprison, torture, enslave or even kill anyone bearing the name of Jesus.  Families were literally being torn away from each other.  Homes were burned and property was stolen.  Members of the Early Christian Church were living in constant fear.  Yet, to those people, living through those deadly days of persecution, Peter wrote, “Praise be to God!”

How could Peter say such a thing?  How could he be so bold as to expect them to praise God at a time like that? How? Because of the same truths that God’s ministers have proclaimed to Christians in times of crisis ever since. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Brothers and sisters, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and thanks alone to the grace and mercy of God, you have been given a new life in Christ and the sure hope of an eternal inheritance.  When Jesus died, so did your sins.  When Jesus rose, death was defeated and the full payment for your sins was made complete.  By faith, this is all yours!  You are now forgiven, blood-bought saints of God.  You are treasured possessions of Jesus himself. You have the certain hope that someday you will see Jesus with your own eyes, and, until that day, God’s power protects and shields you. 

“Then, why this pandemic? Why this time of isolation and social distancing?” Peter addresses that, too.  “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) One of the reasons trials come is to provide us with an opportunity for spiritual growth.  Times of suffering allow for the testing and refinement of our faith with the hope that we will cling to God, go to his Word, and trust His promises.  When we do, our faith grows and our focus on our heavenly home is sharpened.

As you struggle with the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual stresses resulting from this pandemic, see the hand of your loving God in all of this and continue to praise his holy name.  Your God loves you dearly.  You remain his dear child.  Christ’s death and resurrection give you real hope for the future.  So trust that He will always be with you and continue to find real peace even during times of suffering.

With all that being said, it is the goal of this letter to communicate the most recent decisions of our church leaders.  While, at first, our leaders had planned to make worship decisions on a week by week basis, in light of the Governor’s latest restrictive mandate, we have now made the difficult decision to suspend all worship and fellowship gatherings through Easter Sunday, April 12.  Here are the reasons for this proactive decision:
 
  1. The Governor's latest executive order significantly limits activity outside of the home until Friday, April 10.  While this does not exclude church workers and volunteers from gathering to record worship services, it does eliminate the possibility of our whole congregation gathering for worship for these 2 weeks.  The Governor also made it clear in a recent public address that even after those two weeks are over, the same restrictions that are in place now, before the two week ‘stay at home’ order, will still be in place after.  Simply put, we will not yet be able to gather for worship immediately after April 10 and so this includes Easter Sunday.
 
  1. In addition, noting that there is much planning and preparation that goes into Holy Week services, we, your pastors, did recommend this decision so that we know now what worship format to prepare for.  Waiting until next week to finally make this decision would not provide us with enough time to adequately prepare.
 
Below is the schedule for all upcoming video services and messages. The videos can be found on Salem's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7KRe5Nr2Se2jqQuDJU02yw Be sure to subscribe!
  • Sunday, Lent 5, March 29 – Recorded Service – Pastor Paul Schuler (Message will be posted by 8am)
  • Wednesday, April 1 - Recorded Midweek Message - Pastor James Grabitske (Message will be posted by 7pm)
  • Palm Sunday, April 5 - Recorded Service - Pastor Paul Kuehn (Service will be posted by 8am)
  • Maundy Thursday, April 9 - Recorded Service - Pastor Paul Kuehn (Service will be posted by 7pm)
  • Good Friday, April 10 - Recorded Service - Pastor Paul Schuler (Service will be posted by 7pm)
  • Easter Sunday, April 12 - Recorded Service - Liturgist - Pastor Paul Kuehn, Preacher - Pastor Paul Schuler (Service will be posted by 8am)
We ask for your continued assistance in reaching out to your fellow members who you know do not have access to these media resources.  Please consider how you might be able to assist them.  

Congregational Giving:
As expected, many of you have continued to offer your financial gifts in thanks to God and in support of Salem’s ministry.  More of you have signed up for the electronic giving option and we have even received some special gifts.  Thank you for your continued support!  Knowing there is a growing economic concern in our country right now, your willingness to trust the promises of God and continue to support Salem’s ministry is encouraging and serves as great example for others. 

In an effort to make giving financial gifts as easy as possible, your finance leaders are continuing to seek out new ways to give offerings.  In addition to using Vanco[1] please consider talking with your bank or financial institution regarding ‘direct bill pay.’  Most banks offer this service to their customers.  Your finance leaders are also looking into a “text-to-give” option as well as the use of credit or debit cards for giving offerings.  In the meantime, if electronic giving is not possible, continue to mail in your offerings or physically drop them off in the Salem admin office during office hours (currently 9am-1p Mon-Fri). Don’t forget that support is needed for both the General and Mission funds.  

Membership Support:
As long as we are unable to gather for worship, your pastors, with the assistance of the Elders, will be working to reach out to our entire membership by phone.  Our goal is to stay connected to each of you, offer you gospel encouragement, and simply check in to see how you’re doing.  Are you in need right now?  Don’t wait for us to call to share those needs.  Feel free to text, call, or email[2] us anytime to request assistance. 

Your fellow members are also concerned about you.  Plans are being finalized to organize an assistance program for Salem members. Volunteers are ready to help you with food needs, running errands, and even financial assistance, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you are in need. Your church family is ready to help.

Are you able and willing to help your fellow Salem members?  We are anticipating that the longer this pandemic lasts the more needs there will be.  If you are wanting to assist others, contact us and let us know how you would like to help.  Also, don’t forget, the Member Assistance Fund[3] is always available to receive monetary gifts which will then be used to support others.

God is good, of that we can be certain.  You remain in our prayers as together we serve with you in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Paul T. Schuler     Pastor Paul M. Kuehn
 
[1] 1. Go to salemwels.org, 2. Find and click on the Donate Online option. 3. If this is new for you, click on create a profile.  4. Select the funds to which you wish to donate, the frequency, etc. and save. (Note: these can be edited at any time.) 5. Questions? Contact Melissa DeRosier at (763) 370-6183 or finance@salemwels.org.
[2] Pastor Paul Schuler – 920-284-0172, pastorschuler@salemwels.org; Pastor Paul Kuehn – 763-486-3397, pastorkuehn@salemwels.org
[3] This option is now available through Vanco