Out of love and concern for each other and our fellow citizens,
and to help prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus,
St. Paul's has suspended ALL worship services,
meetings, and other activities until further notice.
We are streaming all of our services on Facebook Live.
Visit www.facebook.com/stpaulsbrownsville/live to watch the services live or to view them later.
(You do not need to be a Facebook member to access these videos.)
Click here or on the "Worship at St. Paul's" link to the left
for a schedule and more information about our Holy Week Services
Click on the following links for Pastor Carter's updates
on the way St. Paul's is adapting its ministry
in response to the COVID-19 virus.
The most recent update is pasted below.
Upholding God's Truth and Proclaiming God's Promises
April 8, 2020
This is a copy of a letter that went out to all the members of the congregation in today's mail.
Dear members of St. Paul’s,
Just More Separated than Usual If you think about it, there was really only one Easter when most of the Christians in the world were gathered in one place: the first one, when the disciples were gathered together in that locked room for fear of the Jews. But even then, Thomas wasn’t there, and we don’t know how many of the other 120 believers the Gospels tell us about were with them either. They certainly weren’t all together in one place the years after that, because Acts 5 tells us there were as many as 5,000 Christians a short time after Pentecost and Acts 8 tells us that the believers scattered during the persecution that Saul organized after Stephen was martyred. Every year since then Christians have been separated at Easter, each of us worshiping in our own countries, states, towns, and sanctuaries.
Easter worship will feel strange this year because instead of gathering together as usual, we’ll be gathering separately for fear of a pandemic. But, really, we’re only going to be just a bit more separated than usual, each in our living rooms or dens or wherever the laptop gets the best signal instead of in our sanctuary. But that doesn’t change the togetherness we share as believers. It didn’t change our togetherness all the other Easters when we gathered in different places than other Christians in the world. It won’t change the blessing of what we share together in Christ this year either.
In fact, because of the technology available to us now, we’re going to be able to worship together in some amazing ways we never would have dreamed of even three weeks ago. The purpose of this letter is to give you some more information about our plans for worship this Holy Week. There is a lot of information here, both about our livestreamed services and the special livestreamed service for the whole synod Easter evening. Please also look for thoughts on how to share our worship with even more people, how we can bring our services to those who don’t have access to the tech-nology, and how we can provide help for those who may be experiencing financial challenges during this time.
Holy Week Services – Livestreamed All our Holy Week services will be livestreamed on Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/stpaulsbrownsville/live. If you are not able to join us live for any services, you can also watch it later at the same link.
Each of these services will continue the theme of the Lenten services, “The Son of God Goes Forth to War.”
Maundy Thursday, April 9 (7:00 p.m.) The Battle Is Personal – Satan often uses temptation like a Trojan horse, or like the computer virus that bears its name, to deceive us into letting him into our lives. It happened with Judas. And the other disciples. And us. Jesus won the battle with Satan for us on the cross. And now he gives us some powerful weapons, his Word and his Supper, to use in our personal and life-long battle with Satan.
Good Friday, April 10 (1:00 p.m.) The Greatest Battle Ever Fought – In the darkness of Good Friday, Satan unleashed his worst attacks yet on Jesus in one last desperate attempt to get him to give up on God’s plan to have him suffer the hellish punishment for our sin. In Jesus’ last words from the cross, we learn that Satan’s worst didn’t work, and we rejoice that Jesus completed the mission and defeated Satan in the greatest battle ever fought.
Easter Sunday, April 12 (9:00 a.m.) Victory – There are times in life when it may look to us like Jesus isn’t winning the battle against his enemies: sin, death, and Satan. Those are the times to go to God’s Word to remind ourselves just how thoroughly those enemies were defeated in the victory of Jesus’ resurrection. This Easter we’ll look at a picture of Jesus in the book of Revelation that shows him as the victorious rider on a white horse to help us see what his Easter victory means for his enemies and for his people.
You can find worship folders for these services at www.stpaulsbrownsville.org. Click the link for “News & Worship Folders” along the left side of the page and then the link for the service you’re looking for.
Pre-service Overture There is a reason why we listen to pre-service music when we gather for worship. The music is often chosen to complement the theme of the service or the season of the Church Year. For our livestreamed services, that pre-service music includes an overture of sorts. Just like the overture before a Broadway musical introduces you to the songs you’ll hear in the performance, the pre-service music for our live-streamed services introduces you to the hymns that we’ll sing in the service. Please use that pre-service time the same way you would if you were arriving at church. Take a moment to greet each other with a Facebook comment and then listen to the hymns and quietly prepare for worship.
No Tenebrae or Sunrise Services We have decided not to schedule livestreamed services for Good Friday Tenebrae or Easter Sunrise this year. We made that decision partly because the full visual experiences of Tenebrae and Sunrise probably won’t quite be captured in a livestream video on a small screen. We also made that decision in order to lessen the number of services I need to prepare this week, because it does take quite a bit more time to prepare for livestreamed services than for regular services.
The Lord’s Supper If we were able to gather for worship this Holy Week, our services would have been Communion services. We understand the strong desire you might feel to try to find another way to offer the Lord’s Supper at this time. The Council of Elders and I have discussed that desire but have decided not to offer the Lord’s Supper here at St. Paul’s until we are able to gather for worship again.
We also recognize that the “Safer at Home” executive order from our governor does list an exception for gatherings of less than ten people at religious institutions that would permit us to schedule time slots for small groups to gather for a brief Communion service. And we are aware that there are other congregations in the area who have decided to find other new ways to offer the Lord’s Supper to their members.
However, the spirit of that order, and the reason it was decreed, was to limit everyone’s personal contacts to as few people as possible so that we can protect those most at risk and help to flatten the curve so that we don’t overwhelm the health care system. Because many of our members who would show up to receive the Lord’s Supper are people who are at a higher risk of serious illness if they contract the virus, we don’t want to be the reason they venture out from their homes and expose themselves to the risk of getting the virus from someone who isn’t showing any symptoms.
That’s also the reason that I will not be visiting the homes of the shut-ins to bring them the Lord’s Supper until the pandemic is over. I will be sharing devotions from God’s Word with them over the phone.
I will find a way to bring you the Lord’s Supper if you’re going in for surgery or experiencing a spiritual problem that would make this an important time to receive Communion. Please request a visit for communion for those reasons and not just because you want to receive the Lord's Supper during Holy Week.
We all look forward to the time when we will be able to gather for worship again. We’ll schedule a special Communion service for that day, even if it’s not a regularly scheduled Communion Sunday.
Until that time, though, we encourage everyone to take every opportunity available to you to read or hear God’s Word, either with your family at home or watching our streamed services or using the resources available from Northwestern Publishing House (www.nph.net). God has promised that his Word has the same power to strengthen our faith in him and his promises as the Sacrament does.
Sharing Our Livestreams (and Other Posts)
to Help Share God’s Truth Using the technology available to us to broadcast our services on Facebook Live also gives us several ways to share the truth of God’s Word in our services with more people in our community.
If you are a Facebook member, you can share our Facebook Live broadcasts with your Facebook friends, too. The more times a video gets shared, the more likely it is to appear in even more people’s newsfeeds.
We are also looking into a way to “boost” a Facebook post, which will make it appear on the newsfeeds of up to 1,000 more people in the area. (We can even get a discount on the price of a “boost” if we’ve had other posts reach more people when they get shared.)
Together at the Empty Tomb A special Easter service for all the members of the WELS to gather “together at the empty tomb” will be live streamed from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary at 6:00 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 12. WELS President Mark Schroeder and Vice-President James Huebner will lead the service. Seminary President Earle Treptow will preach the sermon. A live Q/A session will take place after the service with President Schroeder, President Treptow, and Pastor Jon Hein, director of WELS Congregational Services. You can find this livestream at https://livestream.com/wlslive/togetherattheemptytomb.
Options for Offline Viewing We have created several DVDs of the Palm Sunday livestream that can be delivered to anyone who isn’t able to watch the services online. (We also have at least one portable DVD player for anyone who doesn’t have a DVD player at home.) We also have copied that service to a flash drive that can be delivered along with a laptop or other device. We will create new DVDs of our other services this week and can create DVDs of the previous livestreams, too. We can also copy more services onto flash drives, too.
Please contact me if you’d like to receive the copies of these videos and let us know how you’d like them delivered.
Please let us know if you have any older laptops or tablets or portable DVD players that could be used for this. The laptops/tablets wouldn’t need to be able to access the Internet. They would just need the ability to play mp4 videos. Please also let us know if you’d be able to help deliver the DVDs and/or devices in a socially-distanced drop-off at members’ homes.
Financial Difficulties Please contact Jerry Schmidt or me if you are aware of anyone who is experiencing financial difficulties because they’ve been laid off or lost hours. We have some funds available in the Social Needs fund that can be used to provide some groceries or other needs. Donations to our Social Needs fund at this time will allow us to provide more help to more people if the economic situation continues to deteriorate.
After Easter I still hope to be able to devote some time in the weeks after Holy Week to contact as many of you as I can by phone to get caught up on how this pandemic is affecting your lives. That important pastor-to-member ministry isn’t able to happen through a livestream but has been very difficult to schedule while trying to figure out how to use new technologies for worship, education, and communication while also preparing for Holy Week services.
Until I’m able to have those conversations with you, I pray that the Lord will help you make the adjustments you’ve needed to make because of the changes you’ve experienced in your life, in your work, and in your family. I especially pray that he continues to help you see past the changes and the challenges so that you can also experience all the comfort and joy that comes from knowing his victory over sin and death.
God be with you all.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Bill Carter
St. Paul's Lutheran Church
920-583-4242 or 920-979-3087
Copyright 2020 St. Pauls Lutheran Church and School. All Rights Reserved.