COVID-19

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COVID-19 and Your King of Kings Family

Dear Family in Christ,

As the saying goes, we live in an "interesting" time. If you understand the proverb, that's not a completely happy thought. The past couple weeks have demonstrated what a strange, unusual, fear-filled time in which we live. 

With COVID-19 making its presence felt worldwide, everything is getting canceled or postponed. Schools at every level are shutting down for weeks or months. Parents are scrambling to find child care and homeschool their kids, while teachers try to provide distance learning. Theme parks, retailers, and social spots are closing their doors. Airlines are cutting flights. Terms like "social distancing," "self-isolation," and "quarantine" are becoming part of our daily lexicon. People are emptying store shelves of basic necessities, while the economy swings wildly like a roller coaster. People find themselves without work for unknown periods of time. Hard decisions are being made nationwide in business, congregations, and communities.

It is so very easy to slip from uncertainty and concern into fear, panic, worry, and anxiety, isn't it? Everything seems to be changing all the time. It's not just daily, but sometimes even hourly. How many people can gather in one place? How long will school be closed? How many people have COVID-19? How many have died? How does it spread? When will the grocery store have what I need again? What can we do about such a contagious virus?

Yet what do we find in the midst of this sea of uncertainty swirling around us, ever threatening to overwhelm us? We find the Lord of free and faithful grace. We find the Lord who has always acted to save his people. We find Jesus, our Savior-God. We find the unchanging Savior, who is the same yesterday and today and forever, who does not change and will not change no matter what the CDC or the state government will tell us 6 hours from now. We find Jesus, who knows what the future holds no matter how uncertain we are. We find Jesus, who has promised to be with us to the very end of time, who has guaranteed that promise with jaw-dropping, undeserved love demonstrated on a cross and in an empty tomb. We find Jesus, who dries our tears of fear and worry, who lifts our eyes heavenward and reminds us that he is greater than fear and its causes. There as the uncertainty of this pandemic swirls around us, there in Word and water and meal, we find our God, our Savior, our Jesus, who will never leave you nor forsake you...ever.

Trusting in Christ our Savior and recognizing the responsibilities that our God has given to us as shepherds of God's flock and as responsible citizens of this state and nation, your congregational leaders have been trying to chart a course for our church family. At times, this has been a heart-rending struggle, especially with changes being announced all the time. On Sunday morning, the Church Council met to discuss proper precautions and measures to keep God's people safe. Since Sunday morning, much more has changed, requiring even more significant precautionary measures.

Therefore, in consultation with our sister congregations in Central FL and mindful of the recommendations of our church body, the CDC, and state and federal government, we announce the following measures:

1. We are canceling all remaining midweek Lenten services (3/18, 3/25, and 4/1).
All other congregations in our circuit are doing the same. At this time, we are still planning to have a worship service on Holy Thursday (4/9) and Good Friday (4/10).

2. We are canceling “in-person” worship for Sunday, March 22 and March 29, while planning to offer in-person worship again starting Palm Sunday, April 5.
The vast majority of our sister congregations in Central FL are canceling their Sunday worship services for these Sundays, as are many other WELS congregations across North America. Above all, this shows respect for those whom God has placed in authority over us in government (a 4th commandment issue) and demonstrates love for the physical well-being of our neighbors (a 5th commandment issue). When we do offer in-person worship again, we will take all necessary safety precautions. Our leadership will continue evaluating this decision.

Regarding offerings, we encourage you to continue to support the Lord’s work by using our online giving site – VisitKoK.com/Donate. You can also mail your offerings to the church or arrange to drop them off or have them picked up.

Regarding choir and handbells, more information will be coming out from the directors soon.

3. We will offer weekly live-streamed worship via Facebook Live @ Facebook.com/VisitKoK or another platform.
Our Facebook page is accessible to all with internet, even without a Facebook account. Our Facebook page is "public," which means everything is visible to the public even without an account. Instructions will be sent out in a separate email. If necessary, we may also explore another streaming option like YouTube. Our streamed worship will include myself, a couple musicians, and a small handful of people to serve as a "congregation" (all safely socially distant and behind the camera). Worship folders will be shared digitally.

For those not able to watch the live-streamed service, audio sermons will continue to be posted on our podcast site – VisitKoK.com/Sermons or your favorite podcast platform. We are also exploring ways to record a service and share that video via email.

4. All in-person Bible studies, Sunday School, ACTS, and meetings prior to April 5 are canceled.
The following meetings will need to be rescheduled or conducted via video conferencing from the dates in parentheses: King's Camp Committee (3/23); Evangelism Team (3/24); BYD (3/31).

5. We are planning to offer a variety of digital, online, or personal study options to keep you in God’s Word.
While we have canceled the next couple worship services, this is not a time to take a vacation from God’s Word. Rather it is a to dig deeper into God’s Word as individuals, couples, or families. We plan to offer online, interactive Bible studies, such as the Bible study on fear and what God has to say about it from earlier this year. Want to grow in the basics of God’s Word? Growing in Hope: A Bible Information Class may also be offered online. We are looking into video conferencing platforms like Skype, Google Hangout, and Zoom. If you would be interested in participating in an online, interactive Bible study, please reply to this email and include your preferred platform(s).

In addition to this, I am hoping to offer some video devotions during our time of isolation and a variety of Bible study tools to help you grow closer to your Savior until we can gather again.

6. Your King of Kings leaders and other members will call all of our members, especially our elderly or homebound members and those in need, to see how you're doing and how we can assist you and others you know during this uncertain time.
Christ's love compels us to demonstrate his self-sacrificing love to our King of Kings family and people in their lives. In addition to our leaders, we are looking for volunteers who would be willing to call to check in on members, read a devotion over the phone, etc. as we seek to care for the physical and spiritual welfare of every soul under our care.

7. Personal, individual ministry of Word and Sacrament will remain available.
The ministry of Word and Sacrament will continue one by one as needed and requested. As your pastor, I will continue to provide individual, in-person (though with safe social distance) devotions, counseling, private Communion, private Confession and Absolution, etc. for you. These are precious gifts that are available to you as an individual Christian, and it is my privilege to minister to you as Christ’s beloved son or daughter. Please don’t hesitate to call our church office - 407-628-5696 - or email me, if you would be interested in setting something up.

8. School families can expect that the closure of our campus will continue through April 15. Distance learning will continue during that time.
All Florida K-12 public schools have been closed until Wednesday, April 15. Our school schedule follows the Orange and Seminole County Public School schedules very closely. Official word will be coming soon from Mr. C. Families will be hearing from individual teachers. Textbooks should already be at home with the students.

9. Our leadership will also be sure to communicate any further developments to our King of Kings family. Please keep us in your prayers as we make decisions to guide our congregation and school through the uncertain weeks ahead. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let us know so we can assist or minister to you and your loved ones!
 
Yes, uncertainty lurks around every corner. What once may have felt so distant now confronts us at every moment. Life as we knew it has been upended with no relief in sight. Yet what do we have? We have the almighty Son of God, who came into this world to deal with the great pandemic of sin, the same Son of God who whispers in our ears, "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
 
Dear loved ones in Christ, treasure the peace that only He can give, peace that nothing on earth, not even a pandemic, can take away. Take to heart the experience of the Apostle Paul, who faced countless persecutions and sufferings his entire life, and still he wrote to young Timothy, "Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them." (2 Timothy 3:11). Our unchanging Lord will do the same for us.

So we cling to his promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6); that He watches over our coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8); that He knows the plans he has for us (Jeremiah 29:11); and that nothing--not even a pandemic--can separate us from his love. God bless and keep you and your loved ones, dear Friends!
 
In Christ,
Pastor Gumm