COVID – 19 Updates

 
This page will communicate all COVID-19 updates regarding risk management decisions, worship and HTLC programming.  
Click here to read our prayer for our healthcare workers.
 
November 19, 2020
 
Dear Community of Holy Trinity,
 
In this season of thanksgiving, we want to express our gratitude for each of you and for your trust of Holy Trinity’s leadership through this COVID-19 pandemic. Each decision has and continues to be made out of love for you and this church. Our decisions about our faith practices are made based three factors 1) our faith: the simple, yet profound words of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor, 2) the current health facts, and 3) the feelings of this community of faith.
 
The Minnesota Department of Health meets regularly with faith-based community leaders. During our most recent communication, the facilitators asked faith leaders to have bold leadership, believing their voices and communities can have influence at this critical time. Similarly, our Mayo Clinic regional leaders have encouraged us to share the latest report of our community health with you all. We are at the worst point yet in this COVID-19 pandemic and it is alarming: case numbers are rising exponentially, our health care system is struggling with facilities and staffing, and we are heading into a long winter with a challenging trajectory. Our prayers continue to be with those who are on the front-lines serving, as well as with those who are serving in research and development. A promising vaccine, as well as an antibody infusion, are both on the horizon. We marvel at how God has created us with gifts to develop such offerings.
 
Aware of the current reality, we are not without hope. Advent begins soon, the dawn of a new year in the church, and it is a season when we recognize hope is on the horizon. As people of faith, we hold onto this promise of hope.
 
Many of Paul’s writings to the churches he loved contained words of encouragement: thanking them for their partnership in ministry, praying for them, asking them to care for each other, and to remain strong in faith. We are so proud of you, Holy Trinity. You have been faithful and flexible. For that, we say, “thank you” and encourage you to stay the course.
 
We recently invited you to share your feelings about our worship life together. There were a variety of feelings shared, and we appreciated all who took time to respond. After listening to faith, the current health facts, and your feelings- the Risk Management Team, Church Council, and pastors believe it is best to be vigilant at this time and remain in phase 2 of our COVID Preparedness Plan through the end of 2020. We will plan to review our plans monthly, or as otherwise necessary.
We keep the faith. We remain in hope. We proceed in love.
 
May the peace of God be within each of our hearts as God continues to lead us forward.
 
In Christ,
Pastors Alicia and Ben Hilding
September 17, 2020
 
Dear Holy Trinity,
 
“When are we going to open up?”
 
We hear you. We miss you. We miss church, too.
 
In a recent meeting with leaders from our synod, we heard the synod staff is stretched thin as so many churches are in conflict. While we know there are many different opinions at Holy Trinity regarding our next steps to safely reopen, we want to thank the good people of Holy Trinity for your support and prayer. This has been hard. But this church is resilient.
 
In some ways, these days remind us of the days of early Christians, where they met in homes rather than in churches. It was illegal to be Christian so in order to grow in faith, the early Christians took it upon themselves to study the Word within their own homes. Baptisms happened in homes. Parents taught the faith to their children.
 
Today we continue to prioritize online ministry. While there are instructions for how to proceed with proper safety precautions if we were to meet, according to the MN Department of Health, “All faith communities are encouraged to provide remote services and choose not to open or host large gatherings.”
 
We recognize that we are being more cautious than some other churches. Please know this is because of a deep care for the well-being of the people in this community of faith. We have a detailed COVID preparedness plan and an active Risk Management Team behind our informed response. We are currently in Phase 2 of our Re-entry plan. And, while there are exceptions, our actions are in step with sibling churches within the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA.
 
Holy Trinity is blessed with people who are willing and able to adapt to the technological challenges of this time. For one, our music team has figured out how to produce high quality music remotely, and synthesize their parts into a cohesive worship experience. Admittedly, it’s much more work. But we are so fortunate for the positive attitude of our team who has left the safety of “the known” behind in order to pioneer a path forward.
 
We are taking steps forward. Thanks to those who attended our first drive-in communion services. Thanks to the high schoolers who attended our first outdoor campfire. Thanks to Jon Bergquist for creating and providing an outdoor prayer garden. And thanks to all who continue the good ministry work of this church, planting stakes in the ground of the future that God has for us.
 
As we begin this programmatic year, we want to start with the best, safest, most reliable foundation for ministry we can…and that is online. This is the way that we can welcome everybody. While it’s not the church in the way we know and love, we want to continue to make it as meaningful as possible for now. Thank you for your patience and your prayers.
 
We left the church on March 15th, not knowing what would happen next. We heard the urgent demands to “flatten the curve”, because we simply didn’t have the space in our emergency rooms to care for an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
 
We are now six months in. The only death in our congregation was non-COVID related. Thanks be to God. Our efforts have worked. God has protected us.
 
But there’s no question–we greatly look forward to the day when we will be in person again.
 
We miss you deeply. We will return. We can’t wait to see your faces instead of a camera when preaching. We can’t wait to hear the sound of coins clanking in the noisy offering can as children skip and stumble back to the pews. We can’t wait to shake the hand of the crew gathered together for coffee before worship, or eating the Wednesday evening meal together. We can’t wait to place the bread into your hands again as we look into your eyes and say, “This is the body of Christ, given for you.” It will be a joyous reunion!
 
This has been hard. This church is resilient. We miss you. God is with you. Thanks for sticking with us.
 
In Christ,
Pastors Alicia and Ben

July 27, 2020

Holy Trinity Community,                                                                                                                            

We are writing to stay communication regarding our congregation’s Covid-19 updates. We know everyone’s experience of this pandemic is different. We know some of you are eager to be back together in person while others are most comfortable staying at home. You matter and we want you to know that we hear you. We sincerely thank you for your faithfulness and patience in receiving these updates.

Our Risk Management Team has been working diligently to prepare our congregation’s comprehensive Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan. This plan has been developed with church staff and members by listening to the facts, feelings, and values of the faith community, broader community, and ministry partners. Part of this plan includes phases for our congregation’s life together (listed below). We are currently in phase 1, making preparations for phase 2, including exploring outdoor ministry options.

The purpose of this phased approach is to provide guidance and direction for activities at the church.  The disease progression is imperfectly known and there may be times where Holy Trinity Lutheran Church may need to move back and forth between phases. The timing for shifts from phase to phase will be informed by limitations and dates set by the Governor and the State Department of Health, but will be determined by our Risk Management Team, Executive Team, and Pastors. While this plan could change, we are grateful for the guidelines it provides for our life together.

Phase      Activity

Phase 0

· Worship online

· Life celebrations (weddings/funerals/baptisms) postponed

· Faith formation online

· Ministry events postponed

· Building closed

· Staff telework

· Community groups/gatherings postponed

Phase 1

· Worship online

· Recording possibility in the sanctuary but limited to critical elements of worship, while maintaining at least 6 feet of space between people.

·Life celebrations (weddings, funerals, baptism) postponed or held private/outdoors with social distancing & PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)/recognized online

· Faith formation online

· Ministry events online/postponed

· Building closed

· Staff telework, only in the building for necessity

· Visitation via phone/writing

· Community groups/gatherings online/postponed

Phase 2

· Worship online &/or consider outdoor options with social distancing & PPE

· Recording possibility in the sanctuary but limited to critical elements of worship, while maintaining at least 6 feet of space between people.

· Life celebrations (weddings, funerals, baptism) postponed or held private/outdoors with social distancing & PPE /recognized online *10 or less recommended.

· Faith formation online &/or consider outdoor options with permission (with social distancing & PPE) *10 or less recommended.

· Ministry events online/postponed

· Staff encouraged to telework, but can work with permission/staggered hours/social distancing & PPE

· Visitation via phone/writing &/or outdoor options considered with social distancing & PPE

· Community groups/small groups online &/or consider outdoor options with permission (with social distancing & PPE) *10 or less recommended.

Phase 3

· Worship in-person (live-streaming) with social distancing & public health practices implemented per local guidance (e.g. masks)

· Entrance and exit into the church will be designed to avoid gathering.

· All worship practices evaluated based on recommendations by ELCA

· Life celebrations (weddings, funerals, baptism) held private with social distancing & PPE /recognized online

· Faith formation online/In-person w/social distancing & PPE (age-appropriate)

· Ministry events online/In-person w/social distancing & PPE

· Office/Building staff in the building, remaining staff can telework/work in the building with permission/staggered hours/social distancing & PPE

· Visitation via phone/writing/outdoors &/or in-person considered (with social distancing & PPE)

· Community groups/small groups In-Person with permission (with social distancing & PPE)

Phase 4

· Business as normal (although we recognize this new normal may be different)

   

*The full Covid-19 Preparedness & Response Plan is available here.

Thank you for your commitment to God and to this church. We care about you, we are thankful for you, and we are praying for you.

In God’s love for you and this church,

Pastors Alicia & Ben

July 10, 2020

To the Holy Trinity Community,

Greetings and thank you for your faithfulness to God, your church, and your community. This is not an easy time to remain patient and faithful but you have maintained a commitment to welcome all, continued to make worship a priority, and listened to community needs so we can respond as we are able.

The most frequently asked question during this unique time is, “when will life get back to normal at home, school, work, and at church?” The only way we can honestly respond to this is, “we don’t know.” One thing we do know is that God is with us and the church remains alive during this time regardless of our external circumstances. Paul’s famous words that encourage the church in Corinth come to mind, “Love is patient” and “Love is kind.” It is our hope that when we look back at this time, we remember how we showed love and kindness to each other and to our neighbors.

Worship is central to who we are as a community of faith. You have probably heard that churches have been given permission to open their building to 50% capacity. So, you may be wondering: what does that mean for us and our worship this summer? We continue to approach this question informed by and in communication with the counties we serve, MDOH, CDC, WHO, neighboring congregations, the ELCA, and our Risk Management Team. Here are our current plans:

    • Worship online/radio: We will continue to offer worship online and on the radio at 9 am on Sundays (also available any time after). At this point, we are not resuming in-person worship.
    • Live-streaming equipment: Church Council approved the purchase of live-streaming equipment. This will allow us to begin preparing for when we can provide both a meaningful in-person worship experience and simultaneously a high quality online worship experience.
    • Life celebrations: We are currently prepared to offer private outdoor baptisms, weddings, and burials with a broader online community participating.
    • Vacation Bible School Online: We exceeded the number of students that participated last year and had a faith-filled and fun week online!

While we know worshiping online is not the same as worshiping in person, we want to thank all who have been involved in worship leadership for their flexibility and commitment to provide meaningful worship. We are doing all that we can to stay connected in creative ways including our new weekly emailed/mailed newsletter (HTLConnections), our newly formed Connections Team (reaching out to the whole congregation), our New Prague HTLC Community Facebook Group, and our online/radio worship engagement. Thank you for your care for one another.

We also give thanks to God for your continued care shown through your generosity as we respond to the needs in our community. Many of you have switched to automatic giving and we thank you. You have kept the Little Free Food Pantry stocked with in-kind gifts of food, personal care items, and homemade masks while it has continuously been used. In fact, it has become such a needed resource, Jon Bergquist has built two more pantries making it a “Trinity” of Little Free Pantries. This is to be able to provide personal care items without impacting the food provided (we didn’t want our soup tasting like soap). Your monetary gifts have also made a big difference.

    • You heard the need for food and supplies in Minneapolis after the recent rioting and we were able to respond by sending $1,500 to Holy Trinity and $1,500 to Calvary in Minneapolis to support their pop-up food shelves.
    • You heard the need for mental health awareness and support and we were able to respond by sending $3,000 to Duck-cup Memorial to support the mental health needs in our community.
    • You heard the need for housing for those experiencing homelessness in our county and we are preparing to respond by sending $10,000 + whatever VBS students contribute to Beacon Interfaith Housing.
    • You heard the need for mental health support for young people in our area and in response, we were able to provide The Well $2,500.

We commend your commitment to remain strong in faith and we praise a God who has been faithful to us in these challenging times. We care about you, we are thankful for you, and we are praying for you.

In God’s love,

Co-Pastors Alicia & Ben

 
May 20, 2020
 
Dear Holy Trinity Community,

We want to begin by saying thank you for your sincere faith and flexibility amid this evolving COVID-19 reality. We commend your commitment to remain strong in faith while worshiping in new ways. We also want you to know that we care about you and are praying for you. 

As areas around the country begin to reopen, some have asked how this will influence our church practices. We approach this question informed by and in communication with the counties we serve, MDOH, CDC, WHO, neighboring congregations, and the ELCA. Our Risk Management Team, Staff, and Church Council continue to stay up to date with the latest recommendations. While we see an increase in people out and about, we are reminded by our greater church body and partnering health professionals that there remains a real risk for our community and world. 

The ELCA shared with congregational leaders a document titled, “Considerations for Returning to In-Person Worship.” We are working through this document to consider when we begin to roll out a phased re-entry back into our building. Religious gatherings have unfortunately proven to be highly contagious events, and even congregations taking appropriate precautions have been hot-beds for virus transmission. The care for and safety of our community is a priority for us in this pandemic. As much as we would like to be together in person as soon as possible, we don’t want to make any quick decisions that could pose a risk for you and your loved ones. At this time, our building will remain closed.

We are proud of all the ways that our team has adapted and shifted worship onto a meaningful digital format. While nothing replaces a gathered community, we will continue to live into this chapter of our congregation’s life with faith and hope. Worship will remain online and on the radio at 9am on Sundays. We have plans for Vacation Bible School online (July 6-10), and are considering leaning into other new online opportunities as well. God continues to unite us even when we are not in the same physical space.

Let us continue to share God’s love with a community and world that needs to hear it! This is going to take perseverance, but as the writer of Hebrews encourages, “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).” With discipline, patience, and hope, we can be responsible and faithful at the same time. May God’s peace be with you.

In God’s love,

Co-Pastors Alicia & Ben

March 18, 2020

Dear Holy Trinity community,

Thank you! Thank you for your flexibility and your courage as we seek to navigate these uncharted waters of COVID-19. This is a difficult time and we want you to know that we care. God is with you!

Our church will continue to “be the church,” just in a new way. We believe the Holy Spirit is capable of finding new ways to form community and faith, even when we have obstacles in front of us. The Holy Spirit broke the language barrier at the Pentecost so that people could be reached through new languages and tongues. Today, I marvel at how the Holy Spirit is speaking through new languages such as Facebook Live, Moodle, Zoom, etc.

We want you to know your church is here for you, but our presence is going to look different for a while.

We have moved all church activities to an online or virtual format. Our building is closed to anyone other than staff.

In addition, starting Friday, March 20th, until the CDC recommends otherwise, we will be postponing all weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

We have made this decision not out of fear, but out of love; love for the most vulnerable populations, love for our healthcare providers, and love for the community as we face this challenge together.

We will share updates with you via Facebook and our website, and will look to do so through email as well. If you are not receiving updates, please do not hesitate to call the church office (952-758-3513). Jamie Bisek will be happy to get you connected.

As we seek to be creative with ministry opportunities, here is what you can expect:

Worship – Sundays at 9am and Wednesdays at 6pm
We will worship together through Facebook Live on Sundays at 9am, and Wednesdays at 6pm. Please get in the rhythm of setting aside that time for worship. Make it a holy space– light a candle and open your Bible. Invite your facebook friends to join you. A video of that service will subsequently be posted on our webpage: www.holytrinityonline.org, and an audio recording can be heard the following Sunday on KCHK radio (9am).
 
Small Groups
We have asked our small group leaders to shift their small groups online to Moodle groups. We will look to update those discussion guides weekly so that these conversations can be ongoing.
 
Daily Devotional
Holy Trinity has a daily devotional posted on our church Facebook page. You are invited to set aside time in the morning to begin the day with prayer, with God.
 
Confirmation Groups
Our confirmation students are asked to tune in to worship on Wednesdays at 6pm, and then respond to their small groups afterwards, which have moved to Moodle.
 
Children’s Ministry
Pastor Alicia and the children’s ministry team have been working on making a weekly children’s ministry experience activity to do at home. If you would like to be added to this email list, email alicia@holytrinityonline.org.
 
Little Free Food Pantry
Holy Trinity has a Little Free Food Pantry. Stocked 24/7, there is food for those who need it. Want to help others? You can put donations directly in the Pantry. Need help? It’s available to anyone. No questions asked.
 
Support Groups
We are working with the leaders of AA to make sure that critical support can continue in some fashion. If you are part of an AA, Al-Anon, or CODA group at Holy Trinity, please contact your leader for more information.
 
Caring Ministry 
We know there will be some tough moments for all of us. Don’t hesitate to contact the pastors or the church office with prayer concerns. Or if you simply need to talk. We are here for you.
 
Giving
For those of you who normally give your offerings when you come to worship, Thank You in advance for continuing your faithful giving. On our website, you can find these ways to give: 1) Donate online, 2) GivePlus Church App, or 3) enroll in Simply Giving. You may also continue to send in a check through the mail as well.
 
Pray
As we navigate these days and weeks, one thing is not taken away from us: the gift of prayer. Please pray for those on the front lines of this challenge. Pray for those who are making decisions regarding how we navigate this pandemic. Pray for those who don’t have a safe home or who find themselves in dire positions. Pray for those who are sick and for their families. God is there to listen.

God is with you. We care. We are going to get through this. God’s peace and presence to each of you.

In Christ,
Pastors Alicia and Ben Hilding