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Response Memo on Coronavirus

Updated March 16, 2020

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Discussions have been held today with the pastoral staff,  lay leadership, and medical professionals of First Trinity, our Bishop, the pastors of our sister LCMS congregations, and the leaders of our neighborhood religious institutions.  To say that the Coronavirus situation has been a rapidly developing one would be a gross understatement.  In just the last few hours, Governor Wolf ordered all non-essential businesses to close and Mayor Peduto sent all non-essential city employees home.  President Trump, in a press conference with his Coronavirus task force, recommended that people avoid gathering with more than 10 people.

Although it may seem overly cautious, First Trinity and Holy Cross will suspend all activities and in-person Services until further notice.  The Holy Cross Food and Clothing Distribution in Hazelwood will be providing emergency food bags to those in critical need on a case by case basis.  The Holy Cross distribution center is closed.  It is a charitable and Christian act for us to endeavor to protect the most vulnerable among us by mitigating the spread of this contagion.

First Trinity will again webcast a Sunday morning service via Facebook Live at 11:00 AM.  The service will be Matins (morning prayer) with preaching.  A link to the webcast along with a copy of the service folder will be made available beginning Thursday.

Pastorally, I advise you to heed the admonition of our government and public health officials.  Stay home unless you must go out for essential work or errands.  Avoid gatherings of people.  Wash or sanitize your hands often.  Avoid touching public surfaces.  Discover ways to keep contagion out of your home.  Most importantly, spend time with your family in prayer, reading of the Bible, singing, and wholesome recreation inside and outside of your home.  As the weather allows, make use of and enjoy the blessed abundance of natural open spaces that we have in Western Pennsylvania in the countryside and in our large city parks.  Let us protect and serve the vulnerable among us.  Check on your elderly neighbors and generously share with those who are in need.

Many times over many centuries, our good and gracious Lord has delivered us from pestilence.  He will again and strengthen us in our time of need.  Let us continue steadfastly to love Him and serve our neighbors.  He is faithful and will care for us, His children.

Matthew 6:25-34:  Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The Lord bless you all with His peace.

Originally Posted March 13, 2020

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The recent news and events concerning the COVID-19 (commonly called Coronavirus) global pandemic have given our parish special cause for concern and prayer. In circumstances like this, our primary Christian vocation remains one of loving God and serving our neighbor. To this end, the Church desires to remain constant in prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel while being cautious in protecting our neighbors from undue exposure to the contagion, especially those most at risk.

This week, I have been in contact with Bishop Hardy, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the lay leaders of our congregation, and the directors of our mission outreaches. We have conducted extensive research concerning this pandemic and have consulted the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and the Allegheny County Health Department as well as that of the City of Pittsburgh, our neighboring universities, and our local health care systems including UPMC, AHN, and Concordia Lutheran Ministries. Finally, the pastoral staff met this morning to summarize and implement our findings.

First and foremost it is important for us all, as Christians, to remember that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church and the universe and that all of our days are in His hands. Let us remain faithful with a joyful and hopeful outlook focused on the reality of the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection unto life everlasting in Christ. With that as our view-point, let us love our God and serve our neighbor cheerfully to the best of our God-given abilities.

First Trinity and Holy Cross will continue to celebrate the Sunday morning Divine Services. It is the Church’s responsibility to continue to proclaim the Word of God, offer the Sacrament to those who need and desire it, and make prayers and supplications for all people. As God’s beloved children, you may come to hear the Word, receive the Sacrament, and pray with us as you wish and are able. We understand that some of our flock fall into a higher-risk demographic and we concur with the advice that is given for the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, or who are showing symptoms of any kind to please stay home. We also understand the need for social distancing, therefore we will take advantage of the gift that our Lord has given us with two amply-sized church buildings to ask everyone attending services to sit with their families apart from other families. We have plenty of room to fill while maintaining reasonable distances from one another. Hand-shaking and close personal contact will be discouraged. The pastors will make a few minor additions to our already meticulously sanitary distribution of the Blessed Sacrament and, although our congregation firmly believes that this is the “cup of blessing” (1 Corinthians 10:16), no one will be faulted if they simply choose to abstain from the Lord’s Supper for a brief period.

Celebrating the Presence of Jesus Christ in the City of Pittsburgh since 1837.

The prayer services (Matins, Vespers, Stations of the Cross) will continue at First Trinity and Holy Cross albeit with fewer in attendance. Sunday School and Bible class are cancelled until further notice at both locations. All parish meals are cancelled until further notice. Other parish events and gatherings of some of our mission outreaches are being cancelled due to the at-risk demographics that we serve. Decisions concerning any other events will be made by the various mission directors in consultation with the parish pastor.

For those who are staying at home, First Trinity and Holy Cross will make print and on-line devotional resources available to you. Our Sunday Service Notes as well as our weekly sermon podcasts will be available. We ask that you all pray for our parish, city, nation, and the world as we suffer through this pandemic. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me. The Lord be with you all.

In Christ our God,

The Reverend Dr. Douglas H. Spittel Parish Pastor
First Trinity Evangelical-Lutheran Church Holy Cross Evangelical-Lutheran Chapel Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania