At the May 24th council meeting the council made the following decisions concerning our current COVID restrictions. These changes to our policy begin on Sunday, June 6th.
1. Normal entrances to the church will be open on Sundays.
2. Masks will be optional for worship.
3. Social distancing will no longer be required. We will offer a space for those who would prefer to social distance in the back of the church.
4. Holy Communion returns to what we had been doing at the alter rail before COVID. Intinction is not going to be used for Holy Communion until further notice.
5. Continue the present offering procedure with people giving their offering as they leave worship, and mailing in offering, or giving through the app on our website.
6. Continue to pass the peace from our pews with no physical contact.
7. Pastor and communion assistance return to offering Holy Communion as they had been before COVID. Masks and gloves will be optional.
If you have any questions about these changes please contact Pastor Mark or our council president, Doug Adams.

Dear Friends,

We are going to continue wearing masks Sunday, May 16th and Sunday, the 23rd. We will begin in person singing and in person Holy Communion on the 16th. Church council is going to review our current policy at their May 24th meeting to look at easing restrictions for the future. We hope to see you in worship or on line with us this Sunday.

God's blessings,
Pastor Mark

Church Council Update on Our Worship Practices
At the April 26th meeting of our Church Council they voted in favor of offering Holy Communion in person and allowing congregational singing during worship.
This is the way we would initially offer Holy Communion: We would give people a zip lock bag when they come into worship with a napkin and an empty cup. They would come forward for Holy Communion at the railing. They would be socially distanced, and remain standing. The pastor would put the wafer on the napkin. The communion assistant would put wine in their empty cup. We would have a plate with half a dozen prefilled grape juice cups for those that would prefer grape juice. We would take communion to those in the sanctuary that could not physically come forward. We would also continue to offer the prepackaged communion to take home if anyone preferred. We would also continue to offer communion virtually on our livestream with Pastor giving instructions to those who are worshipping at home.
Singing would be with social distancing and masks. 
We will begin implementing these decisions on Sunday, May 16th. If you have any questions or concerns about these two decisions please talk to Doug Adams or Pastor Mark. 

Starting In Person Worship Again
Council made the decision at their February 8th meeting to start having in person worship again beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17th at 7:00PM. We will still wear masks, practice social distancing, and we will not be singing. Our seating capacity is 54 people with social distancing. We are still offering a livestream of our service on our Facebook page and on YouTube. People who plan to attend worship are no longer going to need to sign up through the office. Worship participants can also decide where to sit as long as they social distance. Our Sunday services are at 9:30 AM.

The church council  has made the decision to stay virtual for January. 
This decision was made based on the rising COVID numbers in Berks county,
the guidelines from the state, and our concern for the health and safety of our church family. Whether to resume in person indoor services for February will be reassessed at the next council meeting January 25, 2021. As before, the church offering can be mailed to the church as the office continues to operate. 
Another change for this year is that the Congregational Meeting will be done by mail. The council feels this is the best way to conduct the meeting due to the pandemic.  
Members will be mailed a letter, instructions, ballots, and return envelopes
to participate in the meeting. 
We all realize that this is a disappointment to many of you, but we are concerned with keeping all of our church members safe. Please pass this on to family members and friends.   Everyone keep safe and we hope to see you all in church very soon.

Announcement about our
worship recommendations 

September 30, 2020
Karen Hamm, who is our Safety Committee Chair Person made several suggestions regarding changes to our current worship recommendations following our first worship gathering in the sanctuary on September 13th. 
Council discussed her recommendations at its meeting on the 28th. As part of our discussion we also talked about our insurance, CDC guide lines, state guidelines for indoor gatherings, worship guidelines from the synod, and an article from Betsy Morgans. 
Here is what the council decided.
1. We are going to allow people to softly speak the congregational parts during worship.
2. The recommendation for no congregational singing will stay in place.
3. We are going to offer Saturday night worship beginning in November. People need to sign up by the Thursday before.
4. We are going to continue to stay with 25 people per worship service.
5. Next month the council will discuss whether or not the pastor, organist, sound people, and the ushers are to be counted as part of the 25 people for worship.
6. We are going to let people sit together if they are part of the same "social bubble,” or “pod." People need to let us know when they sign up for worship that they wish to sit together. 
7. All other recommendations such as social distancing, and wearing masks are still in place.
Council will continue to review the worship recommendations at their meetings.



Below are helpful resources for anyone who needs help during this difficult time:


Letter from Pastor Mark Jensen:

Dear St. John's members and friends,

It's unsettling that the early days of Lent have overlapped with the emergence of the coronavirus here in the United States. Like many of you, I have been following news reports and reading reliable sources for the latest information. One particularly good source is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

As you know, we have cancelled Sunday School and worship for this Sunday, March 15th. This decision was made by council who received a recommendation from our Safety Committee. Our Safety Committee met today to offer additional recommendations to the council on a policy to keep our church as safe and healthy as possible against the Coronavirus. These recommendations will be brought to council for approval and then shared with the congregation.

Some of these recommendations include having Holy Communion at the railing with individual cups for the time being. Having ushers hold the offering plates at the back of the sanctuary at the end of worship is another recommendation. Members could put offering in at that time. Also, no passing of the peace is recommended for now. The committee is also asking for additional hand sanitizer to have in each pew for worship. Currently, hand sanitizer is difficult to find.

With all that we are facing, its important to focus on what Jesus says are the two greatest commandments: to love God and love our neighbor. One way to love our neighbor is to do what we can to prevent the spread of this virus. That means doing all the things you've been hearing about on the news. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Avoid touching your face. If you are feeling sick or are medically vulnerable in some way, please stay home. Even if your are feeling fine, now is a good time to limit your travel  and movement in the community.

We will be making a decision on holding worship from week to week. Sunday School is cancelled for 4 weeks. There will be cancellations for upcoming meetings and group gatherings in the next 2 weeks. Please look for other cancellations on our Facebook page, Website, 69 News, listed on our answering machine, and in our bulletin and newsletter.

As the people of God, we know that staying connected during these difficult days is important. Here are a couple of things we are doing to help everyone stay connected at St. John's. First, we ask that you take time between 10:15-11:15 when we would normally be worshiping together to pray. Please pray for our world as we continue to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. Pray for our leaders. Pray for the care of our earth. Pray for those who are ill.... This week we pray for Kady, Karen, Carl, Gail, Jerry, Jim, Matthew, Mary, Pastor Uhler, Cythia, Bob, Sara, Emma, Steven, Harold, Clarence, Charles, Larry, Donna, Myrl, Ricky, Harvey, Fiona, and Anna. As always, include prayers for healing for others not on this list. 

Another way that we can stay connected is through the Bible and message for the week. I will be posting a copy of my sermon by Tuesday on Facebook along with the Gospel for this weekend. Take time to read and think about the message for the week.

You're also invited to mail or bring your offering to the church office this week. Our office is open from 8:30 a.m-1:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday. 

We started Lent on Ash Wednesday with a reminder of our mortality, a fragility that feels especially true in this moment. We also remember that we are held by God in life and in death. Even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, there are opportunities to bear witness to God's love and grace. As L. Roger Owens wrote recently in the Christian Century: 

"Grace frees us to ask, What doe this moment - this reality- require of me? For some the duty will be - indeed already is - to exist as patiently and lovingly as possible in quarantine. For others it will be to show up, sacrifice the inclination to self-preservation, and care for the sick. For many, the moment calls for listening to experts and preparing thoughtfully, making sure there's enough hand soap, peanut butter, and Cheez-Its on hand to endure a governmentally imposed staycation. But in the midst of that work, the duty of the moment calls for something else as well: loving reality, even in its vulnerability. Especially in its vulnerability."

The Church Council, Safety Committee and I will continue to monitor developments and make decisions about our life together as we move forward.

I trust each of you to make appropriate decisions regarding your health and safety. Please reach out to me if it would help to talk about this situation. We're learning new details all the time, and fear is a natural response. Together we will pray and persist, trusting that God is with us always and remains the ultimate source of hope.

God's Blessings,
Pastor Mark Jensen

Christ is risen, Alleluia!