Grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the sheep.  In these days of special concern for the most vulnerable among us, He is our model of loving care and compassion and, in all things, our Source of light and hope.

In an important press conference given by state and local leaders today, we were glad to hear that this special concern for the most vulnerable among us is a top priority in the decisions being made in response to the coronavirus, which has now been identified by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic.

In that light, we listened carefully when our Governor, Jay Inslee, called on all people in Washington State to make important changes that affect our life together. At the most basic level, this involves a form of “social distancing” that are intended to minimize the number of people who will become ill from the coronavirus. “This is not a time to be going out into public and close contact with others” Inslee said. In keeping with this, he issued a ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people. With regard to our worship services and activities on Sunday morning, we typically have more than this number interacting with each other. 

We also listened closely to directives given by local authorities on this matter. Jeff Duchin, the Public Health Officer for Seattle and King County, extended the ban to all public gatherings under 250 people if the host institution “is not able to meet all public health criteria and guidelines, including social distancing (remaining six feet apart), adequate sanitation, and regular health checks.”  This obviously affects all the other gatherings of small groups at St. Mark’s. In considering this, we have determined that we are unable to meet all the public health criteria on a consistent basis.

With respect for these directives, and the concern for vulnerable persons in our faith community, we are announcing the following changes which go into effect today, March 11, and continue until further notice. 

SUSPENDED (What we are “giving up” for Lent)

  • ALL PUBLIC GATHERINGS AT ST. MARK’S ARE SUSPENDED This includes all Sunday and Wednesday worship services, all small group activities, and all meetings. 
  • Our Church Office will also be closed until further notice. Please know that while the building may be closed, you can call our church office at any time during normal office hours. Our staff and pastors are all here to serve in every way that we can during these challenging times. So, don’t hesitate to reach out to any one of us! 
  • The St. Mark’s Preschool is closed until further notice. We will continue to follow the lead of the Tacoma School District in any changes they make. Regular updates will be given to the families of our students.

ADDED (What new things we are “taking on” for Lent)

As many of you know, Lent is actually a time when many people spend more time at worship and become more engaged in daily prayer. With that in mind, we are offering these opportunities through our St. Mark’s website and Facebook Page. 

  • AN ONLINE ONLY SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE LED BY OUR PASTORS AND MUSIC DIRECTORS WILL BE POSTED AT 10:00 A.M EACH WEEK. You may worship from your home with us at that time or go to the link at any time that works best for you. 
  • DAILY PRAYER, FEATURING SCRIPTURE READINGS, MUSIC, AND A DAILY MESSAGE FROM ONE OUR PASTORS WILL BE POSTED EVERY AFTERNOON ON MONDAY-FRIDAY. Again, you can open the link at that time or whenever you choose to set time apart for this spiritual practice. This will begin on Monday, March 16.
  • A RECORDING OF COMPLINE (EVENING PRAYER) WILL BE POSTED NEXT WEEK. This is a beautiful service of music and prayer that you could listen to every night, if you choose, or at any time that you need some peace and calm in your life.

Finally, we want to add an important word about financial giving. It was very moving to hear our own Pierce County leaders call on all people today to make special efforts to continue giving vital support to the organizations that are needed most in times like this, including faith communities. We will not be physically together for a while, but our monetary gifts are essential to the mission we share at St. Mark’s. We are trusting that our budgeted income for offerings will remain strong during the coming weeks. You can make sure this happens by:

  • Mailing your offering gifts to us. If you have them, we prefer that you please use the offering envelopes you received from St. Mark’s. 
  • Set up a Bank Bill Payment method with your bank and start a new habit of using this regularly
  • Give online at our St. Mark’s Website. 

We also ask that you mail your Plan for Giving in 2020-2021 to us as soon as you are able. This is a very important part of the financial planning process that will determine our budget for the coming fiscal year. 

Most important of all, in this time when “social distancing” is the phrase of the day, please remember that this only applies to physical space. In every other way, this is a time to draw together relationally and to increase the love and support that we offer to one another and to all neighbors in need. In the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus breaks through barriers of all kinds to show solidarity with a Samaritan woman who He meets at the well. It inspires all of us to do the same as we creatively and compassionately find ways to express solidarity with the whole people of God

In Christ,   

Pastor Jan Ruud