Thank You to all who are joining us for on-line services. We are aware there was a problem with the audio for the service on November 11th. We are very sorry, we know this made it difficult to hear and be a part of the service. First Lutheran is working to find a solution. Thank you for your patience. We hope to have a solution soon.
Dear Members and Friends of First Lutheran,
President Mike Youngblood and I have reviewed the most recent statistics on COVID-19 case rates in Otter Tail County, along with communication and responses from our Council and Preparedness Committee about proceeding with in person worship.
Although we know it is disappointing, and some will not be satisfied with the decision, we have decided to remain with only online services for the time being, according to the guidelines of our plan. We will not have in person worship this Sunday 11/8/2020.
After a meticulous review of State mandates, CDC and NIH guidelines, Synod and ELCA recommendations and more, our Preparedness Committee and Council deliberated and passed a Preparedness Plan with the health and welfare of our siblings in Christ as the foremost goal. Otter Tail County case rates will continue to be monitored and future decisions to consider returning to in person worship services will continue to be evaluated per the Preparedness Plan guidelines.
We felt obligated to follow the intentions of the plan to remain in online services only as the cases exceeded 50 per 10,000.
Our current decision was based upon:
Those with questions or contrary opinions should feel free to contact me or Mike with their thoughts and suggestions.
Bill Taylor, Council Member and Chair of Preparedness Committee
Due to the rise in Covid cases in our county and community, Our worship services will be on line through December 13, 2020. The church Council will re-evaluate this decision at the December 8th council meeting.
The Fall Festival Committee met to discuss plans for our gathering in October. Because of the continued health threat posed by the coronavirus, we will regrettably be cancelling the Fall Festival. We do not feel it would be safe to hold the event at this time. We will evaluate possibly having an event in the spring. We are not giving up gathering together when it would be safe. In the meantime, give someone a call today. We miss getting together so do the next best thing. Until we can gather again, be well and be safe.
Carol Jimmerson and Ann Rasmusson
We continue to use all information from the state of Minnesota, the CDC, Synod leaders as well as our Safety committee to make future decisions regarding worship services, education programming and other programming. We will keep you posted!
June 9, 2020
Dear First Lutheran Church Members,
A fund has been created within the Battle Lake Community Fund to assist our local businesses and residents during COVID-19. This is a joint effort with the Battle Lake Economic Development Authority. We feel there will be needs for both businesses and residents as the pandemic continues to cause economic issues for our community into the future.
A committee has been developed of both Community Fund and EDA members to set up criteria and work on fund raising efforts. This committee would like to request a donation for the fund from your church and to spread the word about this opportunity to donate. Once more donations have been received, we can start taking applications from businesses and individuals.
We appreciate your consideration on this project.
Battle Lake Area Covid-19 Emergency Fund Committee
(Bill Taylor, Barb Prody, Reba Gilliand, Randy Dorn, Steve Young, and Darren Kern)
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.” Advent is upon us and we wait for the coming of the Light of the World once again at Christmas. This year has been so different for us as a community. There has been much disappointment and frustration related to how the pandemic has affected people in our community, along with businesses and organizations. How are you experiencing “exile” and the need for Jesus in your life at this time? There are, of course, our shared experiences of social distancing, mask wearing, and other public safety measures we are living with. How else do you feel separated or alone or “captive”? However you experience it, you are given the promise, through Jesus, that it will not last forever. In the midst of waiting for what is to come, we can “rejoice” that the promise will come true and “God with us” will come to us again. I pray that you find comfort and peace in the promise of God in Jesus again this year through Advent and into the celebration of Christmas. Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you…” Romans 1:8 The season continues to change as our time of harvest, cooler weather, shorter daylight hours, and preparation for winter progresses. During all of this change, I want to remind you that I lift you up in prayer every day and our staff intentionally prays together for our congregation and mission every week at our staff meeting. November brings a natural awareness of thanks and gratitude as we annually celebrate our Thanksgiving Holiday as a nation. There are many strains and stresses we each are experiencing as individuals as well as parts of different groups and communities. I am thankful for you as a congregation and for you as families and individuals, following Jesus and living out your faith each in your own place and circumstance. We start the month of November by observing All Saints Day on November 1st. We especially name and remember our members and friends who have died in the last year. I give thanks for their lives among us! We continue through November giving thanks for what we have been given by God’s grace and generosity by sharing from our bounty with those who are in need. I’m particularly thankful for our congregation’s regular mission support of ministries like our local Food Shelf and Churches United homeless shelters and food ministries, as well as new programs like the Men’s Fellowship “First Cares” fund that provides support to local families in need as the pandemic stretches on. I am also thankful for the many volunteers who serve our congregation in service on our church council or other committees and groups. A special recognition of thanks goes to our staff who have adapted to our new conditions this year and continued their faithful service, even though much of what they do may go unrecognized and unseen. In particular, I want to thank Pr. Rob for his faithful and dedicated service to our congregation as we prepare to say farewell to him in December as he and Darlene move to Rochester – we have been blessed to have him with us as our Visitation Pastor and I have been blessed to have him as a colleague and friend. We carry forward with a good deal of uncertainty, much like our sisters and brothers in the early churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and others have done for 2,000 years. The COVID pandemic will continue to be with us for a time, yet. The social and political tension and conflict we experience will be with us for a time, yet. We continue forward with hope and faith in the promise of God’s grace in Jesus. God Bless You Today And Every Day! Pr. Brad IMPORTANT ADDITION: Our council has just approved the possibility for in-person worship beginning November 8th. We look forward to the opportunity for limited participation in worship in this way for some people, following the guidelines approved by the council. Worship will continue to be available online, too. Please carefully review the guidelines for in-person worship available in mailings you will receive and on our website.
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.” When you reap the harvest of your land, do not rap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. -Leviticus 19:9-10 This is harvest time in our part of the world and I see harvesters hard at work as I drive to my office and home again each day. This is also a time when we consider our personal stewardship and how to practice our giving in way that helps our neighbor. This coming year our congregation will regularly support mission in our community, region, and world. You can look at our annual budget and see how we plan to support, among other ministries, our local Food Shelf, as well as the Churches United homeless and food program in the Moorhead, and global mission and disaster relief through our mission support given through our synod. There are many ways we do help our neighbor and many more ways we can add to that support. I was reminded of the passage above during a learning opportunity recently. I recalled my time serving in Staples, MN, where there is a large amount of land used for potato farming. Each year, the potato harvesters would leave countless potatoes in the fields and we would gather them (the gleanings) to distribute to people in need, the local Food Shelf, or even host a “potato bake” at church as a fellowship and mission support event. I also remember learning about a grain farmer who would keep track of how much grain was harvested in the first pass in each of his fields, then would give the equivalent of those first passes as his family’s “first fruits” contribution to the church and mission. The harvest time of year is an opportunity to celebrate the bounty of our harvest and to remember our neighbor in need, whether we know that neighbor personally or not. Our congregation does this in many ways and we continue to invite you to consider how you can serve your neighbor through the ministries of our congregation and in other ways in our community and region. It is also a time when we can recognize that the receivers of our gifts bless us who give – we are commanded to love our neighbor and live out our faith by helping others. When you accept the love and support of a giver, you are blessing them with the opportunity to live out their faith. May you continue to know God’s rich blessings as you give and receive, loving your neighbor as yourself.
Love in Christ, Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.” It has occurred to me recently that we’ve been worshipping “remotely” for nearly 2000 years. When Jesus told his disciples he would no longer be with them physically, that he would return to his Father or go to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house, he also reassured them that they – and we – would not be alone. When Paul wrote to the early Church, he reminded them about how Jesus shared his Last Supper with his followers – and how the Church could do that even at a distance from Jerusalem, or Paul himself, or each other. One of my favorite images of receiving Holy Communion is that the half-circle at the front of the Sanctuary symbolizes how our siblings in Christ around the world – and those who have died and gone before us – complete the circle as we commune across distance and time with the whole body of Christ. This time during the COVID pandemic has been different and we have adapted as faithfully as we can, just as we prepare to return to in-building gathering we miss so dearly. It will continue to be different for quite some time and we can’t quite set a date for when we will return to our building – and we are accustomed to waiting in faith, just as Jesus promised to return to us even as he did not tell us exactly when that would be. I am so grateful for you and your faithfulness as we continue to be church together. In the beginning of March, as the magnitude of the COVID pandemic was emerging and we were first hearing about its effects, I wrote a Pastoral Note that was sent to you and distributed with bulletins on Sunday mornings. I looked back at it recently and wanted to lift up a part of it again: “Jesus reminds us the two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. One way to love our neighbor is to do what we can to prevent the spread of illness….We started Ash Wednesday with a reminder of our mortality, a fragility that feels especially true in this moment. We remembered that we are held by God in life and death – in the midst of uncertainty, there are opportunities to bear witness to God’s love and grace.” The last six months have seen dramatic changes in our lives, but the promise of God’s grace and love has not changed, nor has the commandment to love God and love our neighbor. Thank you for your generosity and support in time, talents, and tithes as we have navigated online and parking lot worship, along with changes in our programming and activities. Your council, SMART Team, and I have been working with our staff and volunteers to develop plans for how and when we can resume activity and worship in the building. Our church has never closed down, we just have not been able to gather in the building as we did before. I look forward to the day when conditions allow us to worship in the building together again. You will begin to hear from the council, SMART Team, and me about how we resume in person, in-building activity in the days and weeks ahead, especially as we prepare for our Annual Meeting after Parking Lot Worship on Sunday 9/23. Please be sure to reach out to Mike Youngblood, Council President, Bill Taylor, SMART Team Chair, with questions you may have about council decisions and our plans, or to Pr. Rob or me for pastoral care needs and requests, in the upcoming weeks. Love in Christ, Pr. Brad
. July 23, 2020 Dear Siblings in Christ, Here’s a puzzle. See if you can resolve the contradictions in these statements by two of the most admired thinkers of our Christian faith. St. Paul: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) And Martin Luther: “The Christian is the perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian is the perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” (The Treatise on Christian Liberty) It sounds like a debate happening in public right now over the wearing of masks, doesn’t it? Is it about personal freedom or about public health? St. Paul and Martin Luther answer, “Yes!” The contradiction is only resolved in the one place where all of our contradictions find resolution – in the Body of Jesus Christ. He freely laid his body down for love of sinners like you and me. Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:7-8) On July 22nd, Governor Walz instituted an Executive Order requiring the wearing of masks in public indoor spaces, including churches beginning tomorrow, Saturday, July 25th. He also reiterated all the guidelines with which we are all familiar: physical distancing from people not from the same household, frequent hand washing, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, refraining from the high-risk activity of public singing, etc. A variety of detailed instructions for following these guidelines are available on our website. A good place to start is this 21-question document. As a brother in Christ and as your Synod’s pastor, I call upon each of you not to view this as an occasion to fight for personal liberty but as an opportunity to use your liberty for love. We choose to follow these guidelines as a proven and effective way of loving our neighbors by slowing or preventing the spread of COVID-19! In doing so we will be following Jesus. This continues to be a long and difficult road, with some tough decisions coming, especially around school. There is barely a flicker at the end of the tunnel with a few potential vaccines in human trials. (We are grateful for the vocations of researchers and medical professionals.) But we don’t just sit and wait. We are creatively hearing and sharing the Gospel. We are daily dwelling in God’s Word and coming to God in daily prayer. We are connected via video technologies, the phone, mail, tv and radio as well as small, safe indoor gatherings and larger, safe outdoor ones. When we come to the end of this, we will be a stronger, more resilient, more connected, and more faithful church. The church was made for this! People need the message of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus now, more than ever! Thank you for your faithfulness in ministry and your generosity of time, talent and money that keeps ministry happening. We really are “church together.” In Christ our Brother, Pastor Bill Tesch, Bishop of the NWMN Synod of the ELCA
Dear Members and Friends of First Lutheran Church Battle Lake, On behalf of the entire staff and current leadership at First Lutheran, we want to thank you for all of the ways you have remained flexible and faithful in these difficult and uncertain times! Thank you! How are you doing? We know there are many questions out there about when we will be progressing back to normal or a new normal. There are many issues to address and questions to answer. We are doing our best with the information and statistics that we know at this time. Some of what you see below is from the various guidelines and some language is from neighboring congregations. We are listening very carefully, and looking for a consensus and a wise decision for everyone! The Smart Team is working on a plan for re-opening our building and indoor worship in stages. This weekend we started a parking lot service. One step in the process. Online services continue for those who feel ill or are in the high-risk and vulnerable population categories. The Smart team is charged with representing the entire church community as they make recommendations to the church council for re-opening our building and indoor worship. The team consists of: Bill Taylor, Gordon Fuchs, Dean Damrau, Margaret Dahl, Heidi Jorud, Pastor Brad Skogen, Ruthie Illies, Ann Rasmusson, Stacey Osland, Dick Oftedahl, and Gordon and Kate Rockswold. Each of the members of the smart team will listen to your input. Please share your feelings with anyone on the team. The basis for the recommendations will be the guidelines from our Northwestern Minnesota Synod as well as the current guidelines from state and federal public health resources. The Synod guidelines are based on scientific and medical guidelines and the biblical mandate to care for our neighbor. At this time we have chosen to be very cautious until the statistics reassure us to move forward. We stay alert to case numbers rising or falling in our area of Minnesota. When they fall over a period of 14 days, we will move to the next phase of re-opening. July has been identified as a possible critical peak season for cases. The numbers will guide us. We could write a lot more words but sometimes it is best to share the Word of God From a daily devotional to meditate on. Divine Delays Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” Exodus 13:17 The Macedonian Call 6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10 Not a day goes by when our plans aren’t changed by circumstances beyond our control. Natural disasters, Pandemics, house or car repair problems, unexpected illness, traffic jams on the freeway, a friend or neighbor with an emergency need, unforeseen time demands at work—the list goes on. The question is, “Can we trust that God is in those unforeseen delays, diversions, and distractions?” A rarely-read, single verse in Exodus (13:17) tells how God led the newly-freed Hebrew nation into the Sinai Desert instead of around the southeast “corner” of the Mediterranean Sea into the Promised Land. Why? So the Hebrews wouldn’t encounter the Philistines who inhabited that region, be attacked, and flee back to Egypt for safety. The Hebrews grumbled loud and long about the Sinai sand and sun, but at least they were alive. If they had met the Philistines, they might have been slaughtered. Next time your path is changed unexpectedly, trust by faith that God is in it and that the change was for a good reason (Romans 8:28). Quote of the Day: Let me remind you that this is God’s universe, and God is doing things God’s way. You may think you have a better way, but you don’t have a universe to rule. J. Vernon McGee In all situations, we want to err on the side of love for our neighbors and know that change is inevitable. Patience, grace, and flexibility will be necessary as we strive to make the most appropriate decisions for the people of God at First Lutheran. In addition to planning for re-opening the building for worship, it will be helpful to spend time reflecting on what you have done online or in-person as this time will likely lead to new insights and discoveries for us. Thank you for all the caring ministry you do in Jesus’ name! May God bless us as we walk through these days together. Rev. Bradley Skogen, Pastor Mike Youngblood, Council President Bill Taylor, Health Committee
22 May 2020 Greetings faithful leaders of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, If you have watched or read local and regional news the past couple of days, you have heard that the Minnesota’s Catholic Conference and the Minnesota North and South Districts of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod have chosen to reopen, in defiance of our states “Stay Safe Order”. And just today, President Trump gave an address telling churches to gather in-person this weekend. Our vision as a Synod is “a people being set free by the gospel to be wholly devoted to Jesus and our neighbor in love”. You have continued to demonstrate love for Jesus and your neighbor even in this difficult time, thank you for your faithful ministry. In a letter sent out just nine days ago, with the other five ELCA Bishops from Minnesota, we articulated the values that we believe should guide your decisions to returning to in-person worship. Which could be summarized as faith, facts, and love: We the six bishops of the ELCA in Minnesota share particular values as we live and lead together - with you in this pandemic reality. We continue to engage with and listen to state and local officials. We look to scientists and epidemiologists to guide our decision making. We keep ever before us a commitment to the wellbeing of our neighbors, those in our congregations, communities and beyond. We remain focused on our shared vocation of proclaiming the gospel. It is the good news of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, that anchors our hope. I know that you are longing to be with your congregations in person. I am too. You may be feeling pressure from people to return to in-person gatherings and ignore the clear advice of public health officials here in Minnesota. As your bishop, and in alignment with both Presiding Bishop Eaton and Governor Tim Walz, I urge you to refrain from in-person worship except for groups of 10 or fewer until such time as Minnesota officials have informed us that it is safe to do otherwise (drive-in worship is also a way that you have been finding to gather that is considered safe). Here are some resources. My prayer is that you continue to look to those most vulnerable in your community and that their safety be paramount in your decisions around in-person gathering, people who the CDC calls “People Who Need to Take Extra Precautions”. Thank you for your faithful leadership, and do not hesitate to contact your synod office with questions or concerns. Pastor Bill Tesch Bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA *Here at First Lutheran we have a team of people working on how we might be able to hold “Parking Lot” worship and Outdoor worship in the weeks ahead.