August letter from the pastor to Piedmont Valley

Dear Piedmont Valley Lutheran Church

I am overjoyed to be with you in person now! It was great getting to know you a bit and worship
with you on GoToMeeting back in May.
I have started as your pastor during a difficult time. Many of you are feeling grief, frustration,
and helplessness as I do. But as difficult as this time may be, we are still church together. No
matter how we meet, be it online, in the parking lot, outside or in our building, we proclaim the
good news and are church together! My hope and prayers are that we will be stronger and closer
as a church when this pandemic is over and we can go back to normal.
I understand that everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to how we can worship
right now.

We as the council have talked about what worship will look like for us until the end of August:

  • We will continue to offer you being part of the worship service through a streaming
    service like GoToMeeting or Zoom. This is a valid way to be part of worship, know that
    we will continue to acknowledge and welcome you when you are joining us this way.
  • We will continue to offer the radio transmission (99.3 FM) so you can join us at the
    church in your car or on a camping chair under a tree outside with a boom box should
    you prefer that.
    I will set up a table outside the church and bless the elements for communion 30 minutes
    before worship service. You can come get them to take home, or to your car, or chair
    until 8:50 AM.
  • We will worship outside starting this Sunday, July 26. Please sit at least 6 feet apart from
    people who are not in your household. Even after worship do not stand closer than 6 feet
    to people when you want to talk to them. You are invited to wear a mask even outside.
    You can bring your own camping chair or use one the church provides.
  • When it rains we will have service inside and continue to have people sit 6 feet apart.
    Inside, masks are required for the whole service. Since people can have the virus but
    show no symptoms at all, we wear a mask even when we feel fine to protect the most
    vulnerable of our congregation. Should you not want to wear a mask, please use either
    the radio transmission or the GoToMeeting as an option. The parking lot has WIFI and
    you can take part in the service on your smart device.
  • After service we can stand outside and have a social distancing coffee hour. Bring your
    own coffee, juice, snacks and we can connect with each other.
    And the virtual connection will stay open for at least 30 minutes to have social time.

A big thank you to the council and leadership for offering many options for worship! I am
impressed how much you have done and want to lift up the hard work!
I am not an expert for the situation we are in and rely on authorities to help us make decisions
during this time. The South Dakota Synod does not recommend us having in person worship yet.
Most ELCA churches in the area are not having in person worship yet. As your pastor I see how
this health crisis is turning into a mental health crisis and coming together as God’s family is
important. The Synod recommends us to wear masks, not to sing, and to social distance especially
when we meet inside. As they are there to give us guidance like this I trust their expertise and
hope you do too.

I am counting on your help to make the most vulnerable of our church feel more safe so we all
feel comfortable to worship whatever way we chose to worship. This verse has helped me in
approaching the worship question: “But in humility, consider others as more important than
yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

The council will revisit our guidelines every month and adjust them according to the guidance of
the Synod, the CDC, and the South Dakota Health Department.
Please contact me if you have questions and thank you
for your support and prayers,

Pastor Sonja Pilman