The First Lutheran Trust Fund is now accepting applications for the 2022 EPIC (Educational Partners In Covenant) Scholarship Program, which provides fully enrolled college students with scholarship money that is matched by participating ELCA colleges. First Lutheran is delighted to be able to support students within our congregation by offering $1,000 scholarships for the 2022-2023 academic year. Applications are available in the church office or right here. Applications must be filled out completely and returned to the church office by May 1, 2022. Students need to reapply each year in order to continue to receive the scholarship. If an application is late, there is no guarantee that funding will still be available. The Gipp Family Scholarship Fund supports a student from the FLC congregation in their first year attending Luther College. Eligible students will be identified from their EPIC applications.
The FLC Covid Task Force met on March 1 to review and make recommendations for FLC’s next steps. They forwarded the recommendation to the Council which approved it. Covid infections and hospitalizations are approaching the lowest levels of the pandemic. Vaccination numbers are good, especially among people 65 and up, but booster rates are below 40% for the eligible population. As we continue to move towards a more endemic stage of COVID-19, it is OK for First Lutheran to move to a “mask optional” phase for worship and large group gatherings. Communion servers will continue to wear masks while serving. Small groups, including children and youth ministries, consistent with the Decorah Community School District, already had the option of deciding when to wear masks. As with other small groups, the adult and children’s choir leaders and members can decide when masks are optional; until the directors and members decide otherwise, masks will be expected for choir members in worship and practice.
We will continue to monitor the situation and meet quickly to address any upticks or changes in the covid cases in our community. As has been true throughout the pandemic–and before–the quality of our care and respect for our fellow parishioners and neighbors is paramount. Pastor Mike Wilker and the Task Force know there are a good number of members in our congregation that are severely compromised by the Covid pandemic because of their current and potentially critical health conditions. We are grateful to the congregation leaders and members who create and host livestream options for small and large groups as well as for worship. Each month Pastor Mike and Jenine visit members and bring communion–especially to those who cannot attend in person because of Covid. Please contact them if you would like to be on the visitation list.
The COVID-19 Task Force met on Tuesday evening, January 18, to review current procedures at First Lutheran. We began by praying for health care workers, for people who have lost loved ones because of covid, and for people currently living with covid. Then we reviewed FLC’s past protocols, the rates of infection and vaccination in our county, and the practices of other area congregations.
Worship is the activity that will keep the highest safeguards since we want as many people as possible to be able to participate. We also recognized that even with the current omicron infections rate, the vaccines are working to make life better for many people and organizations. Therefore, we agreed to make the following changes regarding worship. We will resume passing offering plates during the worship services and we will offer worshipers the opportunity to come forward for communion. We will offer the option for worshipers to take communion at their seats. Communion distribution will be similar to our practice pre-covid. At the 8:40 a.m. service there will be two “stations,” one on the piano side and one on the pulpit side. At the other two services there will be one station. Thank you to Pastor Mike Wilker, Spencer Martin, and Megan Pitz for developing a thoughtful and safe plan to resume these key parts of worship. Pastor Mike will give further instructions during worship. Also, Pastor Mike reiterated that if any members want to receive communion in their home, please contact him to arrange a visit.
We decided not to make any other changes at this time. We continue to encourage mask wearing in the building for any activity. Small groups members are responsible for speaking with one another to decide together about mask wearing during their gathering. This also means that FLC will continue to follow the Decorah Public Schools protocols for mask wearing for children and teens. Finally, for fellowship times, beverages and food can be shared and we recognize and respect that individuals and families will make choices about their participation. The Task Force will continue to monitor the pandemic and make changes as needed.
All are invited to a “For Generations to Come” project presentation on Sunday, December 19 at 2 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. The presentation will be livestreamed & recorded for viewing after the meeting. We will have another forum in early January to discuss the project.
Click here to join via Zoom. Meeting ID: 323 200 5613 Passcode: FLC2021!
It is a remarkable achievement to have received over $3.3 million in pledges and gifts. Such generosity reflects the deep missional heart of this congregation. It also successfully positions us to achieve the goals established before the campaign. Please know how grateful we are for your support. We look forward to your participation at the meeting and ask for continued prayers that our planning will be guided by the Holy Spirit and the decisions we make will bless our congregation and community for generations to come.
At the congregational meeting last Sunday, Nov. 7, the call committee presented Pastor Michael Wilker as the candidate for senior pastor. The vote to approve Pastor Wilker was unanimous. Let us join in giving thanks and praise to God for sending First Lutheran this gifted leader! In his acceptance letter to the Call Committee & Council, Pastor Wilker writes:
“I feel a humble reverence, deep joy, and abiding peace to join in the ministry God calls us to do together. You have a clear devotion to God. You care about one another and the entire Decorah community. You are excited about God’s ministry for the sake of the whole world. I have come to understand that you and I both believe that creative, liberating preaching and worship along with strong, healthy congregational relationships and generous hospitality for newcomers will be key to nourishing us in the years ahead. God has been with you during these recent years of change–and God continues to sustain and lead us. I look forward to joining you soon.”
Pastor Mike will begin his ministry with us Tuesday, January 18. We pray for the Wilker family during this time of transition, and we pray for their current congregation, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, as they prepare to say goodbye.
Thank you to the call committee for their steadfast service: Greg McGohan, chair; Johanna Bergan, Brenda Carlson, John Evelsizer-Olson, Jon Hart, Jennifer Larson, Karen Martin-Schramm, Betsy Ratashak-Vogel and Dan Shaw. They were joined by youth representatives Rebecca Anderson and Erik Hjelle for the interview stage. Profound thanks also to former call committee members Zac Robinson, chair; Heidi Miller Olinger, Carol Birkland & youth representative, Noah Lovelace.
Click here for the introductory bio presented at the congregational meeting.