UPDATES in Helping Joplin through COVID-19 Coronavirus
On-Campus Activities are carefully resuming. We can’t wait to see you again!
June 2021 News and Updates
UPDATE: Friday, June 18, 2021
Immanuel’s Vacation Bible School — scheduled for the evenings of June 20 through June 24, 2021 — has been POSTPONED due to rising COVID-19 rates in our community. The decision to postpone VBS was a difficult one. Until a couple weeks ago, the Joplin area had been enjoying a steady reduction in COVID cases. Hospital beds were empty, and many have been receiving their vaccinations.
Earlier this week we were informed of two church families testing positive for the newest strains of COVID-19. At least one of these households is fully-vaccinated. After conversations with local health officials from our congregation and church leadership, we have decided that we cannot put our staff, volunteers, children and families at risk. We do not want to contribute to spreading COVID-19 in our community.
As more of Joplin gets vaccinated, as COVID rates begin to decline again, and as local hospital beds begin to be emptied in the future, we hope to reschedule our Vacation Bible School for later this year.
Thank you to our amazing group of volunteers who have put in so much work and planning for a safe, fun VBS experience! We hope to experience the fruit of your labors soon.
April 2021 News and Updates
UPDATE: Wednesday, April 21, 2021
By recommendation of the COVID Committee and after discussion by the Elders and Church Council, Immanuel has further loosened our COVID-19 restrictions.
- We will remove the seating restrictions in the sanctuary, while still encouraging families to social distance on their own. Masks are still encouraged, especially when folks are within six feet of one another.
- Hymnals will be available for worshipers from a cart in the lobby, if they desire them. After each service the used hymnals will be placed in a segregated tub before being prepared for use the next week.
- In-person Kids Talks will resume, mostly replacing the pre-recorded ones. Children for now will be asked to stay in the pews with their parents.
- Announcements and Celebrations, Mission Prayer and Doxology will resume at the end of each service. On Communion Sundays, worshipers are welcome to return to their pews after receiving the Lord’s Supper.
- An in-person Vacation Bible School is planned for June 20-24 in the evenings. Other Kids Ministry activities like Sunday School are planned to resume in the Fall.
- A carefully-planned church picnic, as well as an ice cream social to welcome new members will be some of the first activities that reintroduce food service to the congregation at-large. Other smaller groups (like Youth Ministry and Men’s Group) are already having success in serving food.
Communion protocols for COVID-19 are still in place. (See procedures below.) Still no passing of the offering plate, attendance pads or communion cards. We will continue to evaluate our procedures to ensure public safety, as we work to restore Immanuel’s ministries back to normal.
COVID-19 Vaccines are now available for all Missouri adults. They are free, and help us to protect ourselves, our community and the people we love and care for for Jesus’ sake. (Find vaccine information here.)
March 2021 News and Updates
UPDATE: Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Immanuel’s COVID Committee met last night to review our campus COVID policies in light of recent changes within the City of Joplin. In town, the mask mandate has been lifted. Group gatherings are no longer restricted. Social distancing requirements have been relaxed, but are still recommended inside businesses and churches. Individual and corporate responsibility, testing, and adjusted social distancing are the city’s new emphasis.
Our local hospital COVID units are seeing less and less patients, and vaccine is being distributed more widely. (Find vaccine information here.) Thankfully, Immanuel has not been the source of any mass spread of the COVID-19 virus, which seems to be rare among churches in our area. Thank you, Immanuel! Our precautions have been working well so far, by God’s grace.
Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.-Joel 2:13
COVID-19 AND WORSHIP CHANGES
As of now, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin will be making a few adjustments to our COVID policies during worship as Easter approaches.
- We will maintain our every-other pew method of social distancing even as we encourage more people to return to worship in-person. Our in-person worship average is about 45 per service, but we have room to seat at least 70 comfortably and safely.
- We will continue our emphasis on disinfecting high-touch surfaces between services.
- We will begin standing and sitting again during the appropriate parts of the service (reading of the Gospel, certain prayers, etc).
- Holy Communion will remain essentially the same:
- served to individual family groups standing at the rail
- individual, contactless portions
- dismissal as you finish
- Offerings will still be collected as you arrive/leave in the lobby (and online if you choose). But, we will begin bringing a couple of the offering plates forward during the Offertory, following the sermon.
- We will continue to strive to keep our worship services to an hour or less to reduce our length of exposure to one another.
- We will continue to recommend the use of masks, and encourage our people to assess their health carefully before being around others at church. (Consider getting vaccinated, folks!)
- The MLS building is for teachers, staff and students only. Classes continue the practice of not mixing with other grades for lunchtime, recess, etc. Students follow masking requirements and are temperature checked as they enter the building each morning.
- ILC Youth are temperature checked and wear masks indoors and anytime within six feet of others. Weekly Youth Meals are prepared offsite and carefully served. Individual portion foods are used when possible.
January 2021 News and Updates
UPDATE: Monday, January 4, 2021
Happy New Year! By God’s grace, Immanuel has made it through months of online-only worship services. With much careful planning, in May of 2020 we resumed in-person worship, and in August began to open our campus for a growing number of other activities as well. Our Martin Luther School also developed and implemented a plan that allows them to have in-person classes, continuing to provide an excellent education for our students and their families.
Immanuel and MLS have been careful to follow CDC and local guidelines for occupancy numbers, masking, social distancing, etc. Thanks to the expertise of our COVID Committee, the hard work of our leadership, elders and staff, and the care shown by the people of Immanuel across our ministries, we have been able to avoid the spread of COVID-19 from this place so far.
Immanuel Lutheran Ministries will continue to give thanks to God in 2021 for His mercy and wisdom. We pray that the Lord Jesus Christ would continue to lead our community through the uncertainties of this New Year with His steady hand.
October News and Updates
UPDATE: Monday, October 12, 2020
Food Boxes Delayed
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin has been participating in the distribution of “Farmers to Families Food Boxes” from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all summer long. In past weeks, our weekly distributions have grown to 200 boxes on Tuesday mornings, with cars lined up around our parking lots and down the street! (See local news story.)
Unfortunately, the supply of Food Boxes has stalled in the last couple of weeks as a third round of government funding, with new suppliers and trucking contracts have been slow to materialize. We have no control over this, and will have to wait patiently for the matter to be resolved regionally, we are being told.
Along with the other churches, charities and non-profits in town, Immanuel Lutheran in Joplin is hoping to see a new shipment arrive in two weeks. It is our goal to distribute Farmers to Families Food Boxes again, beginning on Tuesday, October 27. Please stay tuned to Immanuel Lutheran’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the newest information. We look forward to helping our Joplin community with more Food Boxes soon!
September News and Updates
UPDATE: Sunday, September 13, 2020
Immanuel is carefully resuming some on-campus meetings, classes and activities. Participants are asked to wear a mask indoors and to continue following Immanuel’s COVID-19 guidelines as listed lower on this page.
- Pastor Mech’s Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study will resume in the Fellowship Hall at 9:20 am. Tables and chairs are carefully spaced.
- Bill Ideker’s Sunday Morning Adult Class will meet in the Church Sanctuary instead of the school building at 9:20 am.
- DCE Jason Glaskey’s high school youth will meet in the Youth Center on Sundays at 9:20 am.
- Youth Wednesdays will resume with several adjustments aimed to avoid overcrowding and viral spread. Watch the “Youth COVID House Rules” video to see how things have changed.
- Pastor Mech’s grade 7/8 Confirmation Classes will begin on Wednesday, September 30 at 6:45 in the Fellowship Hall.
- LifeLight Bible Studies (on a new day and time) and Men’s Bible Breakfast are also set to resume in September. More information to come…
A couple of other things to note…
- The Martin Luther School building is being used exclusively by the school children and staff at this time… No parents in the building… No church or community activities in the school either…
- Limiting who enters the school building maintains classroom setups designed to establish limited-touch work zones, helping to avoid cross-contamination. Every space in the school is carefully organized and maintained with the goal of keeping children and teachers healthy, and the school up and running.
- Immanuel’s limited number of church and community activities are currently being held in the Church Building and Youth Center (and outdoors when possible.)
- Some classes and activities continue to be on “pause” as we plan new solutions and alternatives.
August News and Updates
UPDATE: Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Martin Luther School is back! A mission ministry of Immanuel Lutheran Church to the Joplin community, MLS re-opened today with their first day of school! Martin Luther has a student population of 85 children ranging from age 2 through 8th grade. Here are some of the highlights from MLS’s COVID Safety Plan:
- In-person or online enrollment options. (Most families have chosen to attend in-person.)
- A new body temperature scanner has been installed at the main entrance of the school. Everyone who enters must pass a wellness check.
- Only students and staff are allowed to enter the building.
- Classrooms have been rearranged (some classrooms moved) to provide adequate social distancing.
- Masks are worn by all staff while inside. Students wear masks depending on age, spacing, and type of activity.
- Careful hand-washing and extra surface sanitizing protocols are being followed throughout the day, with a thorough cleaning of the building each evening.
- Children stay within their classroom group throughout the day, with careful scheduling of recess, hallway and restroom procedures, and lunches in classrooms instead of the cafeteria to help limit student exposure to others.
- For now, the School Building will not be used by other church or community groups.
UPDATE: Monday, August 17, 2020
As the City of Joplin’s Mask Ordinance has expired, Immanuel Lutheran has decided to continue our mask requirement and limited-seating public worship practices. In-person worship attendance has slowly risen over the past few weeks as folks are gaining confidence in our church’s COVID-19 Safety Plans, which seem to be working well.
Sunday services are limited to 80 worshipers per service. So far, we have not come close to reaching capacity. Overall in-person worship numbers are approaching 100 per weekend. Online worship engagement remains steady. Folks are finding the live stream of every service on Facebook, YouTube and at immanueljoplin.com.
Our temporary procedures for Holy Communion are working. Folks are able to safely receive the Sacrament. See our Communion Guidelines and Video below.
Members have been faithfully mailing in their tithes and offerings. Others have embraced technology by utilizing Givelify, Immanuel’s online giving solution. Thank you for continuing to support the Lord’s work through the ministries of Immanuel Lutheran Church!
The Immanuel COVID Committee continues to meet as needed. If possible, our next step in reopening is to begin On-Campus Small Groups and Bible Studies after Labor Day (9/7). Youth Ministry and Kids Ministry ideas are also being carefully planned.
July News and Updates
UPDATE: Thursday, July 9, 2020
Immanuel’s COVID Committee has met over the last several weeks to monitor the progress of COVID-19 in our community, with the hopes of moving forward in our re-opening plan. In light of the recent increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Joplin area we have decided to “stay the course” for now.
To summarize our status:
- We continue to be open for limited-occupancy worship only, with social distancing, use of hand sanitizer, and the wearing of face masks encouraged. **Face masks are now required. See below.**
- Our church and school offices are open throughout the week, but the campus is otherwise closed for meetings and activities other than Sunday worship services.
- Sunday services are streamed at the regular worship times (8 and 10:30) on Facebook and YouTube. Links are available at the top of our home page.
- Also, a new “VBS At Home” is being made available to our community. Free supply kits and online resources are created by folks from our church and school. Learn more.
The COVID Committee will meet again in the coming weeks to reassess and make changes as appropriate.
READ OUR NEW HOLY COMMUNION GUIDELINES
UPDATE: Monday, June 1, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church’s COVID Committee met earlier this evening, and discussed the success and challenges of being open for worship over the past two weeks. Congregation members are returning slowly and cautiously. The committee discussed how to move forward in our re-opening plan. The following policy changes were approved, with many other changes to come as soon as state and local guidelines allow it.
- No more RSVPs and reservations needed. For now, services will continue to be limited to the first 80 to arrive.
- Holy Communion is back with a few modifications:
- No common cup yet.
- Hand sanitizer to be used by all as they come forward.
- We will stand instead of kneel at the rail.
- Disposable containers have been individually placed along the rail with bread and wine for communicants to take and eat.
- One household at a time will come forward to keep social distance between families.
- Communion will be the very last part of the service. Bring your belongings forward with you.
- Worshipers will exit down the center aisle as they receive Christ’s Body and Blood.
- Gluten-free and alcohol-free options are available.
- Churchgoers are welcome to gather outdoors in the parking lot for socially-distanced conversation after the services.
Careful personal hygiene, hand washing and face masks are still encouraged. Services will continue to be streamed online for those who are still unable to attend in-person. Find us on Facebook, YouTube, and at immanueljoplin.com/SERMONS.
If you have input for the COVID Committee, please fill out our Contact Form or contact our Congregation President, Darrell Ideker or Head Elder, Jeff Schilling. The church office is open M-F from 9 to 3. Call 417-624-0333.
READ THE PHASE ONE RE-OPENING PLAN
UPDATE: Sunday, May 17, 2020
Dear members of Immanuel,
Having been separated from our church friends for nine weeks because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are finally making plans to reopen our sanctuary for Sunday public worship services. The first Sunday open will be May 24. We will be worshiping in two services at our normal times of 8:00 and 10:30.
We will be observing some special guidelines for a while until further restrictions are lifted. Because we are required to maintain “social distancing,” every other pew in the sanctuary has been taped off for non-use. In addition, generally only five to six people will be seated in each pew so that families and individuals can maintain a six foot buffer distance. In order to facilitate this, elders/ushers will seat people from front to back as they arrive. So, please understand that you may not be sitting in your favorite pew.
Also, because of the mandated limited number of parishioners allowed in the sanctuary, we will be requiring that you call the church office and let us know if you plan to attend and how many will be in your family. This will be on a first come-first served basis. When we reach 80 people for each service, we will be required to stop taking additional reservations. Call Kimberly Johnson in the church office at 417-624-0333 to be included in one of the services. [Note: It is no longer necessary to make reservations, unless numbers begin to reach capacity.]
The following additional items are offered for your information:
- If you have a fever or feel ill, please refrain from attending church services.
- If you are over 65 or considered “at risk” due to an underlying health condition, please consider not attending.
- Although not required, if you have masks, you are encouraged to wear one.
- We will go without shaking hands and other physical contact.
- When you enter the church, go directly to the main doors of the sanctuary to be seated. Remember to maintain a six foot distance from others who are entering. Do not congregate in the narthex.
- When the service is over, you will be ushered out in reverse order from back to front by the elders/ushers. Again, do not congregate in the narthex but go directly to one of the exit doors.
- We will not celebrate communion on this first Sunday. Additional precautions must be developed first.
- To mitigate contamination possibilities, all hymnals, communion cards, pencils, etc. have been removed from the sanctuary. All items have also been removed from the narthex and visitor’s center, including the children’s activity bags. Attendance books will not be passed.
- We will use the video screens only for the services.
No bulletins will be printed. [Note: Bulletins are now being placed in pews before the service begins. Bulletins left behind after the service will be disposed of and replaced with new ones for the next group.]
- Offering plates will be located on a table in the narthex rather than passing the plates in church.
- The nursery will not be available. Restrooms will be available for one person at a time.
- Hand sanitizers will be available in several locations in the church for your use.
- All touch areas such as pews, door handles, etc. will be completely sanitized and disinfected after every service.
- At this time, there will be no Sunday School or Bible Classes.
Although these guidelines and suggestions may seem burdensome, please understand it is with sincere concern for the safety and health of our church family that they are being incorporated.
It will be so wonderful to again be in God’s house together for worship. If you are unable to attend, or are still a little uncomfortable being out in a public venue, please continue to worship with us on-line at immanueljoplin.com. We will continue to live stream services for the foreseeable future.
Also, please continue to pray for the safety and good health of our church members and friends, our church staff and all who may be suffering from this terrible pandemic. Remember that, as our church name declares, GOD IS WITH US.
Yours in Christ,
Darrell Ideker, President
UPDATE: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 — As of Monday, May 3, the City of Joplin and State of Missouri are cautiously easing restrictions and allowing local businesses and churches to open up at 25% capacity with proper social distancing and other safeguards in place.
Immanuel’s campus is not open yet, but our congregation president has formed a “COVID Committee” to determine the best course of action to reopen our church for public worship. This committee is comprised of twelve Immanuel members, including community healthcare professionals as well as representatives from several church boards and professional staff.
It will likely be 2-4 weeks before we have all of the proper supplies, training and safeguards in place. In the mean time, please continue to worship with us online each weekend on Facebook, YouTube, and at immanueljoplin.com/SERMONS.
Please pray for our COVID Committee, that their wise planning would help us at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin to return to public worship together as soon as possible.
COVID Committee Members:
NOTE: * indicates healthcare professional
- Darrell Ideker, chairman
- Dr. Laurie Behm, MD*
- Gary Dieckhoff*
- DCE Jason Glaskey
- Rev. Gregory Mech
- Ron Repplinger
- Whit Sanders, RTT*
- Jeff Schilling
- Brad Schweiss
- Donna Stokes, RN-IC*
- Richard Zimmerman, RN*
- Chas Ziulkowski
UPDATE: Tuesday, April 14, 2020 — The campus at Martin Luther School (and all Joplin area schools) will be closed for the remainder of the school year. Online instruction continues, thanks to the efforts of our amazing teachers. To our teachers and staff, MLS Principal Jeremy Schamber says, “I’m am very proud of the hard work and the hours you are dedicating to this new learning experience. I have put a lot on your plate. I understand how stressful this has been. Yet, all of you embraced these challenges because of your love for the kids and the mission of our school. I’m so proud of you! It is an honor for me to work and serve with you!”
Immanuel Lutheran Church continues to follow the city, state and federal guidelines for social distancing and sheltering in place. Our Immanuel Campus will remain closed through at least May 3.
Online worship services are being broadcast at the regularly-scheduled times on Facebook, YouTube, and at immanueljoplin.com/SERMONS. Though much of our staff is working from home, phone calls are being answered and messages returned from both the church (417-624-0333) and school (417-624-1403) during the week.
UPDATE: Saturday, March 28, 2020 — A message from our congregation president, Mr. Darrell Ideker…
I spent a good deal of time this past Friday talking with health care professionals, Pastor Mech, Chief Elder Jeff Schilling and other church leadership here at Immanuel about the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having, or will have, on our community.
It is with a sad heart that I am here to inform the congregation that we will continue our suspension of public worship services through the month of April as our community continues to fight the coronavirus battle. Although our state and local leaders have not yet forced a shelter-at-home policy, it is likely soon to happen. Even so, the social distancing and “no more than ten people in a group” gathering guidelines that remain in effect preclude our worshiping together at this time. Our Martin Luther School will also be closed through April 24, as are all area schools.
As unpleasant as the decision to suspend our worshiping together is, especially as we approach Easter, the highest festival season of the year, please know that it is made in the best interest of our membership and our church staff. We want to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.
In the meantime, please make sure to log on at immanueljoplin.com or on Facebook LIVE at facebook.com/immanueljoplin to worship with us remotely on Sundays and for Lenten services.
And please continue to mail in your weekly offerings. It is critical at this time when we are not able to meet together that we keep financially sound.
-Darrell Ideker, congregation president, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin
UPDATE: 8:00 am, Sunday, March 22, 2020 — Our first Online-only worship service is a success! Pastor Mech, our organist Betty Lingenfelter, and DCE Jason Glaskey recorded the service then posted it on Facebook on Sunday morning, so that God’s people from Immanuel could gather together to worship Jesus. After its “premiere” on Facebook, the service and sermon have also been posted to immanueljoplin.com, on YouTube, as well as an audio-only Podast. If you need help figuring out how to access the worship service online, call Jason Glaskey at the church office M-F from 9 to 3pm.
UPDATE: 9:00 pm, Tuesday, March 17, 2020 — At the Church Council Meeting this evening it was decided that Immanuel-Joplin’s campus will be closed for all meetings, activities and worship services until at least Palm Sunday, April 5. Services will be streamed on Facebook LIVE. Also, sermons, updates and other resources for your family will be posted regularly on immanueljoplin.com.
Our Martin Luther School principal met throughout the day with area health officials and school administrators. In a collective decision, area schools decided that classes will be suspended through April 3.
Immanuel’s Church Council plans to meet again on March 31 to reassess the possibility of re-opening our campus.
We are still here for you! Call the church office at 417-624-0333 if we can help you in any way. In times of uncertainty, we will cling to Christ!
UPDATE: 11:30 am, Tuesday, March 17, 2020 — As we watch and weigh the recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) we have decided to suspend our Wednesday evening Lenten Meals.
As of right now, worship services are still scheduled on our campus for 4:00 and 7:00 pm on Wednesday, March 18. Worshippers are asked to follow Immanuel’s COVID-19 Safety Measures, detailed below. Remember: 1) Do not come to church if you or someone in your house has not been feeling well. 2) Wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and keep a safe social distance from others. 3) All services will be streamed on Facebook LIVE and reposted later on immanueljoplin.com. An audio version of the sermons will be included in our podcast as well.
Immanuel’s Church Council will be meeting this evening (3/17) to discuss other future plans and possibilities. Do you have questions or input? Call the church office at 417-624-0333 or fill out our Contact Form.
COVID-19 Safety Measures at Immanuel
(published March 14, 2020; updated March 18, 2020)
NOTE: As of 3-18-20, our campus is closed for all meetings, activities, and worship services until further notice.
To show our care and concern for the health and safety of our members and community, Immanuel Lutheran Church will make these temporary changes to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus:
- We encourage those who have not been feeling well to refrain from attending worship and other church activities.
- We will go without shaking hands and other physical contact. Smiles and kind words are always encouraged.
- Hand washing and use of hand sanitizer will be emphasized. Pastor and Elders will also re-sanitize before serving Communion.
- Only individual cups will be used in the Sacrament for a while.
- Offering plates and attendance books will not be passed. Offerings will be received in the back of the church as the congregation exits the service. Immanuel’s online giving tool, GIVELIFY, is also available. (See our online giving page.)
- Special food safety measures and extra cleaning of our facilities will be observed.
- Worship services will be streamed on Facebook LIVE for those who are unable to attend in person. (Follow @immanueljoplin on Facebook.)
- Following health guidelines, Louie Comfort Dog will not be making visits for several weeks. Pastoral visits are also being limited at certain facilities.
- A group of volunteers from Immanuel will be available to do shopping, run errands, or otherwise help those with the highest risk, including older members, those with compromised immunity or chronic illness. Call the church office at 417-624-0333 to see how we can help someone in need. (Fill out our Contact Form if you need help, or would like to help.)
- Our staff and leadership will continue to monitor the recommendations of the CDC and local health officials, making adjustments to our plan as necessary.
Go to immanueljoplin.com and check social media regularly, as worship services and other important messages are posted to keep you both encouraged and informed.
A Message from LCMS President Harrison Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod | Pastor Matthew C. Harrison | lcms.org
(published March 13, 2020)
A Pastoral Letter Regarding Public Worship During the Coronavirus Outbreak from President Lee Hagan
Missouri District | The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod | Office of the President | mo.lcms.org
(published March 12, 2020)