The COVID-19 pandemic is an "unprecedented experience," the Rev. John Dietz, pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Church at Eveleth, wrote in a letter to parishioners. "We are suddenly aware of what we have taken for granted — going to a restaurant, full shelves at the grocery stores, sending our kids to school and gathering for worship... We must always err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety and well-being of others, especially the elderly and people most at risk for this disease. Please know that there will be a time when we will be able to return to worship and to share Holy Communion."
And the Rev. James Bissonette of the Catholic Diocese of Duluth issued a directive last week that all public Masses are suspended through April 20, a period of time that includes Holy Week with Easter Sunday April 12. Father Bissonette wrote on the website, "I do not take these temporary measures lightly and I strongly encourage you, the Faithful and the Clergy, to do the same. Let us pray that I will be able to lift them soon, that we will remain safe and well as we stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross during this crisis time, and that we will be able quickly to resume the public sharing of the Gospel and our Catholic faith."
Meanwhile, flower shops are blooming with Easter lilies. Owner Jamie Falkowski of Eveleth Floral has some 200 Easter lilies growing in the greenhouse and many on order with distributors in the Twin Cities.
Virginia Floral owner Mary Jo Ralston said in a telephone call, "We were very fortunate that we have a grower in Minnesota, so I have access to good quality. Should this shutdown end before Easter, I will have them ordered. We just have to be fluid and take one day at a time."
Eveleth Floral provides Easter lilies for several churches in the area, Falkowski said. The Rev. Nick Nelson of the Tower, Orr and Cook Catholic churches said they will take the plants and give them to the people who ordered them, in order to support local business, and Holy Spirit Church in Virginia "is going to take some Easter lilies and have them in church for Holy Week online services."
Mary Pogorelc, owner of Mary’s Lake Street Floral in Chisholm, said she has had to lay off her lone, part-time employee. She’s also cutting back when ordering and may have to look at decreasing her hours of operation because of cancellations.
As people adapt to the Mass changes, the Rev. Michael Garry of Resurrection Catholic Church in Eveleth and St. Joseph's in Gilbert asked people to continue supporting the church collections by online giving or mailing or dropping their church envelopes at the church office in Eveleth. Last weekend Father Garry delivered Mass via YouTube from St. Joseph's and Resurrection.
Our Lady of Hope Parish that includes Catholic churches in Aurora, Biwabik and Hoyt Lakes with the Rev. Peter Lambert offers electronic giving. The parish website reads, "No need to write checks and prepare envelopes every week. It is convenient for you and provides much needed donation consistency for our parish. To sign up, email Deb at email@example.com. Once we have your email address in our system you will then be able to login and set up your account."
The website for Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Virginia Father Moravitz announced on the church website, "Watch videos of our Masses, Stations, prayers and updates on our YouTube channel." Father Moravitz will be livestreaming his Masses on his Facebook page. Sunday Masses are at 10 a.m. and Moravitz also offered drive-through blessings at the church this past Sunday.
Peace United Methodist Church in Virginia, with the Rev. Mickey Olson, has canceled services until further notice in light of the COVID crisis. This announcement dated March 20 is on the church's website: Pastor Mickey has taped a worship service which will appear Saturday on the web site peaceumc.us and on the television starting Sunday.
The Rev. Dietz of United in Christ Lutheran, Eveleth, wrote in his letter "Many churches in our area have suspended all in-person activities through April and some already through mid-May. During this time do not use the church for any meetings or events. Restrooms, kitchen and other public surfaces will have been cleaned ... (Using them) could compromise the health of others." Videos will be posted online for March 22 and 29. "As it gets warmer, we will also explore the possibility of holding drive-in services as in the summer," Pastor Dietz said.
The Duluth Diocese has issued these guidelines in addition to the suspension of services:
The obligation to attend Sunday Mass is lifted until the crisis passes. Mass can be followed on television, radio and online. Priests should see to it that churches remain open for an extended period of time each day so that those who wish may come and pray before the Lord in the tabernacle. Priests are asked to keep their parish offices open according to a schedule so that priests and people can stay connected. Gatherings of more than 10 people are canceled. Concerning Holy Week, priests should celebrate the Liturgies of Holy Week privately without a congregation. They should keep their churches open for an extended period of time on Good Friday. Baptisms, receptions into the Church and confirmations set for the vigil should be postponed to a later date.