Update from Council: Shifting protocols for in-person worship

Open doors

St Mark’s Council met on Tuesday, January 4, to discuss the surge in Covid cases in Delaware and our safety response at St Mark’s.

After a lively discussion we decided to continue having in-person Sunday worship as well as the 10 a.m. Winter Forum for Sunday January 9, 16 and 23rd — with the following restrictions:

  • There will be no live music. John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, has pre-recorded music that we will use during our services. We are also asking worshippers not to sing.
  • We are requiring that everyone sit 6 feet away from other worshipping family groups.
  • We are asking that everyone wear a medical-grade paper mask. We will have them at the church for all those who do not have one. If you prefer a cloth mask, we ask that you wear the paper mask under your cloth mask. These restrictions are for the safety of the people around you.
  • We will use Communion Kits only. For now, we will not go to the altar for communion.
  • The Winter Forum will continue as scheduled as long as our presenters are comfortable with our restrictions. Chairs will be socially distanced in the Great Room.

I know this is not how we want to participate in our Church Life at St Mark’s, but the Council believes that for the next few weeks, until this surge is over, these restrictions will enable us to be together, in person.

Admittedly, there is still risk and I can’t guarantee you will not be infected. If you have been exposed to Covid or exposed to people who are unvaccinated please stay home. If you do not feel safe; please stay home. We will continue to have worship services online. We will also have  recorded Winter Forum sessions on St Mark’s YouTube site.

There will be information in the coming weeks concerning the Annual Meeting currently scheduled for Sunday, January 30.

Thank you,

Kitty Dombroski

President, St Mark’s Council

Celebrate Christmas with us!

Join us as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We’ll have two services — a 5 p.m. family-oriented contemporary service and a 7 p.m. traditional service with Scripture, carols and a cantata.

On Sunday, December 26, we will have one Unity worship service at 10 a.m., with lessons and carols.

An update on interim leadership

Pastor David Mueller and Pastor Barbara Melosh

Dear St. Mark’s,

A few years ago, when St. Mark’s had lost our pastor, the Rev. David Mueller reached out to me offering his services for St. Mark’s. He had been in discussion with members of St. Mark’s who had a relationship with him and he felt called to be our interim pastor. Since that time, we have been in his capable hands. Originally, his intent was to stay until we found our new pastor.

Over the past few months, Pastor Mueller has found that his knee has given him increasing pain and lacks stability. Those of us attending services at St. Mark’s and via Zoom have seen him struggling to maneuver at the altar. He is scheduled for knee replacement surgery in early January.

Pastor Mueller reached out to the Council at our last meeting on November 16, letting us know that he will not be able to continue as our pastor in his current capacity. In the days following, he and I reached out to Bishop William Gohl to let him know the situation and ask for assistance. The Synod has found a pastor to assist over the coming weeks. While not a full-time role, this seems to be the best solution in the short term.

The Rev. Barbara Melosh has been at St. Mark’s before and was introduced last month to assist in our transition. Pastor Mueller will continue to be present in a part-time capacity through January 9.

Please join me in welcoming Pastor Melosh to our St. Mark’s family. She will be serving during worship and with Pastor Mueller, providing pastoral care through the end of the year. After the new year we will have a combination of Pastor Melosh and supply pastors for our Sunday Worship.

Please let me know if you have any questions and continue to contact the office for any pastoral needs. Also, please continue to pray for our Call Committee!

Thank you,

Kitty Dombroski

President, St. Mark’s Congregational Council

Returning to two services, 8:45 and 11:15 a.m.

St. Mark's sanctuary

St. Mark’s returns to two services on Sunday, September 12, with two important changes. Our traditional liturgical service now begins at 8:45 a.m. and our contemporary service starts at 11:15 a.m. We will continue to share communion using the kits through September. All are welcome.

In the absence of Interim Pastor David Mueller, the Rev. Barbara Melosh will lead us on Sunday, September 12. The Rev. Wes Hamlin will lead us on Sunday, September 19.

Join us, too, for our Unity Homecoming Service on Sunday, October 3. On this Sunday, we will all gather at 10 a.m. for this joyous homecoming. We hope to return to celebrating communion together at the front of the church on this day, too.

Immediately following the Unity Homecoming Service, we will celebrate with our church picnic! Bring your own chair and a side dish or dessert. Hot dogs, hamburgers, rolls, condiments, iced tea and water will be provided. Please sign up for this on the kiosk in the church narthex or by calling the church office at (302) 764-7488.

St. Mark’s Update: Welcome back!

Choir and praise band musicians leading worship in the sanctuary

Have you seen the restaurant commercial using the theme song for Welcome Back, Kotter? It’s a great song and used really well. If you don’t remember the show, you are young enough to look it up on the internet. It’s a sitcom from the 1970’s.

Welcome back, St. Mark’s! At our last last meeting on May 23, Council approved re-opening St. Mark’s following State of Delaware guidance. We have been worshiping in person since the fall, but with many restrictions. What this broader re-opening means, specifically, is this:

  • Open doorsIf you are vaccinated you are no longer required to wear a mask or social distance at worship if you choose not to do so.
  • If you prefer to continue masking up and socially distancing — that’s OK, too! It takes awhile to adjust to the new normal.
  • If you are not vaccinated, please consider getting the shots. You will be required to wear a mask at St. Mark’s and maintain physical distance.

The re-opening also means our choir and contemporary praise band can sing in the sanctuary again, instead of pre-recording all of the music every week. It was amazing to hear live voices again in our sanctuary. As is our normal tradition, live music will take a break for the summer and start again for our Homecoming/Rally Sunday. We’ll be sending more information on that when we are closer to September.

In other news, the roofers are waiting for supplies and I hope they are able to start very soon. The construction industry has taken a big supply hit and prices for materials are extremely high.

Have a wonderful summer! Church Leadership is working hard to get St. Mark’s “back to normal.” I welcome feedback and would love to hear from you with concerns and suggestions.

Kitty Dombroski

St. Mark’s Council President

Songs, hymns and spiritual songs — together again!

Outdoor hymn sing

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.” — Colossians 3:16

It has been more than a year since St. Mark’s worship has included in-person singing. Instead, because of the COVID-19 virus and the need to slow the spread of the pandemic, prerecorded music has been part of our worship. Those worshipping at home by way of St. Mark’s YouTube channel could sing along with gusto, but we haven’t sung together in the sanctuary since March of 2020.

John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, had an idea that resonated with many: He would organize an outdoor hymn sing.

Rain washed away the first date, but gorgeous sunshine smiled on Sunday, April 18 and almost two dozen people turned out to St. Mark’s parking lot for the event. Most everyone sat in camp-style chairs. Some sat on a nearby curb or in their car.

John set up his keyboard just outside the main entrance and placed several large speakers nearby.

He had prepared a booklet with 16 hymns, most of which were requested in advance by the congregation. It took almost an hour to sing through all of them, but the time flew by. It was good medicine to worship together, to see each other and to sing the songs we love so much.

“Many of those hymns bring emotion welling up in me that is so strong,” said Cheryl Powell, who attended with her brother, David McClure. “I can’t get through them without choking up.”

Among the hymns she noted: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” the Navy Hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” the timeless “Jesus Loves Me” and, of course, “Amazing Grace.”

Other beloved hymns included “Blessed Assurance,” “Beautiful Savior,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “I Love to Tell The Story.”

Click on the image below for a quick sample:

Music is a treasure to many at St. Mark’s, which has had an active choir for generations and also — in pre-pandemic times — has had a less formal second service that includes a worship band.

“What sealed my membership in the Lutheran Church was the consistent use of music throughout the service,” Cheryl said, “and the story I heard about Martin Luther himself, urging another priest/churchman to ‘sing to the glory of God!’ as he played what is known as ‘the Lutheran hymn,’ [A Mighty Fortress].”

Thanks to John and all who came out to make a joyful noise!

Stay tuned. We hear there may be a sequel!

Join us for an outdoor St. Mark’s hymn sing!

John Lasher's portable keyboard and a hymn book. Photo by John Lasher

UPDATE: Because of rain this morning, John Lasher has postponed this. We will try again on Sunday, April 18.

Music will always be a big part of life at St. Mark’s. We love the time-honored hymns of our faith, we love the choruses and the new music our worship band brings. We love our choirs, our special vocalists and our concerts. We just love to worship our Lord with song!

The pandemic punched a hole in a lot of our singing over the past year, but all was not lost. John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and the Worship & Music Committee have worked hard to provide music each week that was both meaningful and accessible. Our faithful “virtual choir” and other musicians led us in worship and many of us sang along with gusto at home as we participated by way of YouTube.

Sunday we get to sing together again as St. Mark’s hosts an outdoor hymn sing, starting at 1 p.m. in the parking lot.

This will be good medicine for all of us and you’ll be part of something that has been part of our Christian tradition for centuries.

“There are hundreds of Bible verses about singing,” said John Lasher, who has a degree in music composition from Cairn University. “We are commanded in Psalm 98, ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!'”

God loves the praises of his people! And he deserves to hear them!

“One thing the Protestant Reformation accomplished was the re-establishment of congregational singing as a central part of Christian worship, after it had been banned in the Catholic church,” John said. “Our denomination’s namesake, Martin Luther, wrote many hymns himself. We are even told in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn at the Last Supper. So, outside and socially distanced, we will once again engage in this vital form of worship.”

John has prepared a booklet with the songs we will sing. Almost 40 hymns were requested — too many to fit into this one event — so John says there may be a sequel! All hymns requested by more than one person have been included in the booklet.

You’re welcome to sing in your car or sit outside (bring a chair, if you want one).

If the weather gets cranky, we’ll move it back a week.

We hope you’ll join in! We think you’ll be glad you did!

Holy Week at St. Mark’s

Image of palm frond by Gini George from Pixabay

There are many opportunities to prepare our hearts as we approach Easter and the commemoration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. We hope you’ll join us this week. All in-person worship requires a reservation. All livestream services may be found on our YouTube channel.

Easter-season hymn sing!

Outdoor Hymn Sing with sheet music illustration

We have missed singing together during these days of pandemic. But take heart! John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, has a plan for a new and wonderful way to rejoice this Easter season!

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 11 (the week after Easter Sunday), St. Mark’s will host an outdoor hymn sing in our parking lot.

All are invited to submit their requests for hymns or contemporary worship songs to John via email, phone call or text message. He will make the selections and assemble a music packet for distribution.

If the weather goes south, the event will move to Sunday, April 18.

Get ready to sing your heart out!

Icy forecast closes St. Mark’s Sunday Feb. 14

Interim Pastor David Mueller

Because of a predicted ice storm, St Mark’s building will not be open Sunday February 14.

Instead, the 10 a.m. worship service was recorded Saturday and that recording will be available on our YouTube channel. You can also access the service by clicking the link below. Many thanks to Interim Pastor David Mueller, John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and Greg Landrey, liturgist, for their quick response.

Don’t forget: The Annual Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, February 21, immediately following the 10 a.m. service.