By Mathew Block
As people across the globe struggle with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, confessional Lutherans are reaching out with the comfort of the Gospel and practical care.
Since April, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) has been chronicling the response of member church bodies around the world in a series of reports at the ILC website. To date, the ILC has highlighted the response of 24 Lutheran church bodies across the globe, including churches in Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, India, Japan, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Sweden, South Africa, South Sudan, Togo, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Many of these nations have restricted church gatherings to limit the spread of the coronavirus. In response, churches have acted quickly to provide online resources for members during the pandemic — through livestreamed worship services, downloadable devotional resources and social media outreach.
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (ILC-Chile), for example, launched a series of daily devotional videos online, featuring the church body’s pastors, vicars and seminary students. “We understand this is not the ideal way,” said ILC-Chile Bishop Omar Kinas. “However, we have taken advantage of technology in order to continue proclaiming the Gospel.”
While many churches have focused on online outreach during the pandemic, this is still an imperfect solution in some parts of the world. In Haiti, for example, most of the population does not have electricity. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti is still ministering to its members through electronic forms — sharing sermons via smartphone apps, for example — but people without regular access to electricity often can’t read or hear these messages until several days later.
The St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa (CLCSA) — which has many members in rural and remote areas, often without easy access to the internet — has likewise found it a challenge to minister to members during this time. “Our church is in a learning curve as to how to serve our membership,” said CLCSA Bishop Mandla Khumalo. “We have learned, and are learning even more, the importance of households becoming the church, with fathers effectively being encouraged to go back to using Luther’s Small Catechism to minister to their families.”
That emphasis on encouraging a greater home devotional life has been true in churches across the globe — one of the good things to come out of the pandemic. Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), for example, encouraged pastors early on to disinfect and distribute hymnals to all members, along with a guide on using the hymnal for personal and family devotions.
The churches of the ILC are also providing practical care in the midst of the pandemic. Several congregations of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines have given away face masks and food to families in need. In Ghana, where many people live hand to mouth, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana has rolled out a range of activities to support the
needy and less privileged in their communities, thanks in part to financial support from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
These are just some of the many ways confessional Lutherans around the world are responding to COVID-19. “This is a time to have faith, and for the church of Christ to be a light to the world,” said Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa. “This can only happen through the Word of God and His Spirit. We therefore humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our dependence on Him, call for mercy, rejoice in our salvation in Jesus Christ, and pray that God may use even the COVID-19 pandemic to our benefit to the salvation of mankind.”
For more information on how member churches of the ILC have responded to the coronavirus pandemic, visit ilc-online.org/tag/covid-19.
The ILC is a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies, including the LCMS.
Mathew Block (email@example.com) is communications manager of the International Lutheran Council and editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine.
Posted July 15, 2020