In a pamphlet / letter around November 11, 1527 to Rev. Dr. Johann Hess luther1527web, Martin Luther reminds us of how to worship in a worse pandemic than ours, and why God's ministry is essential, including through every pandemic.
First, Luther describes the role of government in a pandemic.
To abandon an entire community that one has been called to govern and to leave it without officials or government, exposed to all kinds of danger such as fires, murder, riots, and every imaginable disaster is a great sin.
To some degree, it could be argued that the French government seems to have abandoned governance in places of worship. It is not because we attend church that the government should allow large gatherings contrary to public health imperatives. After all, the pandemic started in France with of a super-spreader church event in February 2020 wpatfrench2020superspreader.
The gathering itself is one danger. The recklessness of the gathering is another danger. Today, both church and state set examples. President Obama brought some dignity back to the USA for example simply by asking teenage boys to pull their pants up in the face of a fashion epidemic fixated on falling pants and visible underpants. Example and intention have consequence ^4.
Martin Luther is precise in how we should address a pandemic. We are Christ's body, sick, but still Christ's body, as in 1 Cor. 12:12. The hand needs the eye and the head the feet (1 Cor. 12:21) ^5. Consider Luther's words below.
Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another. [...] the devil would tempt us so that we would disregard God's command in our dealings with our neighbor and so we would fall into sin on the left hand. Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. [...] If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.
What a wonderful rallying cry. The letter is adorned with wisdom and insight into the place of an epidemic and the place of a believer. It pains me to only include the above for respect of your attention, dear reader. To sum up, not even the bubonic plague, therefore much less Covid-19, can change the fundamental nature nor need of religious practice.
Luther is also specific, and reasonably so, about three core and necessary missions of the church always and also during a pandemic as follows.
Preach sermons that congregants hear.
Perform sacraments, of which communion.
Minister care to congregants of sound mind.