Dear St. Paul family and friends,
Thank you to all who have participated in writing messages during our time apart. I love it. I wonder if other churches are doing the same? It occurs to me that we may be uniquely prepared to do this because of the strong tradition we have at St. Paul of stepping out of our comfort zones to speak and listen to one another.
Hearing from various voices in the congregation is something we routinely do at special and important moments in the life of our church. For those who may be new or haven’t had a chance to experience it yet, we often have a series of speakers from within our own congregation at our Wednesday evening services during Advent and Lent. Sometimes they accept an assignment to speak on a given Bible verse or passage, or on a specified theme. Other times they participate in a dramatic reading or give personal testimony. We also have a history of asking members to lead worship on Sundays when the pastor is unavailable, and we love to hear stories and reports from members who have traveled or participated in mission work. All of that has been training for this moment. Writing to one another is a great reminder that we’re still connected in the mission of responding to God’s grace in Christ by welcoming all people, preparing disciples, and living faithfully through worship (perhaps in new ways), spiritual growth and action.
Yes, it is difficult that we are not able to gather. been trained for this, too. Every single week at church when we are dismissed, we are sent out to love and serve God. It has never been the intention that we keep it to ourselves in the building. We’re supposed to take everything we have; our faith, talents, treasures and skills; and put them to use as the hands and feet of God in our homes, our families, our workplaces, our communities and the world.
Without weekly gathering for worship and being sent, it’s as if the training wheels are off. On our own, people have quickly responded by doing a sort of mental “time and talent” survey to determine, “What can I do to help in this moment? What do I have to give?” Then they jumped into action to sew, stock food pantries, assist with home schooling, share supplies and recipes, connect with old friends and acquaintances, raise funds, develop new ways to worship, check on neighbors, provide a non-anxious presence at work, make music and art, send supportive messages, and generally be Jesus for one another in any way we can. In this way, we’re still doing Church. It’s what we’ve heard since we were little, and now we know what it really looks like in practice:
The Church is not a building,
The Church is not a steeple,
The Church is not a resting place,
The Church is a people.
I do look forward to seeing you all again soon, in person and close enough to have a conversation. What a great day that will be! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a verse that has stuck with me ever since Jacque Mohs delivered a great message about it on a Sunday when Pastor Joel had to be gone. I’ve repeated it as a mantra in tough moments many times since, including many times in the last eight weeks.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13
Peace be with you,
Church office phone: 515-462-4270
Church office email: StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies: 605-351-0867