I have many – many things that I love about being a pastor. I love Christmas Eve worship. I love singing “Silent Night” with you all by flickering candlelight. Lutherans are always a good looking lot – but you all look especially lovely by candlelight. Standing there with the deacon each year on Christmas Eve – I fall in love with being a pastor all over again.
I love Easter morning worship. Few things are more fun than getting to proclaim – “Jesus Christ is Risen!” and to hear an entire congregation declare with joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces “He is risen indeed!” It is all I can do not to add a “Whoop! Whoop!” and an “Amen and a Hallelujah!” too. But we are card carrying Lutherans so I try to contain myself – but I just know some year – it is going to slip out. Consider yourselves warned!
I love baptisms. It is such an incredible honor to be able to be the first human being to welcome another child of God into the Christian family. I keep a list of all of the folks I have baptized as a reminder of all of the people I have been able to welcome into the family over the years. Confirmations are awfully cool too!
I can’t say that I love funerals – but it is an incredible honor to be able to share in this part of people’s lives too. I love hearing the stories that families tell about their loved ones. I love just being able to listen and to learn and to be a part of this sacred time.
I really and truly do love Sunday school. In many ways Sunday school is the highlight of my work week. I know that I give Pat Markley and Steve Sarson a hard time sometimes (those two can and do ask some seriously tough questions) – but I love – love – love hanging out with people who like to think about the Bible and God and faith almost as much as I do. As my Will says – those two “think BIG thinks!”
I love – love – love the chaos and noise and joy and fun of vacation Bible school.
I particularly love the relationships that we form over time. The way that we grow together as God’s people as we share in each other’s lives is such a wonderful blessing. These relationships grow as we worship together – as we work together – as we share cups of coffee in the fellowship hall – as we chat in the narthex and the parking lot and the church kitchen. These relationships have been a blessing and a source of comfort and strength for many in our Christian community.
So many of the folks who have worshipped at Saint Stephen over the years are not able to join us right now for in-person worship. Since we have resumed in-person worship at Saint Stephen our worship attendance on Sunday mornings has been in the 30s. (I am not complaining or judging or condemning.) I know that COVID-19 means that many of us are staying home on Sundays to protect ourselves and our beloved family members. I would never want anyone to come to worship who wasn’t ready. More than anything I want all of you to be safe and healthy!
But during this time of social distancing and isolation – I do want to encourage you to remember one another. To remember the importance of our Christian community. To remember your sisters and brothers in Christ.
I want to encourage you to remember one another in prayer. Pray for each other. Please also pray for Saint Stephen and our church council. These are not easy times to be leading the church! Prayer is truly powerful.
I also want to encourage you to reach out to each other. Stay in touch with your sisters and brothers in Christ.
We have had to cancel so many things that we normally delight in doing like coffee hour and passing the peace and Vacation Bible School and hanging out in the narthex and social gatherings. It feels like we have canceled the fun – but we can still nurture our relationships with one another. It will just take more thought and a little more effort on our parts.
How about giving the family who always sat in the pew in front of you during worship a call to see how they are doing these days? Check in and see how the grandchildren of the couple who sat behind you are doing. How about checking in with the students from your Sunday school class or with the folks who you drink coffee with during coffee hour? Or what about checking in with someone from the church prayer list? Or how about picking someone whose last name begins with your favorite letter in the alphabet?
Send a quick text message if you don’t want to go all old-school and actually talk into your telephone. Send a postcard or a note via the US Postal Service. I see the mail person in our neighborhood 6 days a week so I know that they are still hard at work. Email is a wonderful way of checking in too. Email is old school – but not too old school!
These are hard times for so many of us. These days of staying home to stay safe mean that we are missing our friends and our church family.
As the pastor of Saint Stephen I do chat with folks from our Christian community every week. I check in. I make phone calls and send emails and texts – but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day or the week for me to check in with everyone. But we all can reach out to one another. We all can pray for each other. We all can make a phone call or two or three. Or send a text or email or note in the mail once or twice a week.
Even in the middle of a pandemic we can care for one another and support one another and share our love and God’s love.
You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.
In Christ and with Love –
PS – William just wandered in while I was taking pictures. Will looked at all of the pictures and sighed a very grown-up sounding sigh and said – “Boy – I sure do miss church and all of our church people.” Amen little fella – Amen!