Part of the call process in the ELCA entails churches and pastors exchanging great big packets of documents full of information about ourselves. We tend to call this “The Call Paperwork.”
Filling out this paperwork is arduous – time consuming and often just plain excruciating.
And I believe this is completely intentional! If the ELCA makes the call process annoying enough – then their pastors aren’t going to be quitting their current churches every single time it gets tough or boring or annoying. Sure – the church council may be driving you to distraction. BUT it is probably better and certainly much – MUCH easier to stay put and fix the problem than it is to face the 40 pages of paperwork it takes just to start the process of moving to a new church! (Not that the Saint Stephen church council would ever bug me. Our relationship is a delight and a blessing and a joy!)
(Anyway – I digress – AGAIN!) When I received the initial call paperwork from the Indiana-Kentucky Synod over 12 years ago now – for a church called Saint Stephen in Louisville – Kentucky – one of the first things I declared to Jason was – “I don’t know about moving to such a big city . . . ”
To which my husband replied – “Read the paperwork – Kerri. Keep an open mind.” Jason is like this. He insists on bringing logic and level-headedness to every situation – even when total irrationality is called for!
So – I kept an open mind – and it was love at first sight/read. And I hadn’t even met Brenda or Tammy or Paul and the rest of the call committee yet! I knew Saint Stephen would be my next call if you all would have me . . .
The second thing I commented on was our church’s name.
Saint Stephen . . . Hmmm . . . Interesting . . .
I knew Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr and his life is written about in the New Testament book of Acts – but I couldn’t recall much more. Who was this Saint Stephen guy – I wondered?
So – I grabbed a Bible (my trusty Thompson Chain with the easy reference index in the back to be exact) and looked up Stephen and started to read. Stephen is a fascinating and inspiring man of faith. I was and continue to be thrilled to serve a Christian community named for such an incredible man of faith.
Saint Stephen fed the hungry. He cared for widows and orphans. He could summarize the Old Testament. He knew his faith and could debate rings around the best religious scholars of his day. And Saint Stephen was loving and gracious and filled with mercy. Saint Stephen was humble and that is rare and beautiful.
Saint Stephen is so cool and inspiring that I decided to plan a VBS style evening of fun – fellowship and learning around his life.
There were Saint Stephen themed games and snacks and crafts and of course we all learned about the life and ministry of our special namesake saint. We also ate and talked and chatted and chattered – because we are Lutheran Christians and we rock at this like a bunch of rock stars.
We started the evening with a yummy – summery feast. We ate and drank and chatted and talked and laughed and raised the decibel level in the fellowship hall to a delightfully distracting level. There was Jello and chips and watermelon and tea and the companionship of our sisters and brothers in Christ. I wandered and meandered from table to table and chatted with amazing Lutheran after amazing Lutheran. Wow – do I love Lutherans!
After supper – we headed into the sanctuary to spend some time together learning about Saint Stephen. Saint Stephen was one cool and deeply inspiring guy.
I may have been the one with the carefully constructed lesson plan for the evening – but like every single time I lead a Bible study – I learned so much from my sisters and brothers in Christ.
The folks of Saint Stephen are wise and insightful. I especially loved listening and learning and hearing folks share about the many and varied ways they serve God in their daily lives.
After our more formal time of learning and discussion in the sanctuary – we headed back into the fellowship hall and courtyard room for games – snacks and crafting. This was when the decibel level really rose in the church and the wild rumpus got rolling!
Jack and Caitlyn were in charge of the first game. The goal was to throw your pool noodle hoops around as much food for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries as possible. Much hilarity ensued as laughing Lutheran after laughing Lutheran gave it a whirl and a twirl and a try!
(The winner was our very own Jason McFarland. I assure you that he had no extra insider help or practice time . . . Seriously!)
While the gaming was happening in the fellowship hall – crafting was happening in the courtyard room. Folks were making heart and cross key chains or beaded necklaces/bracelets/key chains/hearts. The creativity was flowing.
I love to see what folks design and come up with when they are presented with a table or two of craft supplies and are encouraged to play and explore and create and just have fun!
The snacks/desserts came from the creative minds of Markley/Drewett family. We were treated to delicious cookies topped with homemade strawberry buttercream icing! The cookies were symbolic of the rocks that were used to stone Stephen and the pink hearts were reminders of Saint Stephen’s love – even for those who murdered him.
Our final activity was a scavenger hunt all over Saint Stephen to test the participants’ knowledge about their church.
There were clues like:
Where you will find Saint Stephen’s very own electric chair!
Where you could leave your offering to the Lord!
This place has beautiful red – yellow and white stained-glass windows (just red – yellow and white stained-glass windows) and a cross with Jesus’ name.
The Beckman family almost always sits here for worship.
The teams know our church quite well and were very evenly matched – because while the pink team won – it was close. They were neck and neck!
I had a wonderful evening with my sisters and brothers in Christ – learning – laughing – chatting and celebrating the blessings of Christian community.
And I am already starting to plan the next special event night . . . Moses and Miriam? Or Maybe another saint . . .