Pastor’s Report to the Congregation for 2012
Submitted by Pastor Erik Christensen
In 2013 our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Formed in 1988 as the merger of its predecessor bodies — the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) — the newly established ELCA was more than just an association of congregations, it was the coming together of a rich variety of cultures. The ELCA brought together the liturgically formal, organizationally-centralized, and ecumenically-oriented LCA with the Midwestern, congregational piety of the ALC and the reforming character of the AELC.
The ELCA’s webpage (www.elca.org/25) for our 25th anniversary celebrations states,
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul writes, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
We are a church that is deeply rooted — and always being made new. Our roots are in Scripture, tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, as well as in the vibrant communities and rich histories of our congregations. These roots are an ongoing source of nourishment, enabling us to be a church that is resilient, always reforming and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Reading that description of our life together as a church, I was struck by a couple of things:
First, it was gratifying to see that the language we’ve been using throughout the fall during our stewardship campaign, Deeply Rooted — Branching Out, was also being used throughout the church as a metaphor for the ways we are living into the future together (www.elca.org/LIFT). We are, as congregations, but also as a denomination, always living in the tension between who we have been and who we are becoming — a tension that is never resolved, but faced anew in every generation.
Second, I noticed something in our denomination’s framing of this 25th anniversary that gave me renewed courage and hope for the future. As we enter our 7th year of redevelopment, it can sometimes feel like we are playing catch up with the rest of the church. As though, somehow, other congregations have managed to keep up with the pace of change while we have, somehow, fallen behind. As I read Paul’s words to the Corinthians though, I am reminded that the process of redevelopment is really something to which all people, all congregations, all denominations, and the whole church is being called, always and eternally. Because we are in Christ, we are always becoming new!
So, I look back on 2012 through that insight — that, in Christ, we are always being made new. As you read the ministry reports submitted by the Education & Faith Formation, the Social Justice and the Worship committees, you’ll detect that same theme. Over and over our lay leaders report, “the past year was a reboot,” or “after reconstituting ourselves…” Acting Council Chair Scott Shippy concludes the introduction to his report, “it should not be surprising that a new way of being St. Luke’s is needed.”
A new way of being — of being St. Luke’s, of being Lutheran, of being Christian — is needed. A new way of being is always needed, and by faith the Church’s confession has always been, “In Christ… everything has become new!”
Like the ELCA, St. Luke’s renewal has brought together a rich variety of cultures. Among us you can find lifelong Lutherans and people only recently come to faith; we count among our numbers people steeped in the words and sounds of Lutheran liturgies from green hymnals and blue hymnals and red hymnals, and we are a to people who didn’t grow up with books in their hands at all, but instead sang songs by memory and by heart, passed down from their parents and grandparents. We are a community of readers and thinkers, planners and organizers, singers and writers, listeners and prayer-warriors. We are artists. We are people who have lived in this neighborhood all our lives and people just passing through. We are young and old. We are single and partnered. We are Latino and Anglo, Native and colonizers, Black and White, gay and straight, bisexual and transgendered. We are people with homes. We are people who have known homelessness. We are able-bodied, healing from wounds, and in recovery from addictions. We are newly born, we are nearing death and, by our baptism, we are all headed for new life.
We are being made new!
Surrounded by so rich a diversity, arriving each Sunday to discover that we are once again not the same community that we were the week before, we have a special calling as a congregation at this time to look up from our books and look around our sanctuary. We need to always be noticing who has just arrived. We need to be intentionally welcoming the visitor, inviting the newcomer for coffee and conversation, or a play date with our kids, or dinner in our homes.
We need to become comfortable telling the story of how God is moving in our lives, and we need to continue to create opportunities — through bible studies, through service opportunities, through small groups, through worship — for people to experience the real and transformative power of God’s love for them, and in them, and through them for the sake of the world.
This is work none of us can do alone. We need the skills and passions, the gifts and graces of each and every person in our community. We have been blessed by an extraordinarily committed group of lay leaders whose mission is to equip the whole congregation for lives of loving service.
As we embark on this new year, our 7th year of redevelopment, our 25th as a denomination, our 113th as a congregation, we draw our courage from the witness of God’s saints, ordinary people like us, who in every generation were transformed by the power of their baptism, made new creations by the power of Christ. Through them God healed and transformed the world. Through us, God continues to act.
With thanksgiving for God’s power at work in us, always making us new,
Pastor Erik Christensen