Join the congregation in celebrating the birth of Christ this Christmas Eve at any of the three worship times that best fit your schedule. Here are the times and a brief description of each.
5:00pm Christmas Eve Family Worship
A Children’s Sermon and anthems sung by both the Cherub and Children’s Choirs as well as the Children’s Bell Choir ringing are the highlight of this worship service. This is a great family-focused worship and we hope you will invite your friends without a church home to join you. Communion will be celebrated and the service ends with candlelight singing of Silent Night.
8:30pm Christmas Eve Traditional/Youth Worship
The Youth Choir and Bell Choir continue to be the featured choir at this service and returning college students are invited to join them in singing familiar anthems if they choose. A traditional Christmas Eve sermon is preached. Communion will be celebrated and the service ends with candlelight singing of Silent Night.
11:00pm Christmas Eve Classic “Midnight” Worship
The Adult Choir and Bell Choir are the featured choirs at this service with a traditional sermon preached from the pulpit or aisle. While it does not begin at midnight it is often referred to as the Midnight Mass or Midnight Service by many as we end the worship after midnight to begin our celebration of Christmas Day. Communion will be celebrated and the service ends with candlelight singing of Silent Night.
What creates community in a congregation? What is it that enables our relationship with the person who always sits two rows up in front of us to go from simply a nameless person with whom we share the Peace in worship to the person we share the joys and concerns of our daily lives outside of worship and during the week and they share theirs? How and when is that connection made?
On this “travel” portion of my sabbatical I’ve had the joy of reconnecting with people from three of my previous calls. I played a round of golf with a former youth advisor from my second call and shared the joys and challenges of not only ministry but our lives as well. In Montana I stayed with not only our former neighbor in my first call, but a dear friend who was recently widowed. It was as if I still lived across the street and we had just had coffee the day before. We grieved together. We laughed together. We shared life and faith together. I wasn’t a former pastor. I was his friend. And just this last weekend I had the joy of staying with a family for whom I feel more like a brother or cousin than their parent’s and grandparent’s intern and pastor. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in years, it didn’t take long until our conversation went deeper than Colorado weather and catching up with their work and the girls’ school activities. It’s like you are with family who ask and say the hard questions and comments that touch you deep in your soul. They make a difference in my life, as I hope I do in theirs.
How does that happen? I think it begins first and foremost with being there in the tough times of our lives. You don’t have to say anything. Sometimes simply being there, being a physical presence of love and support makes all the difference in the world and speaks more deeply than what we might try to say in words. Isn’t that what we hope the Christian community of our local congregation will be for us and we for them? To be that physical presence of the love, peace, hope, and joy of God during the hills and valleys of our lives? Prayer is essential. Presence builds community. And that begins with sharing our name and asking them theirs when we share the peace. It continues over coffee during a time of fellowship or sharing in an event or project together. It’s solidified when we risk sharing our lives with theirs outside the walls of the church building even more than within. And it all begins with, “Hello, my name is…” That’s how we create community in our congregations. Thanks be to God!
“We interpret life through story.” That’s what Dr. David Lose shared in a workshop I attended not to long ago. And yesterday I experienced just how powerful one’s faith story can be in conveying the truth of the gospel. Your story, my story, our story together makes a difference when it comes to inspiring and encouraging faith in others and the faith community. I joined my friends for worship at a large multi-site non-denominational church near their home in Littleton CO. Worship began more like a rock concert with high impact music in a darkened room with the words projected on screens front, left and right. After the opening song and some brief announcements the lead pastor provided the 30 minute message on the theme of joy and how God longs for us to know joy in our lives through a faith and life focused on God’s love for us. I won’t critique the theology of the message (it’s not called a sermon or homily here) because that’s not what impacted me the most. What struck me the most was the pastor’s use of storytelling to convey the message.
Throughout his portion of the message he shared points from his own life that illustrated the point he was trying to convey. It really helped in connecting the dots between Paul’s message to the Philippians and our lives today as he understood it. But that wasn’t the most powerful part of the message. Since we were at a satellite campus the message was already being projected onto a large screen in front and on both sides so when the pastor said, “Listen to this story of how one of our members has experienced joy in the midst of anxious times” the screen image changed to a pre-recorded piece. In it the woman shared her story of battling breast cancer and how her faith enabled her to face the challenges and suffering of the treatment. This wasn’t like any testimony I’d ever experienced in worship. She had gone to the pastor’s house and was sharing her story with him over his kitchen table. Like a television interview the screen would periodically show pictures she had taken during her treatment that gave us a better picture of what she was describing. In the end, the pastor shared letters the congregation had shared with him to give to her, each one describing how her faith and journey through her treatment had been an inspiration to them in their own journeys of faith. Portions of these letters were read by the authors as the screen showed them writing their words on paper. Finally, the interview returned to the woman to have us hear in her own voice the words of a member who had taken the time to share her faith story with this woman of faith.
Wow! Imagine if we shared our faith stories periodically in worship as this woman had done. Tears were in the eyes of my friend sitting next to me. I heard the sniffles of others emotionally impacted by this woman’s story of life, struggle, and faith that enables her to experience joy in the midst of suffering. And what impressed me was how non-threatening the entire experience was for her sharing it over the kitchen table of her pastor rather than standing up at a microphone in front of the entire congregation. The other production pieces edited in after the interview only enhanced the impact of this woman’s story for we the congregation. Her story made the biggest difference in conveying the message of the day…in knowing God we will know joy even when times are hard. David is right. We do interpret life through story, and when we share our story of faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead in the resurrection and how that gives us hope in the midst of our life’s sufferings, it inspires others to trust and believe in God as well. So what is your story? Share it. It makes a difference.
Blessings on the way. Pastor Wayne
Have you ever remodeled a room in your home? Maybe it was a kitchen. Maybe it was a bathroom. Maybe it was even the whole house. I remember when the parsonage kitchen was remodeled, as well as the second floor bath, and the creation of a master bath from an adjacent room to the bedroom. All three had one thing in common. I three remodeling jobs required demolition. We had to take everything down to the studs before we could build it back up again with a new design and decor. It wasn’t the same kitchen, but it served the same function, only more effectively and efficiently. The same could be said for the bathrooms. When the job is done we exclaim, “It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to use it! And after some time, we may even find it difficult to remember what the old kitchen, bathroom, or living areas looked like. The point is in order to create a more functional room or space that fits life of the family demolition is almost always required when remodeling.
As I’ve talked with a variety of pastors so far on this sabbatical about what their Sunday morning experience is like and how they address faith formation of families in this day and age I realize we may be in for more of a remodeling project than simply applying a fresh coat of program curricula and refurbishing the songs we sing on Sunday morning with something more contemporary. It may require the courage to demolition the current worship and faith formation models we are using, or at least some of them, in order to rebuild it for the needs and culture of the day. Sunday school may not look like grade segregated classes with teachers and students using age specific curricula. Instead it may look like some form of cross-generational faith formation experience that involves a lot of the same components, just not in the same format.
The goal of my sabbatical is to study how faith formation of children, youth, and adults is most effective in today’s culture. The answer to that question may involve some demolition of current education and worship schedules, formats, and teaching styles that many have grown up with and hold dear. The very thought of that can be painful and even frightful. That’s only natural. Imagine remodeling grandma’s kitchen and realizing the place where she taught you how to make chocolate chip cookies will no longer be the same. Yes, it will look different. But grandma’s recipe hasn’t changed. The ingredients haven’t changed. And the equipment used only helps the process go more smoothly. The most important part of that nostalgic experience was making the cookies with grandma, not the outdated kitchen in which they were made.
Remodeling projects are always frustrating while we are in the midst of them. Yet, when they are over the joy of the newly remodeled room is so great we almost forget the frustration of the process. We rarely if ever long for the old. We celebrate the new space that has been created to share life and love, meals and relationships among family and friends. I trust it will be the same whenever the Holy Spirit leads our congregation and the Church through a mission and ministry remodeling project. She has done so for the last 2000 years. Why stop now?
What do you remember of confirmation? Do you remember the relationships you had or the information learned by rote? I remember sitting in a classroom with chair and desk reviewing chapters of a book we had to read and submit homework answers to questions at the end of each chapter. I remember standing up with my 40 other confirmation classmates and answering sixty questions in unison we had learned by rote before the congregation. It was more like our indoctrination into the Lutheran church. We had a lot of knowledge about God and Jesus and the Church. We may have even acknowledged some of it was meaningful to us. But when it came to knowing God, to knowing Jesus did we have a relationship with them? When some never darkened the door of a church again until their wedding day I’d say, “Not likely.”
On Friday, June 17 I met with Prof. Terri Elton at the coffee shop at Luther Seminary and discussed what she has discovered so far in her ecumenical Confirmation Project study that seeks to answer the question, “Is confirmation still viable?” While the analysis is still going on it is clear that in today’s world it is essential confirmation be able to meld church and family life together. There is a need to accompany the youth both as individuals and as a cohort with mentors and guides during the crucial teenage years and even into post-high school. Confirmation will need to pay attention just as much to relationality between youth and God and the Church as we do memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism.
That focus on relationship was also echoed in Pastor Jennifer Rome’s comments the next day when I met with her at a coffee shop in St. Paul to discuss her “Worship Young” service held at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Eagan MN once a month. Imagine Vacation Bible School meets Church Camp meets Children Sermon and you might get an idea of what this worship service is like. Energetic songs with lots of movement. Children participate in leading worship by assisting with communion distribution as well as receiving it. Even the special offering of donated items is designed to reinforce the Bible story and message of the day. The children discover that worship is not just a time for adults to connect with God but also for them as well. They get to know God and God’s people in an engaging and fun worship style while simultaneously learning our liturgy and some of our classic hymnody as well.
Later that day I discovered what a relational faith formation ministry can truly become in hearing from Amy Kippen (pictured) and her FINK Team who lead and coordinate their GIFT (Generations In Faith Together) ministry for children and youth age 3-15 at Journey In Faith and Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo ND. Using Faith Inkubators’ Bible Songs curricula they provide two opportunities each week, Wednesday night and Sunday morning, for both parents and their children to participate in learning the stories of faith revealed in the Bible as well as hear their parents and other’s stories of faith in small group. When 100% of all families with children in this age group are participating in the ministry it speaks to how relationship with God and the people of God has become an important value in the culture of their congregation. It makes me wonder what our congregation would look like with so many moms and dads directly involved with their children’s faith formation, both at church and every night in the home, rather than entrusting it solely to an hour or two a week with another adult in Sunday school or the pastor at confirmation. I’ll have some time this week to reflect on all I’ve heard. The question I’d ask anyone reading this blog is, “Is your faith life more knowing about God and Christ or knowing them? One involves the head. The other involves the head and the heart. Is it possible to remodel our faith formation to focus on the latter?”
Blessings from Jamestown ND where I’m enjoying the hospitality of Pastors Erik and Kristi Weber before heading to the towns of my first call, Terry and Fallon MT.
Day two of my sabbatical travels has me driving from Cleveland to Minneapolis, my longest one-day drive of the journey at about 11.5 hours not counting time for stops and road construction, which in Indiana seems to be about every 20 miles. Along the way I listened to another book about how adversity can make us a better person. One image really stuck with me as I begin to imagine the conversations I will and already have had on this trip regarding the decline in worship and Sunday school over the last decade and how will Our Savior address it. The image was simple. Imagine driving in a car with a big black fly banging into the front window trying to escape. You power down the windows so it can escape and stop annoying you. Except, the fly keeps trying to escape through the windshield. Going forward is the only option it sees. If it would simply change its direction and fly a different way it could escape!
I wonder if that’s the problem the church is having with worship and the faith formation of our children. Are we so focused on continuing the models of the past that worked well (quantitatively) back in the 50’s and 60’s that we fail to see those models are no longer effective and will never be again? We keep “flying” forward with new curricula or new “contemporary” songs for worship only to bang into the glass window that is in front of us. Maybe it’s time to seriously look at the culture and society we are living in and give up the myth that we can somehow wish life was like it was 50 years ago so we can create some serious and realistic program models for the future that address the culture we live in with the truth of the Gospel and ways to faithfully live it out in daily life.
I’m tired of banging my head against the window trying to move forward with mission and ministry. No, I’m exhausted. There has to be another way because the Holy Spirit always finds another way to insure the good news of God’s love and grace and life and forgiveness are able to be proclaimed by the people of God. The challenge will be in not only introducing and cultivating these new models during this time of transition, but continuing to provide the old ones for those to whom they still work in their lives. Maybe by turning around and going what appears to be in the opposite direction is exactly what we need to do in order to move forward in mission and ministry within our little congregation in Haddonfield and maybe in the Church itself. What’s that old saying, “When the world closes one door, God opens a window.” And sometimes we just need to turn around in order to fly through it.
Blessings on Father’s Day
Maybe it’s the German in me that longs to be efficient with my time whenever possible. “Always have something to read,” my home pastor and mentor Pastor Carl Weber used to tell me. “You never know when there will be idle time in which you can still be productive.” I don’t know about you but driving over 4,000 miles by yourself is a lot of idle time and so I made sure to stop by the Haddonfield Library to pick up six audiobooks to listen to while driving across two-thirds of nation. By the time I hit the PA Turnpike I put in the first disc of Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper, a fictional novel about Father Time and how we view time.
In listening to the story I realized how much of my life is dictated by the measuring of time rather than appreciating the moments I’m living in it. I wonder how many of us fall victim to watching the clock, or cell phone more now than wristwatches unless of course you have an iWatch or a Fitbit, rather than savoring the moments in which we are living.
“How much longer will this movie last?”
“Hurry up and eat dinner or we won’t get to the game on time”
“How much longer do I need to wait in this doctor’s office?”
“Why can’t worship be over sooner?”
“This is a long and slow hymn! It will take them forever to sing it!”
“How many more songs in this concert?”
“How many more scenes in this play?”
“Extra innings! It’ll be midnight before I get home!”
Believe it or not I’ve made ALL of these comments myself. Yet, I wonder what are the moments I’ve missed in my focus on the passing of time rather than the life I’ve lived in it? The flavor of the dinner and appreciation of the hands that prepared it and conversation at table in eating it. Listening to the words of the hymn and how they might speak to my soul at this time in my life. Appreciating the talent on the stage and their ability to evoke emotion in me by their acting or singing. I’ll be driving a lot and marking time throughout this sabbatical. I need to acknowledge the moments worth living along the way and savor them and reflect on the people with whom I have the privilege of traveling this journey we call life as I go. Most of all, I look forward to the moments I get to spend with God and reconnecting in a deeper way with the one who gave me life and for whom a day is a thousand years and a thousand years a day.
See you soon,
This month I leave for a 9-week sabbatical, a time of research, renewal, and recreation. It’s not one big vacation, although a few weeks of it will be counted toward my annual vacation time. The research component of my time will be focusing on how Our Savior can be best suited to provide for worship and the faith formation and enrichment of all generations and especially families with school-age children in the 21st century and the context of a changing culture. To that extent I’ll be visiting a variety of congregations and talking with other church leaders who are providing
some innovative and effective programs. Here’s a snapshot of where I’ll be heading Jun 15-31.
- June 16-18 Eagan & Minneapolis, MN: I’ll meet with Jennifer Rome of Mount Calvary LC to hear about her “Worship Young” emphasis in worship as well as speak with Prof. Terri Elton at Luther Seminary and what insights her Confirmation Project has been revealing.
- June 18-20 West Fargo, ND: Amy Kippen of Faith and Journey In Faith LC will share how their GIFT (Generations In Faith Together) worship as well as FAITH 5 Home Huddles have changed the way families and members of all generations learn, share, and model the faith for all generations both in worship and at home.
- June 20-22 Terry & Fallon, MT: I’ll stop by the yoked congregations I served for my first call back in 1992-93 and visit some parishioners and friends I’ve kept in touch with over the years.
- June 23-26 Loveland, CO: After a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park (and maybe a few other sites nearby) I’ll stay, visit, and worship with Revs. Joel and Sonja Pancoast at Zion LC to hear how their FAITH 5 infused worship for all generations has gone and the difference Home Huddles has made for many families in their congregation.
- June 26-28 Denver, CO: I’ll visit with some friends and see the sites of the Mile High City.
- June 28-29 Lincoln, NE: Rev. Lance Fergusson of Spirit of Hope LC will share how his “Prime Time for Prime Purpose” emphasis has made a significant difference in their Sunday morning experience.
- June 30 Story City, IA: Kristi Johnson of St. Petri LC will share with me how many of the concepts mentioned above are playing out well in their smaller congregation.
- July 1-5 Cincinnati, OH: I’ll meet up with Kate’s family for a holiday reunion of sorts.
- July 6 Grove City, OH: I hope to speak with Rev. Scott Ness of St. John LCMS and hear how “Faith Webs” have enabled his congregation to begin living faithfully between the gaps and created a more connected congregation.
The remainder of my sabbatical will be spent gleaning the information accumulated on this whirlwind tour of congregations as well as spending some long overdue time in reading the pile of books on my shelves I’ve been eager to devour, spending time in devotional reading and prayer, as well as some time at the Jersey shore, playing some golf, and finally finishing some home repair and improvement projects that have been on the back burner for a long time.
I’ve lined up an excellent roster of pastors and synodical leaders to lead Our Savior in worship over the nine Sundays I’ll be gone. Here are the dates and supply pastors who will be presiding and preaching on those dates.
- June 19: Rev. Sara Lilja, Director of Lutheran/Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of NJ
- June 26: Rev. Scott Schantzenbach; Asst. to Bishop focusing on Stewardship & Faith Formation
- July 3 & 10: Rev. Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath; Dir of Student Services at Lutheran Seminary
- July 17: Rev. Nathan Preisinger; Assoc. Dir. of Admissions at Lutheran Seminary
- July 24: Rev. Kimberly Vaughn; Asst. to Bishop for Multi-Cultural Ministry
- July 31: Rev. Aaron Richter; Asst. to Bishop for Communication and Mission Interpretation
- Aug 7: Rev. Lou Dunkle; Retired pastor who served Our Savior from 1986-2005.
- Aug 14: Nathan Preisinger; See above.
Rev. Ryan Paetzold, who serves as pastor at Holy Trinity LC in Audubon will serve as “Pastor On Call” during the weeks I’m away in case of pastoral emergencies as well as visit those who are in the midst of medical or personal crisis. He will also be the “pastor on duty” for VBS this summer as the families of Trinity also look forward to participating in the week’s activities. Please contact the Church Office if you have any questions that Sandy DeDonatis, Parish Administrator may be able to answer.
Finally, I ask for your prayers. I look forward to this time away not just to refresh and replenish my spirit and energy, but also my ability to serve you enthusiastically and effectively as your pastor. While I look forward to this time of rest, renewal, and research I will miss seeing you over the 9 weeks. Believe it or not, you are my family and I miss you when we are away from each other. Until I see you in August may you have a restful and refreshing summer as well.