A Message from Pastor Val

A Message from Pastor Val

Lenten Wednesday Worship! Tonight at 6:30pm!! Please Attend!!

Dear Friends,

It’s good to be back with you! What a beginning to the Lenten season here in Minnesota. On Ash Wednesday in Egypt, it was a balmy 80, and back here at home, churches were having to cancel their Ash Wednesday worship services. I was in communication with Zion Lutheran and Faith Lutheran, and after they cancelled, I felt that I had no choice but to do so as well, for the safety of all.  I think it might be the first time an ELCA pastor cancelled a worship from Egypt, but who knows.

Today’s email is an open letter from my heart to yours. I have asked Julie, our Office Manager, to send an additional email with the announcements and activities and events coming up in the days ahead.

For the purpose of this email, I want to talk to you about our Lenten discipline and involvement here at Peace Lutheran.

It came to my attention that last Wednesday evening, 25 individuals gathered for mid-week Lenten worship. You are probably thinking, ‘that’s a pretty low number of participants.’ I agree with you. During the Lenten season, and every season, I take care to make sure that we are offering substantive worship opportunities here at Peace. We ask our musicians, our leaders, our sound techs and custodians to come in and make sure that the worship is meaningful and time well spent. It’s disheartening to see that only 25 individuals chose to come out and enjoy worship together. I don’t know about you, but it makes me wonder about our overall spiritual discipline, and that it might be lacking.

Tonight, I will be in worship and if the numbers of participants remain low, 25-30 individuals, I am going to have a conversation with those folks and see if they want to remain in Lenten Wednesday worship these evenings, or if they would prefer a Bible Study or other Lenten option.

In any case, this leads to a wider discussion of spiritual discipline. Having just returned from a country where everything and everyone pauses three times a day for prayer, it is interesting to me, that as Christians, we do not have that same priority as far as our worship and our own spiritual walk are considered. I am truly appreciative and inspired by those of you who join us in person on Sunday, and the other 111 of you that join us online on Sunday morning, but this scratches the surface on the numbers we should be seeing in our sanctuary and online.

In my experience, everyone has an excuse, and that is fine. I am told over and over again how busy people are; how difficult it is to make it to worship, etc. And yet, I am reminded of the old adage that we all make time for the things that are the most important in our lives. As your Pastor, I would encourage you that making time for God first in your life is highly important, and your life will always reflect your priorities.  I say this to you as an opportunity for you to reflect on your own faith journey.

Giving is another reflection of faith. We had a finance meeting last night, and while we are financially stable and on good footing at this time, it is not because of the regular and prayerful giving of our whole congregation, it is primarily due to the large gifts of a few that are supporting the ministry of the many. Regular and envelope giving are down, and our budget is being supported by about 30 percent of the membership, while another 70 percent of the membership does not contribute or give financially to the ministry of Peace Lutheran. In looking at giving trends, please know that I do not and have never accessed the names of individuals who give or do not give. Everything I see is a blind copy with no names available to me. I lift up these percentages as data from blind copy records for the last few years.

I believe one of the mistakes we all make is to believe that what we have to give will not matter in our life of faith. This is wrong thinking. God has promised to take the very little we have and to multiply it in our lives. When we give from the heart and through faith, God receives those gifts and what was small is made great. Giving is one way we return to God a portion of the blessings that we have received in our lives. God blesses the gifts given from the heart of the giver. From my own experience, and from your experience, we know that we are truly blessed to live and work in this country, with these freedoms to worship and practice our faith. We have freedoms that others in the world do not have, and I believe we should never take our life circumstance for granted, but to use our privilege to be a blessing to those among us who need our help the most.

 Sadly, our congregation and it’s giving trends are no different than the other congregations in our conference or in the larger church. I think we have to deal with the facts though, and decide if we want to continue in this way and be the ‘average’ of everything happening in the church, or if we want to rise above ‘average’ and live the life that Christ has called us to live; one of abundance and gratitude and faith.  Jesus never told his disciples to be ‘average’ in the world; instead, he told them to go out and make disciples; he told them to take up a cross and follow him, and that it wouldn’t be easy.

Here at Peace, we offer high quality ministry. All of our employees, from the Office Staff to our very dedicated Facility Managers are of the highest quality; and we are blessed!!  Our High School Youth group is being led by two outstanding seminarians, Jessie Hodgson and Chantal Branker.  Our Christian Education Director, Karleen Fuesnig and her volunteers and teachers offer an excellent Sunday School experience. We offer high quality Wednesday morning Bible Study; we have volunteers and leaders working through the many groups and outreach opportunities here at Peace. We are continually blessed by the Women of Peace and the Men of Peace!! I can’t say enough about how blessed we are to have the musicians and soloists and worship leaders who bless us week in and week out with gifts of music. Trychia Borgstrom, our Director of Music; Gregg Inhofer; Kate Freund-Saxhaug, and Malcolm Anderson. There is no other church in the ELCA with this kind of talent!!! We are blessed by our choir, our bell choir, our soloists and leaders!!

I’ve said all these things to you today with all the love and grace I have in my heart. As mature Christians, I think you will agree with me that it’s time to come together as the Body of Christ, to be faithful, to live the lives Jesus has called us to live, and to stop putting faith off until tomorrow or when it is more convenient. Faith and the Christian walk will never ever be convenient. Your brothers and sisters in Christ need you; they need your encouragement, your prayers, and your presence.

I would appreciate hearing from you and your thoughts regarding this open letter. Please feel free to email me, to call or to text me. I would love the privilege of talking together about the promising future of Peace Lutheran Church and it’s many ministries to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Have a good day. Take care. Be safe…

Pastor Valerie