Thursday, February 28, 2019

Checking Out? Checking In?

So yesterday I step out of my hotel room to check out (attired as in this photo) and the maid is cleaning the room across the hall.

“Yes, I’m checking out now,” I reply to her greeting. She's glad, because now she can clean that room next.

Then she asks, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes, I am. In fact I’m going to be the new pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey.”

A brief conversation follows -- she hasn't found a church here yet, but wants one where she and her boyfriend (a mixed race couple) can feel welcome -- and she asks for my card. Don’t have one yet, but I write down Resurrection's address, worship times (alas, she works Sunday mornings), and my name and first Sunday there. And the Wednesday evening Lenten services that start next week...

What a great way to conclude this short visit to Godfrey/Alton!

Slightly expanded from a Facebook post from yesterday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

It's Official: My Second Call

Yes, I posted the news on Facebook a week ago Sunday, so lots of folks have heard the news. But the official notice didn't arrive in the mail until this morning: Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey, Illinois, meeting on February 10, 2019, has called this unworthy servant as Pastor. I intend to officially accept the call as soon as I find a place to live and we determine a start date. Having played in Peoria for more than 26 years, I'll be moving on.

Godfrey, Illinois, is a village right next to Alton, Illinois, along the Mississippi River in the northern suburbs of metropolitan St. Louis. Resurrection is, for this part of the country, a rather young ELCA congregation. It formed in 1976 when, in the midst of turmoil then happening in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the pastor and several families of Faith Lutheran Church in Godfrey left to form a new Lutheran church. It would be the first southern Illinois congregation to join the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, but with the decline of Alton's economy in the early 1980's, the congregation had to sell its property and came very close to being merged or closed.

Not accepting either option, the congregation instead chose to redevelop as a mission. With support of the Lutheran Church in America's Division for Mission in North America and then the (new) ELCA, Resurrection was able to grow enough to purchase its current property in 1988, and dedicate a brand new church building in 1992. In 2019, the congregation faces the same challenges of most North American churches -- how to continue proclaiming the Gospel and ministering to and with the neighbor in a culture that no longer defaults to supporting churches, and to grow (or even maintain) when the church's upcoming generation is both smaller and less committed to the church than previous generations.

I'll admit to not having looked forward to departing Peoria. But I am looking forward to challenges in a new place with a new flock called (like the congregation where my faith and vocation were formed) Resurrection.