Checking In

As I type this entry, we are drawing to the close of our first quarter of ’22, and it seems like a good time to check in.

Last time we met here, we mentioned a number of things that were in the works for the first quarter, and I think it’s fair to say, we accomplished a lot! Our lovely, lively little congregation has been meeting successfully at 4 p.m. on Saturdays, as we are used to; but we’ve also made the transition to 11 a.m. Sunday worship, as well. It’s not without its hiccups: Sometimes the community that meets before ours goes a little overtime, which causes us to need to scramble in order to start on time. But that’s not a big deal. The bigger issue is losing a couple of folks who relied on that 9 a.m. Sunday service. Some of them were able to switch over to Saturday evening, which also gave us the benefit of a more fleshed-out time together. It’s just always nicer to have more folks than fewer, because the energy level shoots way up. Anyway, that’s going along swimmingly, or at least much, much better than it could have been.

We have also managed to pull together a Worship Planning Team, which is something we said we wanted to do. Not only have we pulled together the Team, but also said Team has really been working overtime to curate a Lenten worship series that was created by the good folks over at Worship Design Studios. Every congregation that takes on a WDS series has to do a lot of work to make the series their own, and our freshly-minted team has done a great job so far! We kicked off with a beautiful Ash Wednesday service, and we managed a really gratifying and meaningful Lent 1, as well. Did everything go smoothly? Oh, no, it did not! But in spite of the flaws, the trials, and the errors, I think it has been more than sufficient, and I applaud all the folks on the team. Great job!

The Worship Planning Team is still working out the final details for the rest of Lent into Holy Week, so please keep your eyes peeled for more details as they become available. And I’ll want to come back to Holy Week in a minute, but first, we had an unexpected and much-welcomed delight just before Ash Wednesday.

First of all, we had this Sacred Harp singing school planned, and it went great! There weren’t a LOT of people there, but all of the parts were covered, our instructor was wonderful (as always — Keith and I go way back now, and it was so good to see him!), and everyone thought it was a really worthwhile time. Massive success. I think that some of our guests that day, the folks from First Congregational Church, are planning on starting up a monthly sing, all because we took the initiative to kick things off! Yaaaaay!

But right on the heels of the Sacred Harp event, our own Church Musician, Kathleen, managed to pull together the talents of a BUNCH of local musicians and singers, to create an event called “Sharing Our Songs to God.” I don’t know the backgrounds of every person gathered that evening, but we had a few of our own people sharing songs, and there were people from St. Andrew’s Catholic Church across the street, and I think some others from outside these two congregational circles. And it was Ah-maze-ing! Kudos to Kathleen for using her friendship ties to pull off an astoundingly great evening of sacred music, just for the sake of doing things together for the glory of God. Outstanding.

And I wanted to mention that event first before coming back to Holy Week, because there’s actually a tie-in.

Christ Lutheran and St. Andrew’s have a pretty long and storied history together. In recent years, thanks to the scourge of Covid, the relationship has cooled a bit, just by virtue of isolation. We would love to rekindle our flame. One of the ways we might accomplish that is by doing some worshipping together. And here’s the Holy Week tie-in.

Christ Lutheran hasn’t done an Easter Vigil service in a few years. St. Andrew’s does one every year. Our Worship Planning Team is recommending that we Lutherans swim over the Tiber for the sake of Christian unity this year on the Vigil of Easter.

What IS an Easter Vigil, anyway? Well, it’s a LOT of things, but among the many facets of an Easter Vigil is the gathering of the church in the dark hours of Holy Saturday to sit in the void between the death of Christ on the cross and his Resurrection on the third day. Into that void, we share the stories of salvation history. There are properly 12 biblical stories that belong to the Vigil, though a lot of parishes only focus on a few of them. But they run from Genesis in the Old Covenant to the empty tomb and the resurrection from the New Covenant. We also get to bring back the Alleluias that we had put away on Ash Wednesday, there’s the lighting of the New Fire, the dipping of the Paschal candle into the baptismal waters, the praise of God for all creation and his renewing of the same, and there’s the first Eucharist since Holy Thursday.

Eucharist. With Lutherans? In a Catholic church? Well, no. Although the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation have done decades worth of work on finding common ground between our rich traditions, one sticking point remains the celebration of the Eucharist. In the ELCA, we gladly welcome all to the table. For many and various reasons, Lutherans are not in communion with Rome, and we are not meant to take the Sacrament in the Catholic Church.

I’ve been thinking a LOT about this lately, and I still think we ought to join St. Andrew’s for the Vigil, even if we aren’t technically “welcome” at the table. Part of the reason I think it’s a good idea is this: There is a theological term called “kenosis.” Primarily it’s about God’s self-emptying and self-giving, not only on the cross, but also in intentionally setting aside divinity in order to become flesh and dwell among us. It’s about understanding that God has the right to divinity, but for our sake, put it aside. Since we are called to imitate God in Christ, I think it would be an excellent opportunity to practice “kenosis” by setting aside our right to sit at the table, in order that we might be in fellowship with our Christian siblings “on the other side of the street.” It’s not like we’re forever giving up the Eucharist, but rather humbling ourselves for one night. Granted, it’s an important night, but it really is just one night. I hope you’ll strongly consider joining me at St. Andrew’s for the Easter Vigil.

An added benefit, I think, from celebrating this Vigil together, is that it’s going to give us an opportunity to talk with folks over at St. Andrew’s about some of the things that the RCC and the LWF have been discussing “at high levels” for all of these decades, but doing so in the immediate neighborhood. All great Reformations begin at a local level, and with God’s leadership and encouragement, you just never know where things might end up. The one theological thing I’m completely sure of, is that God is surprising. I hope we can be open to being surprised.

The last thing I’ll mention in this entry is this: Your Council will be gathering on March 12 for an off-site retreat. We have two purposes in mind. The first is to orient new Council members. The second is to discuss all of the information that leadership has been collecting in recent years concerning what your hopes and dreams for the future of Christ Lutheran Church, to begin a discernment process about how those things fit with God’s purpose for our congregation, and to try to coalesce all of that into a vision that we can bring back to you, the members and friends of CLC, and in that way have a plan for the next couple of years. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this very soon, so keep your antennae tuned to this page and other church channels for updates and thoughts and all that good stuff.

In the midst of all of this, we pour out our prayers for the people of Ukraine and for the brave Russian citizens who are bold enough to stand up against their government’s aggression against a sovereign people who happen to live on politically desirable real estate. We continue to pray also for the countries who have compassionately chosen to host refugees from this now-war-torn region. We dream, along with Isaiah, that empires might give up their ambitions to power, that the people might forge their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, and might learn war – finally – no more.

EDIT: Here’s an additional item to celebrate: Synod Deacon Pam Fairfax reports that the Feed My Starving Children program, which she organizes every year through Christ Lutheran and ecumenical partners (including Trinity Lutheran – an LC-MS congregation, and St. Katherine Drexel Catholic Church) received approximately $5000 in donations from us, which amounts to 20,000 meals! That’s roughly 600 pounds of food that went toward feeding our local community! We had 42 members + family and friends participate in the campaign, and all of this is completely worth celebrating! Thanks to Deacon Pam for reminding me, and thanks to all who participated!

There are other very successful events that also took place during our first quarter. I would encourage people to look at the Cross Notes, our monthly newsletter, to hear from our Parish Nurse, our Prayer Ministry team, our various Circles of the Women of the ELCA, and our Deacons. All of these ministries have their chairs, who are asked to submit articles to the monthly publication. If you have your own article for submission, please send it to info@christlutherancapecoral.org before the last working day of each month for inclusion in the following month’s mailing.

2 Comments

  1. Pam Fairfax says:

    We should also celebrate the success of CLC’s 6th year of meal packing with our ecumenical partners St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church and Trinity Lutheran (LCMS). This year CLC raised over $5,000 to provide 20,000 FMSC meals – all part of the 145,000 meals packed this year. On top of that, the pack collected over 600 lbs of food for our local community! One of our biggest ministries, this year 42 members, family and friends volunteered. All of this brings our FMSC CC Community Mobile Pack totals to over 1 million meals packed and over 4,000 lbs of food donated to the Caring Center.

    Like

    1. Rob says:

      That’s up there in the edit from yesterday, but I appreciate even more context. Thanks!

      Like

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