A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
Snapshots of congregations from around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
Sleepy Eye is a town of 3,600 people in a rural farming community where there are more tractors than Toyotas. The small town boasts eight churches, three of which are Lutheran. It is a community known for division. Years ago, when someone was looking to move to town, the realtor’s first question would be, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” This would determine which houses to show since Catholics lived on the north side of the tracks and Protestants lived on the south.
Grace Lutheran was intimately involved in the formation of the CLC. It was formed in 1959 and officially organized in 1960 after leaving its former fellowship. The young congregation hosted many of the first meetings of the fledgling Interim Conference, which later formed the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Initially it rented a worship space from another congregation, but was able to purchase and move into its own church building within three months. Less than a year later the congregation purchased a whole city block, which would become the site for the current parsonage (1964), church (1970) and fellowship hall (1985).
From its very beginning, Grace has been invested in its greater fellowship by financially supporting the CLC’s first foreign mission in Japan, as well as CLC mission congregations and Immanuel Lutheran College through its offerings to the CLC budget. This Christ-centered congregational mind-set has had a hand in producing a number of pastors and teachers who have served our synod, and a number of members and pastors of Grace who have served as synodical officers and on various CLC boards over the years.
In 2002, Grace became a joint parish with Faith Lutheran in New Ulm, and has continued in that relationship since. The two congregations still operate independently but join together for special services, Vacation Bible School, seminars, and other projects.
For many years the desire to bring up the next generation in the knowledge and fear of the Lord spurred discussion of starting a Christian Day School. During this time, a number of families made use of Immanuel Lutheran School and High School in Mankato for the training of their children, as well as Immanuel Lutheran High School, College, and Seminary in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Finally, in 2017, the congregation began its own Christian Day School. In August 2017, the congregation installed two teachers and opened Grace Lutheran School and Lambs of Grace Preschool with eight students. It has been wonderful and rewarding to see these young people grow daily in their knowledge of the one and only Savior! Lord willing, this year will see the first student graduate from eighth grade and go on to ILHS for high school.
In its early years, Grace was a congregation of more than three hundred members, but now has a membership of about one hundred fifty. It is made up of members in every age group, including one who is over one hundred, and another who is younger than one year old. Grace currently has a large group of more than thirty pre-communicant members (one of the driving reasons for starting the school). In addition to daily religious instruction in the Christian day school, we also provide catechism instruction from fifth through eighth grade twice a week, an after-school Bible study once a week for children in Grades 1-4, and a yearly youth trip during the summer. The congregation has also been active in various educational outreach efforts, including a summer Vacation Bible School program and yearly seminars on various topics. Seminars have included topics like Family Devotions, Islam, Lutheranism, the Bible, and more.
Current culture has an attitude toward Christianity that is apathetic at best and hostile at worst. This can wear on the individual believer and on a Christian congregation. But the Lord encourages us not to become frustrated or to fear the world. The Savior’s words to His disciples two thousand years ago are needed also today: “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:31-32) We should not become discouraged by the world’s refusal to hear and heed the Lord’s Word of truth, but simply, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Nathanael Mayhew is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions.