A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
Profiles of congregations from around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
“Hody, Hody, Hody!” I could hear it all the way up front (not that it’s really all that far in our cozy congregation). One of our younger members was joyfully joining in with the liturgy. Another time I blessed the congregation in the name of the Lord and received in return the same sign of the cross from a smiling and somewhat mischievous two year old. If you walked into Living Hope in Appleton, Wisconsin, on a Sunday morning, this is what you would find: God’s people—old, not so old, and very young—receiving God’s gifts! Our congregation currently has a total membership of fifty-three. Twenty-four of those are fifth grade and younger. It can get loud. It can be a challenge. And what a joyful privilege it is!
This is the main way that God has caused our congregation to grow in its short history. For a number of years it was a preaching station. Then Pastor Michael Schierenbeck served the group part-time as they met on Sunday afternoons in a rented sanctuary. My first Sunday here was the last Sunday there, as the following week we moved into a rented office space. We met there for almost two years until we moved into a nice church building which we purchased with a loan from the CLC Church Extension Fund (CEF).
Our members enjoy a close-knit fellowship both in and out of our church building. Sunday Bible class and Sunday school, Wednesday night vespers, and children’s Bible history and catechism classes continually fill God’s house with God’s Word and promise. Then we often get together for game nights, volleyball, church picnics, and family camping outings. Many of these things have been put on hold because of the coronavirus situation, but we have recently begun holding in-person services again, and we look forward to being able to resume all our fellowship activities when the Lord wills.
It’s been a pleasure serving the Lord’s people here these past six years. The appreciation for the Gospel and joy in the fellowship is obvious. The Lord has blessed us with grateful hearts to give for His work and an easy joy in joining together for His glory. We’ve seen a number of new contacts and adult instruction classes recently as well.
In the past year we’ve had six Baptisms! A number of those families in adult instruction classes have children whom they have brought to the Lord in the sacrament. This influx of children, alongside the many we already had, has us considering our future needs and the hope of one day having a school. Lord willing, at some point you might hear of us moving into a bigger space! Watch out for a team from Living Hope at the CLC grade school basketball tournament in a few years too!
We’ve been able to host VBS each summer, and for the past few years we’ve held a once-a-month Friday-night Bible school and babysitting night for the community through which we’ve had the opportunity to share the Word with many non-member children. Every month some volunteers help out with this gladly, then likely go home and directly to sleep. It’s tiring! And it’s a joy!
Naomi Oster, one of our members, was kind enough to offer her thoughts about life here at Living Hope:
“We love our church family. It’s a blessing for our kids to have so many other children to learn God’s Word with. Our children have many opportunities to hear God’s Word with Friday night Bible School once a month, VBS in the summer, and Sunday School each Sunday after the church service. Obviously, we haven’t had any of these during the pandemic, but we look forward to when we can start them up again! We are truly blessed to have a church centered on Christ that focuses so much on the importance of teaching our young ones about their Savior.”
That really gets to the heart of it. Life in our congregation is the life of the Spirit which comes only from the wounded side of Jesus Christ. His cross stands at the front of our sanctuary because by His grace we stand in His wounds and live by His life-giving Word. What a joy to partake of this grace together!
David Ude is pastor of Living Hope Lutheran Church in Appleton, Wisconsin.