What’s New With YOU?
Updates from congregations around the church of the Lutheran Confession
Does anyone else feel as if 2020 has lasted longer than a year? During the spring we canceled everything. In the summer we waited—and THEN canceled everything. But thankfully there have been some restarts along the way.
Here at Messiah Lutheran we had three months (mid-March to mid-June) when all in-person worship services were canceled. If you had asked me a year ago if that could happen, I would have said you were crazy! Half of Lent, Holy Week, and Resurrection Sunday worship services could be seen only online. The offsite services that we hold at a number of local nursing homes were canceled. Volunteers scrambled to provide the “wholesome loaves that people need” (Worship Supplement 781) for our members and all those who gather to hear the Word at our preaching stations.
With some difficulty, and constant change, we have now eased back into in-person worship. In the summer we tried some outdoor services on Saturdays up on the playground hill. It worked a few times, but weather and other factors made this option always uncertain. After a Confirmation Sunday with limited attendance (parents and family of the confirmands), in-person worship was once again opened for all to attend. In-person Bible Class followed soon after that, and just recently Sunday School restarted also.
A recent sermon series was titled “Even Better Blessings.” We studied times when people came asking Jesus for one thing, but He ended up giving them something much better. Looking back, I can see God blessing us during this COVID-time. We used to upload service videos to the internet. Due to necessity, services are now live-streamed and archived each Sunday. Our Bible classes weren’t available online before, but now they also are live-streamed, and people can even interact from home through texting and YouTube messaging. We still have technical difficulties sometimes, but our Technology Committee takes care of them quickly. Remember to say a prayer of thanks for workers like these who quietly make things possible from the back corners of our sanctuaries.
Sadly, both sessions of our in-person Vacation Bible School were canceled this summer. God’s Kids Bible Camp was also canceled. GKBC is a sleep-over camp meant to serve kids in the community who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a summer camp. With this camp, though, they get not only a summer camp experience, but also JESUS. Pray that next summer this outreach effort can continue.
At the beginning of August our youth group (and others from our sister congregations in Minnesota) traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a camping trip. High School participants went to the group campsite, and college campers hiked into the backcountry of Porcupine Mountains State Park. Although all campers were tested prior to the outset of the trip, along the way some of our campers ended up getting COVID, so there was a flurry of activity when we got home to make sure we were reporting, getting tested, and quarantining—all in the proper way. Thankfully, those who got sick recovered without great difficulty, and afterwards all were glad they went.
While there, the high school campers studied a series called “Entitled to Work.” This series was about fighting our sense of entitlement to things that God doesn’t really guarantee, and instead putting energy into the Kingdom work of proclaiming the Gospel.
The college backpackers studied the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. When Joseph was at the top of a wave in his life, he gave God the credit. When he was at a low spot, he recognized that God was still with him, and would wait for the Lord to bring about His will. It’s amazing how God’s Word continues to speak directly to our situation—from thousands of years ago! Thank you, Lord.
Soon we’ll be starting up in-person “Ruth’s Retreat” again. This is a relaxed Bible study held at the home of Ruth Gullerud near the campus of Immanuel Lutheran High School and College. We hope also to restart “In His Word,” a Bible study held on the campus of the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, for those of college age. We hope that our Youth Group events will also restart soon.
One fear that I think many had when worship services were canceled back in March was that without the collection plate being passed, our offerings would decrease, requiring cuts to programs and wages. This just hasn’t happened at Messiah, and we thank the Lord for this blessing. While we do not know what the future holds, we do know Who holds the future. With that in mind, we have been working on a building project to enlarge Messiah Lutheran School in order to reduce crowding and to have a dedicated classroom for every grade. What a blessing that would be! In this current time of social distancing, our classrooms have been completely reassigned in order to fit our students in (119 total) while maintaining the proper distances. This has required grades 5-6 to move to the fellowship hall (we now view Bible class from chairs put between their classroom desks). Grades 7-8 are camped out in the sanctuary. Like everything lately, this has taken a lot of planning, meeting, and working—but how blessed we are to have this work!
We’re not the ancient Israelites, and we’re not backed up against the Red Sea. But Moses’ words to that frightened people still speak to us today: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV84) Maybe 2021 will be canceled too. Or we’ll have to learn how to wait some more. One thing is certain, if we wait on the Lord, we won’t be disappointed. Much love to all of you, in Christ Jesus our Savior.
Caleb Schaller is an associate pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.