Dealing with Covid-19 has impacted every aspect of congregational life. We have, like most of you, found daily changes and adaptations we need to make to continue to be the church. Some have said that being a pastor these days is like learning to fly an airplane – while you’re flying the airplane! This is true for most of us, I imagine.
I find myself full of gratitude today. I previewed the first Church School lesson for our new School of Love. It is awesome! Kelly Heuton has learned a whole new way to offer Jesus to the children of the congregation. I listened to the plans to launch affirmation classes this evening. Anne Williams has morphed everything to keep kids safe while she does what we always have – raise up disciples. I have heard praise for the music that David Fandrich made part of last weeks worship. At our prayer service this evening on Zoom, people were thankful to come together on Zoom to do what we do as people of God – “persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12) I wrote a letter to the congregation to thank everyone for the financial support we have received that has kept us going through the pandemic. Our finances are solid.
The Ark of the Covenant is something that has captured the imagination of generations of people in the Judeo-Christian faiths. I chose to research this for a class last year, and I can tell you with confidence that no one really knows where it is today. There is no evidence of a fedora-wearing archaeologist discovering it in Egypt during the 1930s, and it is not stored in a government warehouse in Area 51. Well, probably not. We think of it as a “lost treasure,” but the real treasure is what we have instead today!
I find myself thinking a lot about courage lately. Perhaps it is because of two instances in recent weeks where courage has been front and center. Several weeks ago, the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA met virtually for our yearly synod assembly. This assembly was special this year, besides being the first virtual assembly, it also called for electing a new bishop for the synod as Bishop Burk is completing his second term and moving on to retirement. The process involves nominations from the people of the synod and agreement from the nominee to be placed on the ballot. The ballots are cast, and slowly the number of nominees is whittled down to seven, then three, then two candidates. Those who are nominated agree to be nominated with the understanding that God may be calling them to the position of bishop. They do so knowing that the Holy Spirit is in control. To be nominated requires vulnerability and the knowledge that only one person will be elected. To be nominated requires the acceptance that God is in control.
Last Friday, as I harvested some of the bounty from our little garden, I was surrounded by dozens of butterflies. The pollinator garden in the opposite corner of the yard, with phlox, butterfly bush, and milkweed all in bloom, was a nectar smorgasbord for the beautiful creatures. Spicebush Swallowtails in black and blue. Bright yellow Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and the orange of the regal Monarch and delicate American Lady wowed me. The beauty of creation, manifest in these creatures, was a sign of grace, pointing to God’s goodness.
This past Monday evening, our community learned how the Ankeny Schools will handle education during a pandemic. The “Return to Learn Plan” is a hybrid plan, holding together elements of a physical return and on-line, physically distanced approaches. Not everyone is happy for lots of reasons. That is probably not a surprise.
Hello and God’s Peace! My name is Matthew Milbrodt. I am originally from the rural Toledo suburb of Genoa, Ohio, and I am coming to this internship via Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. I am a 2007 graduate of Bowling Green State University with a bachelor’s degree in adolescent education for English language arts (I had intended to teach high school literature). My home congregation is St. John Lutheran Church in Williston, Ohio. The area of Northwestern Ohio that I’m from hosts a delightful mix of experience and culture from rural, urban, and Lake Erie island life (and when I say I lived near Cedar Point, people recognize the area). The majority of my family have lived and worked in this same part of Ohio for generations.
Through this window, I have watched the seasons change around our church building over the course of the past year. Through this window, I have watched the colors of fall give way to the bitter cold of winter. Through this window, I saw tangible signs of the resurrection in the fragrance of spring, which gave way to sunshine and summer heat.