St Andrew Lutheran, ELCA
Pastor’s Report St. Andrew Lutheran Church 2020
Grace and peace be with you from God, our Holy Parent, and from Jesus Christ, Our Savior, and Lord.
No one, not one could have predicted what the year 2020 would bring. The year began well. We installed new council members, had a clear vision of where God was leading us as a congregation. We had The Rev. John Wertz, Assistant to the Bishop of the Va Synod lead us in our council retreat. We were on fire for the Lord and were in the process of dreaming up new plans for evangelism and new ways in which to serve our community when March 15 hit…and suddenly, the entire world was out of commission, and life as we knew it had changed.
Out of an abundance of caution, care, and love for our members, and guidance from the Synod, St. Andrew decided not to meet in person for worship. Instead, we all adapted to online worship, via Facebook Live, now, affectionately known as St. Andrew, LIVE! from the She Shed.
During this time apart, yet together in heart, we have gained the recognition of several new folks who have been faithful in joining us in worship. God left the building and went out into the world through social media. Evangelism was happening at rapid speed as members told their neighbors, friends, and loved ones about our online worship. Was this not supposed to be happening all along? For the first time, the passage from Exodus 40: 34-38 made perfect sense…
” Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.
God cannot be contained in a building. Since the beginning of time, God has searched us, sought us out, and walked among us. God makes God’s presence known not through a place, but through God’s beloved creation. God “tabernacles” in, with, and around us. We, more than ever before are the Church in the world, sharing the love of Jesus Christ, one “share” at a time.
Yes, Covid-19 has been horrific. It has claimed the lives of many and reaped economic disaster upon us, but with God, we have become more faithful at serving and loving our neighbors. Our church family has grown and generosity has increased, and for this, I am thankful.
I have no idea what is in store for 2021, but what I do know is this: God is with us, through all the fire and clouds of our days. Whether we worship in our beautiful, dilapidated building at 4811 High Street West, or whether we gather together, apart, the Spirit is at work comforting us and surrounding us with the love of Jesus Christ. This too shall pass and THIS Body of Christ will remain unbroken.
God loves all y’all, and so do I.
Blessings as we walk faithfully into the unknown.
The Reverend Suzanne M. Stierwalt, Pastor
Beloved friends and family of St. Andrew Lutheran,
As the uncertainty continues to swirl around us, so does the Holy Spirit. Our world is literally changing minute by minute but God, who is faithful continues to be ever-present, offering peace and hope to all who seek grace offered through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Simply mentioning the name of Jesus is a balm to my soul…and then I take a breath and remember, thank God, that I am not God, I am not in control…I only need to follow where I am being led. And so dear ones, I offer that to you as well. To breathe out any anxiety you may be feeling and breathe in the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding. God is bigger than any problem we will ever face and with God, in this wonderful community of faith, there is nothing that we cannot conquer, Amen?
At this time, we will continue to be Church together on Facebook, Live each Sunday morning at 10 am. Nell will email a bulletin to each household so that we can follow along as we normally would. And…..something new: Thursday evenings at 7 pm, I will offer online (again on Facebook) Family story and prayer time. I will read a children's book and then will take prayer requests. If you’d like to send those to me ahead of time, please email me at Suzannestierwalt@gmail.com and I will add them to my personal intentions as well. I pray that there will be some good that comes out of this…and this will be revealed to us down the road, as God takes our hardships and turns them around…what I can already see is this. We are a community of Christians who care deeply for each other and the world. I have heard from several of you that you have reached out to your neighbors offering to run errands, you have sent cards, made phone calls and texts and checked in on our older members and those who are isolated. Friends…WE are the church, not the building at 4811 High Street W. WE are the church in the world, called to love and care for the most vulnerable. WE are the church together, the very Body of Christ called to show up in ways that may seem uncomfortable, like worshipping online. But friends, we do it together because I cannot imagine doing “this” without y’all and I am so thankful for your faithful witness to the Gospel. Please, continue doing what you are doing as we lift each other up, pray for each other, for our community, and for the world.
One more thing…please continue to support God’s mission here at St. Andrew with your monetary gifts. Even though we are not meeting at the building, we still have staff to pay, people to feed, a food pantry to maintain… We still want to give to the wider church as it supports ministries far beyond our reach…clean water, health care, safe houses, adoptions, and foster care. Yes…we ARE a part of that; YOU are a part of the big picture of taking care of all of God’s children and we do that through giving back the gifts that God has already given to us, by sharing from our hearts to mend hearts. Give now even more than before. WE are the church together.
Please join me in prayer:
Most gracious God, You hear the cries of our hearts and you know us so well. You understand loneliness, grief, and despair; but You also understand hope as YOU are the God of hope. God, you are here and we are here, together in this place. Whatever we may be feeling, it’s okay. Life may be changing, but You, God, are not. You are faithful to your promises, promises that you are always with us, promises of life in abundance, promises of love…unfathomable love despite all that we have done to turn you away. You love us…no matter what. Help us to find hope in your Son, who died for us, who rose for us, who lives in us. Strengthen us to be a beacon of light so that others, too, may know of your boundless love. Protect all of your children with your mighty hand, God. May we have the courage to tell our stories and live out the Gospel message of loving our neighbor. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, together….Amen and Amen.+
Dear ones, God loves all y’all, and so do I.
We're not fancy. Just friendly folks who will greet you at the door with a warm smile and a cup of coffee. Some of us wear dress pants, ties, and skirts...some of us wear jeans and t-shirts. It doesn't matter what you wear as God looks at our hearts, not our clothes.
We follow the RCL (Revised Common Lectionary) for our scripture reading. The music may change weekly, but the order of service will remain the same. We sing (at least we make a joyful noise!), we pray, we listen, we greet each other, we gather with the saints at the Lord's Table, we sing some more, and then we go out to serve others and share the good news.
CHILDREN: are always welcome! We have a nursery AND a "prayground", a space just for kids right up front so that they can see all that is going on.
Come and see.