As I look back at 2019, two major events stand out for me as particularly important for St. Luke’s moving forward into 2020. The first was the hiring of Heidi Rochlin as our new Director of Music. Heidi has brought a dynamic new energy to our music ministry, and her positivity and energy are creating an exciting new direction in our music.
Heidi has expanded our music styles, and brought a variety of new sounds to our weekly worship. She has led us in learning and implementing Setting 4, from the With One Voice hymnal, as the main liturgy during the 10:15 worship service, which is a significant change for the congregation. Prior to Heidi leading us in this new direction, we had always and exclusively used Setting 1, from the Lutheran Book of Worship. We are now blessed with a new option for worshipping our awesome God.
She has restarted the Bell Choir, and they sound better than ever, she has engaged fully with all our youth, from nursery through high school, be becoming part of our weekly Sunday School program. Each week Heidi meets with different age youth, to teach them music, including hand chimes, and to instill in them a deeper love for the Lord through the gift of music.
She has also brought her family with her, and they have all been a blessing to our congregational life, through their musical participation, and through their increasing participation on the overall life of the congregation. All in all, Heidi has been a great blessing to St. Luke’s, and we can only look forward with anticipation to the exciting new things she has planned for us in 2020.
The other significant event in 2020 was the beginning of our Stephen Ministry. You may remember that last year we budgeted money to begin this caring ministry, and in 2019 we used the funds to raise up 4 Stephen Leaders. The first two Leaders raised up were Nicole Greer, and myself. We went to St. Louis, MO in May for an intensive, week-long training event, that was challenging and enriching, and we were blessed to be commissioned as our first two Stephen Leaders.
Then, in August, Dennis and Gail Faust did the same course during a week in Pittsburgh, and they were duly commissioned as our third and fourth Stephen Leaders. With our Leaders in place, we next made plans to offer an 8 hour course on Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life: You and Your Spiritual Gifts, which was offered the first two Sundays in November. 10 members of St. Luke’s took the course: Connie and Smoky Panepinto, Gwen Semmens, Michelle Bergman, Greg Incollingo, Candice Love, Cheryl Geiser, Linda Mertz, Marty Jordan, and Irene Sassaman. By the end of the course, each of the participants had identified and explored their spiritual gifts, and as we move into 2020, we can all look forward with excitement to the ways in which these people will begin to use their spiritual gifts to bless St. Luke’s, and to bless many people in many ways. The Leaders would be delighted to offer this course again, so if you are interested in exploring and discovering your spiritual gifts, please speak to one of our Stephen Leaders.
The next step in our Stephen Ministry program is to identify, and train the actual Stephen Ministers, who will then be available to provide confidential, one-to-one care to members and friend who are in need of trained, loving, caring conversation and support. The path to becoming a Stephen Minister is long, and it begins with the filling out of an application. The application is followed by a face-to-face interview with one of the Leaders, and then, if accepted, the candidate receives 50 hours of classroom training before being commissioned as a Stephen Minister.
We are eager to begin training these gifted caregivers, and if you think you might be interested, you are encouraged to speak with a Stephen Leader, to learn more and perhaps begin the process.
A key way that Stephen Ministry expresses its purpose is with the idea of Christ caring for others through others. We are each called by Christ to care for one another, within this Body of Christ within which we are all members. It is not the job of any one individual to care for everyone else, it is the job of every one of us to care for everyone else. We are united with one another, and with Christ, through the gift of Holy Baptism, and that sense of communal love and support is strengthened and nurtured every time we gather at the table to receive Holy Communion.
We are community, brought together by Christ and in Christ, to love and support each other, to witness and proclaim the love of God made real in Christ and made real in our love for one another. We are called to be a beloved community of people passionate about caring and serving and helping one another, and all of God’s beloved people everywhere. As we enter 2020, I pray we will recommit ourselves to the task of intentional, focused, loving care for one another.
We have a strong history of serving and caring here at St. Luke’s, it is in our congregational DNA, and we have, in many ways, lived out our call to care. Now we need to go further, extending our caring love to each other fully. Let no one be excluded from your heart. Let no one be denied your caring love. Reach out to all who come here. Reach out to those from whom you might be estranged. Reach out to those you don’t know, or don’t know well. Sit in a new place, with new people. Talk with new and different people in times of fellowship. Learn about each other. Learn from each other. Let there be no walls or divisions or barriers here. Let all divisions and hurts be healed. Let all tensions be broken. Let all hearts reach out in love.
This church is named after a healer, St. Luke, sometimes called The Great Physician. Let us make this place a place of healing for all who come here. Let us make this place a place of hope and renewal for all who come here. Let us make this place a place where love reigns, where everyone is welcomed and loved and cared for equally, without condition and without judgement. Let us be the means by which the caring love of Christ is made known and made real. See you in church!