Today we sent our our annual report packets to our congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa. There is a lot to read there. I will be distributing the reports daily here on my blog, encouraging members to read a report or two each day in preparation for our annual meeting, Jan. 31. I will begin with my own report and follow it with those from various ministry teams/committees/task forces.
“’Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37). “Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13: 34).
We have experienced so much this year as a congregation, as individuals, and as members of society. Council President Kim Mills did a masterful job recounting the year and the annual report packet includes many stories of teams, task forces, and staff pivoting and adapting.
Why, after this year, are we still a healthy congregation with strong connections? One reason we weathered the year well is because, though we are most certainly grounded in the communal worship experience, meaning it is what we always return to, it was never the only piece of our identity or mission. Worship, particularly the pillars of Word and Sacrament, nourish us for a life of discipleship beyond that hour or so on Sunday morning. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our words and actions, growing in relationship with one another, God, and our neighbors, living out our faith in our daily lives are all components that were part of our life of faith before the pandemic. So, when worship needed to shift significantly, we had other totems.
Another reason our annual report is full of mission and ministry at the end of 2020 is because we are guided by neighbor love, described in the verses from Luke and John above. Neighbor love is why we stopped in-person worship in our building in March. Neighbor love is why we put practices into place so we could safely gather in smaller groups to continue ministries. Neighbor love is why you reached out with notecards, phone calls, and driveway visits. Neighbor love is why members of Trinity helped our partner ministries, Trinity Community Gardens and Trinity New Hope affordable housing, pivot and thrive, feeding and housing those in need.
Leading us through all of this are so many remarkable individuals. How did Kim Mills, a scientist and healthcare professional with a huge heart for our congregation, end up as our president, elected at the February council meeting? The Holy Spirit. Thank you, Kim, for your servant leadership. One of our council’s goals was financial stability. Lloyd Kellar secured a PPP Loan and refinanced the mortgage, this despite the credit union lobby closing periodically because of COVID and loan officers being diagnosed with COVID. Thanks Lloyd. The trials Lloyd faced were matched only by your generosity in financial giving! A second council goal was worship weekly. Thanks to our three accompanists, Trish, Karissa, and Wendy who did a lot of adapting, to schedule changes in the beginning and later to requests for various recordings. All three of them were agreeable and did everything in their power to help us keep singing, praying, and worshiping God. Thanks to Bob Cola who made sure the council’s third goal of communication and connectedness was a reality each and every week. Finally, thank you to the entire church council for extra meetings, lots of adapting, and always being open when I asked what the third, fourth, of fifth option was.
“10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’ 11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. 13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Jeremiah 31: 10-13
We had moments of return during 2020. I remember the deep joy and gladness when so many of us gathered on the church lawn for outdoor worship in August, September and October. We are, as the virus has reminded us daily, embodied creatures and we are meant to be in embodied community. This passage from Jeremiah reminds us that people of faith have been scattered before. God is faithful. We will worship and recreate and serve the Nampa community in large groups again. It is not going to happen quickly. I do not have a clear vision for 2021 but I do have hope. My hope is grounded in the relationships that make up this congregation. More important, my hope is grounded in a God who also experienced real embodiment and whose relationship with and love for creation is everlasting. That is more than enough to sustain us.