Good afternoon friends!
I want to begin with a few words of thanks.
First, I’d like to thank Bonnie and her crew, for putting together our wonderful lunch this afternoon! Let’s show our appreciation!
Second, a quick observation: Tending the vision and the mission of what is really a pretty decent-sized organization, like Trinity is, takes a lot of time, effort and love. I hear stories from pastor friends about congregational councils that are really embroiled in conflict or get stuck in the weeds of planning. We have a wonderful church council here at Trinity. They are vision and mission focused.
I’d like to thank Trinity’s Executive Committee, Kathy, Mark and Joanna, and our whole church council. I’d like to invite them to stand and be thanked for all of their work this past year. Thank you for all that you do.
Finally, I would like to ask the Trinity staff to stand. This is a group of gifted people who are deeply committed to the work of our church. You all go above and beyond, all of the time. Thank you on behalf of all of us.
In the past few months, as we have been preparing for our celebration of Trinity’s centennial, I have become very aware of the legacy of this congregation. The word legacy, is literally defined, according to Dictionary.com as “something handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”
As I walk around our building, as I have heard stories from folks who have been here for a long time, and as I have seen documents from our past, I am reminded what an amazing gift that we have been given by those who have gone before us.
Trinity is a healthy community. Trinity is a generous community. Trinity is a community not afraid to think outside of the box, or to try an experiment. Trinity is a community that wants to think beyond itself, and to reach out to others in need. It is a blessing to be a recipient of this legacy…it makes this a meaningful and to be honest, a fun community to belong to, and to serve as a pastor. I am grateful to God’s Holy Spirit for working through those who formed this congregation.
Trinity100; Celebrating Past and Future is about looking back, and about looking ahead. And that’s what I’d like to do today. I’d like to think about the legacy we have received, and the legacy we will leave for those who follow us.
I’d just want to just touch on a few of the highlights from our past year together, and then think together a bit about what I think is going to be a very exciting year ahead of us!
Certainly, one of the most significant events from this past year was the call of Deacon Kris to join…or in this case…rejoin…the Trinity staff. We are blessed to have her back here at Trinity. Did she hit the ground running? I’d actually go with “hit the ground sprinting.” I think that it is partially this familiarity with our congregation and our community. But I also think it’s because of her great love and passion for this ministry. She is gifted and has been a wonderful addition to Trinity’s staff.
Deacon Kris has a huge job. Her role is to give vision and direction to all of Trinity’s faith formation ministries, from early childhood and young families, all the way through adulthood. I’m very excited for the things she’s been thinking about. And I’ll just say this: To make these visions a reality, we are going to all need to be a part of it. Growing together in our faith is a life-long process, and it is for all of us.
Deacon Kris is pulling together ministry teams now to help her give shape to our faith formation ministries, and I suspect that we are going to begin seeing the results of that work in the next few months. If you would like to be a part of creating these new ministries, please feel free to be in touch with Deacon Kris.
In 2018, we also launched our ministry of inclusion. This is new turf for us, and we have been blessed to have Jessica Turnland, who is a gifted special education teacher within our school district providing leadership in this initiative. Our goal is that no one is excluded from any of our ministries based on cognitive, emotional or physical ability.
At the moment, there are, I believe, 4 individuals who have requested being paired with a buddy, and Jessica is getting the volunteers into place so that might happen. If you are interested in becoming a buddy, and accompanying a person who has some special needs in their faith life, Jessica would love to talk with you about that. That’s exciting stuff and it’s fun to see it come together.
Trinity is currently just beginning year #5 of our 5-year, strategic plan. One of our goals for the fourth year was to initiate a leadership development strategy. Early in January, Trinity hosted the first in its “Leadership Series: Building Capacity, Courage and Community.” The intent of the series is to develop leaders for the sake of the congregation and the community.
We know that congregations that thrive do so because they have a healthy and forward-thinking leadership structure. We want to continue to raise up the next generation of leaders. But perhaps even more important than that, we know that members of Trinity are leaders in all aspects of our community, from business to non-profits, to athletics. And we want to help support our people in their leadership. We know that our faith is integrated into all aspects of our life. And we know that as we grow in our leadership, we grow in faith.
65 people participated in the first Leadership Series event. That was a wonderful response. Our next Leadership Series event is scheduled for March 9th. Please put it on your calendar.
We continue to “live into” and discover new things about our facility. We continue to use it for Trinity events…all the time. And we continue to give opportunities for our community partners and non-profit organizations to use the space. We have been blessed with the space, and we are glad to share it with the community. I asked Polly to run some numbers for us. If you look exclusively at Trinity’s “new” space, that is, Fellowship Hall, the expanded narthex, and upstairs, the Mezzanine, room 230, the Gathering Room and the Upper Room…so just the new space, not the space we already had, there were a total of 1,030 events that took place in those rooms in 2018. That includes both Trinity events, and events from the community. It includes everything from the Sunday 10:45am worship services, to Trinity U, to the Sons of Norway Executive committee meetings, to the school district’s teacher trainings, the Young Life banquet, to synod events, to high school basketball or cross-country banquets. And that’s just the new space.
It is so good to see the space being used as we believe God is calling us to use it.
We feel like this is a part of our mission. This past weekend, our space downstairs was put into use for the very first time as an emergency shelter, in partnership with Steele County’s Emergency Services. We only housed and fed a few people, but A) they were grateful, and B) it was a great test run, in case there is ever a need to use the space with a larger group.
It is another example of how we believe God has called us to be church for the sake of the world.
We were, as you’ve heard me discuss, disappointed this past year to discover that we were not being assigned an intern for the current year. We have a long and rich history of serving as an internship site. As I mentioned at last year’s meeting, this is going to be an ongoing issue, as seminary education is changing, and fewer and fewer interns are available.
Our personnel commission and council have been working on this. For us, that fourth member of our pastoral team is a necessary staff member, and if we cannot depend on receiving an intern, we need to look at other, sustainable staffing methods to do our ministry. Our hope was to call a fourth full-time member of the pastoral team in July. However, at this stage, our pledges for 2019 did not support that. So now, assuming our budget passes, we will contract with a part-time, retired pastor to assist with pastoral care and other needed work. This will be stop-gap measure until we are able to call a full-time pastor, hopefully in 2020.
Speaking of open jobs, our Bishop, Steven Delzer, who will be here preaching next weekend to help us celebrate our centennial, will be retiring and stepping down from his position this summer after serving for six years. That means that at our synod assembly this spring, we will be electing a new bishop for the Southeast Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This is a big deal! And we are all excited to see who the Holy Spirit will call into that role.
Trinity, along with other congregations in our synod, will be sending delegates to the synod assembly, which will be May 31 and June 1. It is a great process to be a part of, you learn a lot and it is important in the life of our church. (It’s also actually kind of fun!) If you are interested in serving as a delegate, please come and talk to me. We would love to have you be a part of it.
Let’s turn to some really fun stuff:
This week, we turn 100! An early happy birthday to you! A centennial celebration is a really big deal in the life of a church. And we have had a ministry team working for the last 7 or 8 months to put together the details of a wonderful year of celebration. A centennial is a great reason for a party, but even more, it is an opportunity for us to look both back, at our rich history, and ahead, at our future. Hence, Trinity100: Celebrating both past and future.
The celebration begins next weekend, when we will mark the actual centennial. As I mentioned, our Bishop, Steven Delzer will be here to preach, and it will be a wonderful worship service with all the bells and whistles.
And beginning this weekend, we will have different keepsake items, that mark our centennial, available for purchase. We ordered a limited number, but when we get a sense of how many people want them, we will be able to order more of them.
During the year, we have invited seven of our former pastors and interns to return as guest preachers, to be a part of our centennial.
Upstairs in the mezzanine, we will have a display of historical artifacts from Trinity’s story, along with different photos and other important items. These displays will rotate throughout the year.
Marla Holt, a member who is also a professional writer and editor, is writing a book. It will be a brand-new history of the life of this congregation. And it will be available for our festival celebration worship on April 28th.
A choral piece has been commissioned as well, to celebrate the centennial of the congregation, and that piece will be premiered on April 28th. To reflect the values of our congregation, that piece will be an inter-generational piece, for our adult, youth and children’s choirs to sing together, and will also include a wide range of instrumental music.
And that event will also be the high-point of the celebration. On Sunday, April 28, we will not hold worship here at Trinity. Instead, that morning we will hold a single worship service for the whole congregation at 10am in the arena at the Four-Seasons Center. Put it on your calendar now and invite your friends and family members to come and be a part of it. It is going to be 2 parts worship, 1-part reunion and 100% celebration. Following worship in the arena, we will have a catered lunch in the other arena. It is going to be a wonderful day.
Another important element of our year is going to be the Trinity100 Campaign. Looking through some of the original church documents, I was reminded of what a risk the founders of our congregation took. Starting a church was not an easy task. But they invested deeply for this to happen, and God was faithful. Because of God’s faithfulness, we are still here. And we have an opportunity this year to lean into our own sense of commitment and God’s faithfulness and take a healthy chunk out of our debt.
We believe that if we can reduce our mortgage from its current level of $3.1 million, to $2.1 million by the end of 2019, and then can re-amortize our loan, we can cut our monthly payment in half, and can merge that payment in to our budget, and can reinvest the excess in growing our ministry.
We will also begin this project on April 28th, and on that date, we will have an exciting announcement that we believe is going to energize the congregation. So, make sure you’re there on April 28th!
The last item I want to mention is perhaps the most important; it is the future. As I said earlier, we are entering year #5 of Trinity’s five-year, strategic plan. I feel like generally, we’ve done pretty well walking through this plan together. Most of the items, we have initiated. Some, we have had to adapt as circumstances have changed, and a couple, we have had to backtrack on. But we’ve made good progress.
But in year #5, one of our tasks will be to initiate the process of the next long-range, strategic plan; to wonder together about where God continues to call us to grow in the future.
I am actually wondering if even developing a 5-year plan at this stage is too long a time-frame.
- 20 years ago, the experts all told us that we should be thinking about 10 year strategic plans.
- Then about 10 years ago, they were saying you should develop 5-year plans.
- Now, I’m reading more and more that we should be thinking about 3-year plans, because the pace of change in our world and in our culture is accelerating. It’s hard to do planning more than 3-years out.
So this is a question that our council will take up, and then we will be inviting many of you into the process of helping to give shape to our next plan, whatever it looks like.
I believe it comes back to the question of “Legacy.” What will be the legacy that we leave for the children of Trinity, and for their children, and for all who come to be a part of this community of faith in the next 100 years? At the Trinity bicentennial, what will they say about us, and the legacy we left for them.
Whatever our strategic plan looks like, and whatever it contains, we know that we will continue to build on the legacy of the faithfulness and good work of those who have gone before…and we will rely on the steadfast promises of God.
I have confidence that we are moving in the direction God calls us to move, and we are growing because of the breath of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
Thanks be to God for that!