I hope you are well and healthy!
During this strange time in our life together as a community, I wanted to give you an important update on the state of Trinity Lutheran Church. We’ve been living together in this time of the pandemic now for well over a month, and as the church, the people of God, called to serve and love in Owatonna, it’s important that you know and understand how God is working through our congregation, and how the congregation is doing.
When the quarantine and the “stay at home” order were announced, Trinity, like all churches, had to figure out a whole new way of being church together…in about 8 days. I am grateful for the work of our council, our volunteers and the fantastic Trinity staff for figuring this all out so quickly.
Every day, we are learning new ways to be church. Every day, we are discovering how God is calling us to love, and to connect, and to serve.
And we are going to take the things that we are learning, and when we come out the other side of this pandemic, we are going to be a better church, a stronger church, and we are going to be a more engaged, compassionate and serving community.
In weekly online worship, our worship attendance is up significantly. During this time, more and more people are looking for a word of hope. And they are finding it through our online worship services.
And we’re experimenting now with online Bible studies, and support groups, and baptism classes and new member classes. Nothing will ever replace being together face to face, but God has given us this whole other wonderful way to connect. And it is going to be a part of our future.
And Trinity continues to serve. This past week, 57 families in our community drive up to Trinity and we loaded their car with food for their family. And we continue to support Community Pathways, the food shelf and clothing bank, and our other community partners.
And confirmation, Sunday School, Trinity Nursery School, youth groups…all are continuing, online.
And Trinity’s strategic planning process continues. Our goals of being “for” those who are living on the margins of society; of being “for” those broken by life’s circumstances, and of being “for” welcoming and engaging new people through dynamic faith formation…these are still our goals. We are, now more than ever, “For” Owatonna.
And we continue to provide important pastoral care. Trinity staff and volunteers have called every household. Over 1600 homes were called. We wanted to ask: “How are you doing?” “Is there anything you need?” “Is there anything we can pray for?” And we heard wonderful stories of how God is connecting in your lives.
I also need to say something about the state of Trinity’s finances.
First, I want to thank you for your incredible generosity, especially during uncertain time. You have remained faithful in your giving. That’s more important now than ever. Thank you.
Your giving allows us to remain bold in our mission: Through Jesus’ love, we welcome, connect, learn and serve.
I would describe Trinity’s finances right now as “stable,” but also “fragile.” We are watching our resources and expenditures carefully. Trinity is also participating in the government’s “payroll protection program” which provides a safety net for us. That, along with your continued generosity, and with very careful and conservative spending, will hopefully keep Trinity on stable financial ground as we make our way through this crisis.
I’m telling everyone right now…I can make no guarantees on what the future holds. All we can do is trust in the One who holds the future. Thank you for your faithful generosity and for caring about this community.
I have two things that I’d like to ask of you right now:
Every week, during the announcements, I say “Thank you for being the church, wherever you are.” I say this because if I’ve learned anything during this time, it is that the church is not bound by the walls of the building. No. The church is wherever the people of God go. Wherever you are…is church. So thank you for that. And please continue being the church. Look around. Reach out. Call someone and check in on them. Ask them “how are you doing? Is there anything you need?” That is how we can be church for the sake of the world. This is how we reflect Jesus’ love.
And the second thing is this: Please continue to give. Your generosity fuels the work of our community as it brings a word of hope. Right now, our community needs that word of hope more than ever. Whether its kids in online confirmation, visitors watching our worship services, people picking up meals to help them get through the week, or compassionate calls made to someone who is vulnerable, the work of the church is needed. And your giving is what makes that happen.
I’d like to close with a reading from scripture. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
My friends, in the waters of baptism, God called you and claimed you. You are “in Christ.” You are a new creation. And we are seeing change all around us. But because of the promises of God, we can trust fully that we are moving into a new time, and that through Christ, the world, and our hearts, will be made whole. This is a gift; a gift of God’s grace.
If there is anything you need, any way that your church can support and care for you, please give us a call. Our phone is answered every day, and one of our pastors is on call every night. You can call or email anytime. Even if you just need to ask for prayer.
During days that are uncertain, remember that you are not alone. You belong to a community of people who cares about you. And God is there…alongside you…every day. And God hears you.
Peace, my friends. Know that you are loved. Take care and stay healthy! God bless.