On Thursday, I spent time with Pastor Tim Delkescamp, who is the senior pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, California. Ascension is the largest ELCA congregation in the Southwest California Synod. Of the congregation’s I’ve spent time with so far, Ascension is probably the most similar to Trinity.
Like the two congregations I visited on Wednesday, Ascension has both a preschool and a school that runs up through 6th grade.
In addition, they have a preschool. A few years ago, the congregation made the commitment to go “all in” on the preschool, seeing it as a way to connect with, and serve the community. So the congregation built a $7.2M dollar early childhood center. It is spectacular. It has two wings, with a beautiful outdoor space between the wings. This center space has 3 different, small fenced playgrounds, each one equipped with age-appropriate toys.
Ascension has beautiful facilities. Lori and I have noticed that church facilities in southern California frequently have several physically disconnected buildings. (Something about a REALLY nice climate!). Ascension actually does Sunday Fellowship time outside of the Sanctuary, under an exterior overhang.
Ascension, like Trinity, is a community of people that represent a wide variety of ideas and perspectives, across the social and political spectrum. This presents unique challenges. We spent time talking about what it is to “hold the middle,” that is to make our communities places that even people who may disagree with each other can be united in our faith in the grace and love of Jesus. And at the same time, be faithful to our call as a congregation and to be a voice that speaks out on behalf of those who are on the margins, or who cannot speak for themselves.
Ascension’s joys and challenges are similar to ours, and it was good to spend time with Pastor Tim, comparing notes and “talking shop.” One thing that I appreciated from the conversation was their strong commitment to build relationships with the families who have kids in their preschool and day school, but who haven’t yet connected with other parts of the congregation’s ministry. I think there are some good things we can learn from this.
I’ve appreciated the opportunity to have these informal conversations with colleagues. And it makes all the difference when I can see their space and visualize how they do their ministry.