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TLC Weekly Sermons November 15
TLC Weekly Sermon November 8
TLC Weekly Sermon November 1
TLC Weekly Sermon October 25
TLC Weekly Sermon October 18
TLC Weekly Sermon October 11
TLC Weekly Sermon October 4
TLC Weekly Sermon September 27
TLC Weekly Sermon September 20
TLC Weekly Sermon September 13
TLC Weekly Sermon September 6
TLC Weekly Sermon August 30
TLC Weekly Sermon August 23
TLC Weekly Sermon August 16
TLC Weekly Sermon August 9
TLC Weekly Sermon August 2
TLC Weekly Sermon July 26
TLC Weekly Sermon July 19
TLC Weekly Sermon July 12
TLC Weekly Sermon, July 5
TLC Weekly Sermon, June 28
TLC Weekly Sermon, June 21
TLC Weekly Sermon, June 14
TLC Weekly Sermon, June 7
TLC Weekly Sermon, May 31
TLC Weekly Sermon, May 24
TLC Weekly Sermon, May 17
TLC Weekly Sermon, May 10
TLC Weekly Sermon, May 3
TLC Weekly Sermon, April 26
TLC Weekly Sermon, April 19
TLC Weekly Sermon, Easter
UPDATE ON TRINITY’S OUTREACH
“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9
The Social Ministry Committee has been actively planning activities to help our community for the holiday season.
Micah’s Backpack: We had our first distribution on November 6th and will continue each Friday. Bags are being packed and delivered by faithful volunteers to feed the children. We are starting the year with 50 bags. The bags will be taken and distributed at Bester. Eastern Elementary will be picking their bags up at Bester as it is a Meal Machine Site. We thank the volunteers that are doing this and ask all to pray for the Micah’s children.
Food and Clothing Bank: We are evaluating options to open both of these at some point in the future.
Thanksgiving Food Boxes: This year we will again be providing both Micah’s families and some of the faithful Trinity Food Bank families We are very excited and thankful that we are able to continue this Trinity outreach opportunity.
We were able to get the turkeys and the boxes of food again this year from the Food Bank for free in that Covid funds were available to cover the cost. Thanks be to God! Trinity has always supported this project with great enthusiasm. Because the cost of the food was covered this year, we ask that you please consider donating the money you would have given one of our other Christmas projects – Operation Christmas Child or Gift cards for North Point Veterans.
In any case, we will still need help with the distribution of the boxes. We are asking the families to come into pick up their food on Sunday November 29th from 2 to 5 PM. If you are able to help with this, please contact Carol Brashears at 301-992-5016 or June Habeck at 240-291-0842
Operation Christmas Child The Christian Education Committee is sponsoring this event again this year. We had an outstanding response to this project as part of our Anniversary celebration last year and hope this will be a Christmas tradition. Contact Jane Drawbaugh at 301-491-4510 for items that are needed. Financial donations are also welcome for the committee to purchase items needed. We are currently asking for donations. Mark your donation for Operation Christmas Child.
Christmas Gift Cards for North Point Veterans Home the need this year for this Christmas project is greater than ever. It you have traditionally donated to the Thanksgiving Food Boxes we would respectfully ask you to consider donating to this project. We will begin this collection The First Sunday of Advent. Please mark you donation for this project when you send it in.
REACH Cold Weather Shelter – Our week is December 6th – 13th. Scott Paddack is looking for volunteers for our week. Trinity was a driving force for REACH and we look forward to doing it this year. Please contact Scott to help.
Governor Hogan: Maryland Prepared For Fall COVID-19 Surge, Warns Against Complacency
“Just Wear The Damn Masks”: Statewide Masking Order and Travel Advisory Remain in Full Effect
State Continues to Expand Testing, Maintains Hospital Surge Capacity Plan, Contact Tracing Force, and 60-Day PPE Stockpile
With Small Gatherings Driving New Cases, Marylanders Cautioned to Celebrate Holiday Season Safely
ANNAPOLIS, MD—In response to the nationwide fall COVID-19 surge and rising positivity rates, case rates, and hospitalizations in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan today provided a detailed update on the state’s preparedness and urged Marylanders to follow all public health protocols.
“Thanks to the heroic efforts of so many state employees working around the clock, and because of the vigilance and support of the people of Maryland, we are in a much better position than we were this spring, and Maryland is also much better prepared than most states to be able to withstand this next surge,” said Governor Hogan. “However, I cannot stress strongly enough that we cannot afford to let our guard down. The weeks and months ahead will be difficult, and our collective actions will determine whether we can continue safely on the road to recovery.”
The governor was joined at today’s press conference by Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall, Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Jerry Jones, Maryland Acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan, and Dr. David Marcozzi, COVID-19 Incident Commander for the University of Maryland Medical System.
FALL SURGE PREPAREDNESS:
TESTING STRATEGY. The State of Maryland has built a successful long-term testing strategy and a strategic stockpile of test kits and supplies. State officials recently deployed rapid antigen tests to nursing homes across the state. To continue expanding these efforts, at the request of local leaders and in partnership with the Allegany County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) is standing up a new testing site at the Allegany County Fairgrounds.
CONTACT TRACING OPERATION. Maryland built a robust contact tracing operation, nearly 1,400 tracers strong, and has kept this operation at full strength to find patterns and identify where and how the virus is spreading.
The state’s contact tracing operation continues to show that social gatherings are the most likely source of transmissions. The number one activity of those who have become infected with COVID-19 continues to be family gatherings, followed by house parties. View the data here.
HOSPITAL SURGE CAPACITY. Maryland met and exceeded its hospital surge capacity goal of an additional 6,000 beds, maintains a comprehensive surge capacity plan, and continues to keep the state’s alternate care sites open—including the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital.
PPE STOCKPILE. Emergency management officials have distributed more than 78 million units of PPE throughout the state, and have built up a 60-day supply of the most critical resources.
MARYLAND RESPONDS. In response to the nationwide shortage of nurses, Governor Hogan encouraged medical and public health volunteers to register for the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps. More than 15,000 people have already signed up to be part of this initiative from every jurisdiction throughout the state. To sign up, Marylanders can visit mdresponds.health.maryland.gov.
PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDANCE:
MASKS AND FACE COVERINGS. Maryland’s statewide masking order remains in full effect. Under this order, all Marylanders over the age of five are required to wear face coverings in the public spaces of all businesses across the state. Face coverings are required in outdoor public areas, whenever it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. The order continues to provide certain exceptions, including for medical conditions. Read the order here.
COMPLIANCE ENFORCEMENT. In response to increasing reports of individuals and businesses failing to comply with the law, the governor urged local leaders, county health departments, county liquor boards, and, when necessary, local law enforcement agencies to immediately step up efforts to ensure that all residents and businesses in their jurisdictions are in compliance with all public health regulations.
TELEWORK. Marylanders are encouraged to continue teleworking, and employers should make every effort to give employees the opportunity to telework.
OUT-OF-STATE TRAVEL ADVISORY. With the holiday season approaching, the travel advisory issued by state health officials has been renewed and remains in effect. Under this advisory, Marylanders are strongly advised against traveling to states with positivity rates of 10% or higher. Anyone traveling from these states should get tested and self-quarantine while awaiting results. Marylanders should avoid non-essential travel of any kind outside of the region. Read the travel advisory.
“With the holidays approaching and so many Marylanders making plans to spend time with family and friends, it is more important than ever for all of us to remain cautious and vigilant,” continued the governor. “We want Marylanders to enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones, but we want you to do it as safely as possible.”
Last week I wrote about the late Rev. Phyllis Tickle’s theory that the Church experiences paradigm shifts every 500 years. I explained that a paradigm is a way of thinking which guides just about everything we do, and when it is challenged, or worse yet cast aside to address a new reality, it can be earth-shattering. The Church is presently living in one of these shifts. Whereas up to the last quarter of the 20thcentury the Church enjoyed a position of privilege in society, it now is challenged to have any relevance at all in the unfolding 21st century. Up to the Vietnam War and the resulting distrust of institutions through the sexual scandals which rocked the Church in the 80s and 90s, the Church was central to life in the US. That can hardly be said now. Thus is a shock to those of us who remember the time when….
Our Wednesday evening sessions with Pr. Fred Lehr are helping us understand what has happened, and what we might do to stay true to our central beliefs, while at the same time be present for people in their journeys of faith. Session #4 is this Wednesday at 6PM in the sanctuary or live on our YouTube channel, Trinity Loving Community. You can find the previous sessions there as well. It’s imperative that as many of us who care about Trinity join in the discussion!
Recently, an interesting article came across my desk which I found very pertinent to the discussion. Many of you may remember the Alban Institute. It was a consulting group based in Washington, D.C. Its goal was to help congregations in their mission in general, but especially to be there for congregations experiencing conflict or crisis. After Pr. Eric’s untimely death, Trinity received help from the Alban Institute. Unfortunately, the Alban Institute went out of existence a few years ago. Its services were top-flight but extremely expensive, and few congregations could afford the Institute’s services in these challenging times. However, several former staff members joined in 2014 to form a new organization called Congregational Consulting Group. Articles about congregational life are sent out frequently.
The article I am referring to and wish to reproduce in this article (and the next few weeks) is entitled Five Assumptions Failing Us Now. It was sent by email to subscribers on September 8, 2020. The author is Susan Beaumont, one of the founders of Congregational Consulting Group. She is the author of several books and a nationally recognized expert on congregational organization. I had the privilege of taking a continuing education course with her quite a few years ago, when the Alban Institute was still in existence. The topic of that course was “learning how to supervise a staff ministry”. I am finding the skills I learned there to be helpful in my role as Senior Pastor here at Trinity.
I looked carefully at the article itself and the group’s website to see if the material was copyrighted and saw nothing restricting its use. Moreover, it is sent free-of-charge to anyone who wishes to become a subscriber which you, too, can do by visitingcongregationalconsulting.org. I therefore am going to reproduce it, rather than simply digest it for you. I think you will find this interesting, and hopefully informative, as to why discernment is so critically important for Trinity at this moment. If I end up in jail for copyright infringement, please visit me!
Here is the introduction and the first of those five assumptions we have previously made which now are failing us. Think paradigm shift!
Growth in membership is the primary indicator of congregational health and vitality.” The pandemic is challenging this and other longstanding assumptions about engagement, belonging, and membership. We must carefully examine all of our assumptions—otherwise, we risk creating barriers to belonging for people trying to engage with us in new ways.
During the pandemic, people are finding meaningful new ways to connect with us online in worship, programs, and service. These connections do not look anything like what we previously recognized as engagement.
We are eager to return to our buildings and in-person interaction, because that is what we are designed to do. However, online church is here to stay. As we return to our buildings, many congregations will maintain an online presence because not everyone is ready or able to return to physical spaces. Even some of our longest-standing members are discovering that they prefer virtual engagement for some parts of church life.
What happens to our newly-formed online communities as we return to our buildings? Do online participants become second-class citizens? If we do not examine our unstated assumptions about belonging, we risk losing our newest constituents, or relegating them to a “lesser” status.
In the paragraphs that follow, I will challenge five long-standing assumptions about belonging, engagement and membership that are crumbling now. No doubt you can name others.
Geography dictates belonging.
Pull out a map and draw a five-mile circle around the church building. We have long believed that this circle represents the pool from which we draw our constituents. People will not drive more than 20 minutes to engage a church -right?
The pandemic has shifted our reality. In the time we have been out of our buildings many of us have discovered new constituent relationships that have nothing to do with geography.
It is delightful to consider that we are no longer limited by physical boundaries. However, this raises new questions about how we define our identity and our context. Who are we now? Who do we serve now? What, if anything, does membership mean to someone who does not interact in our physical space? Is their engagement less important to us than the people who are physically present?
The basic question being asked here is what did it mean to be a neighborhood church in former days. What does it mean to be a neighborhood church now? Was Trinity ever a neighborhood church? Should it try to be now in the pandemic era? What does this mean for evangelism?
Discipleship begins with membership
Once upon a time, new-member assimilation was the primary means by which people were drawn into discipleship and set onto a path of faith development and spiritual growth. People came to worship first, and then they joined the church. Then they were drawn into true belonging. Through participation in the life of the church—on the other side of their decision to join—people were guided inward in faith and outward in service and leadership.
Now the journey often works in reverse. People connect with us in order to serve, and service helps them to belong. People need to feel that they belong before they join. Some people are not interested in membership at all. They may or may not attend worship. People are finding ways to belong outside the bonds of membership. But certain parts of the discipleship journey—such as serving in leadership—are traditionally denied to non-members.
Many of us have failed to alter our discipleship process to reflect these shifting realities. Now we have no choice but to let this failed assumption die. We are obliged to disciple people who are finding us online. Their engagement will not look like the journey described above. What will it mean to belong for those who have no relationship to our physical space or our physical gatherings?
Worship participation is the best indicator of member engagement.
This assumption has not been true for a while, but you would not know it from the records we keep and the metrics we obsess over. When asked how large a congregation is, we describe something about the size of the membership body or the average weekend worship attendance. Both metrics have been faltering as effective measures of the engaged body. Engaged people are worshipping with less frequency and many people who belong to the congregation do not become members.
Virtual worship is posing new challenges for our reporting systems. We might be able to tell how many devices are logged on to a worship service or class, but we do not know how many people are engaged at the logged-on site. And we do not know anything about the nature of their engagement.
We need new ways of measuring and talking about engagement now. What does authentic engagement look like in a virtual world? How will we measure and track it? What are the levels of engagement that we are trying to lead people through and how does that relate to their discipleship?
In-person engagement is more authentic than online engagement.
“When will we be able to get back to real worship?” This is a common question posed by those who find sacred space in physical sanctuaries. The question reveals an assumption that the virtual worship experiences we are having are less than authentic. Certainly, some people feel that way.
However, new people finding their way to us online probably do not share this assumption. They are finding something sacred in the virtual interaction and the space from which they engage that interaction—their home.
As we re-enter our buildings, it behooves us to remember that there are people who want to worship, learn, and serve with us, but they are not interested in our buildings.
The virtual experience raises another distinction to consider. Some worship experiences are pre-recorded. Others are offered live, but they are also recorded for more convenient viewing later. People can worship and learn in a time and space that is different from the time and space of the teacher. Does it matter to us whether people are engaging life in the church synchronously or asynchronously? Is an asynchronous worshiper a lesser engaged constituent?
Belonging requires owning the “whole “ church.
Historically, choosing to become a member of a congregation included a commitment to support the full ministry of the congregation. No one is expected to participate in every aspect of congregational life. However, members are expected to understand, support, and financially underwrite the full ministry of the church. If you are not a member, not much is really expected of you.
The pandemic is drawing this assumption, also, into question. Many people who have found their way to us through online worship, service projects, or online classes may have little interest in the full ministry of our congregation. However, we should not dismiss their availability or willingness to support some part of the church that is meaningful to them.
In early February, the members of Congregation Council and team leaders attended a planning retreat at Camp Mar Lou Ridge. The fruits of that retreat are the huge calendars which hang on the wall in the large church office. For the first time in ages, things were in place for worship, meetings, dinners, and events right through the end of December. Then you know what happened- the Corona virus basically appeared as a huge STOP sign, calling into question who and what Trinity should be as a congregation.
I participate in a Zoom call every Wednesday. The pastors of the Washington County Conference of the Delaware-Maryland Synod meet to talk about what is going on in their congregations and personal lives. It has been interesting over the past few months to hear how other churches have met the challenge of trying to hold things together in these challenging times, which, until just recently, precluded the possibility of worshiping together as a corporate body.
I am proud to say that Trinity is in the vanguard of making farsighted decisions which have not only made us all feel we are alive and well, but have offered a glimpse of what the future might hold for us. This was not easy. The range of options included shutting the church down. Your staff—David, Greg, Andy, and Rich—thought about all this, and decided that, instead of giving our congregants much less, we should “double down”, and make daily contact with our members and others interested in the life of LTC. So began Rich’s morning TLC message, which includes humor and links to choral music. Occasionally Rich, our administrator slips in something of personal interest to him (and maybe others). Guess what it is? He’s a railroad aficionado, and so we see pictures of locomotives and interesting places where trains run.
Two-hundred seventy people receive the morning letter via e-mail. Almost 260 receive the evening email with a more pastoral article in it. A range of people write these articles. For me, writing these has been interesting, since I am able to cover a multitude of topics which would not be possible in a monthly newsletter. Those who do not have email receive physical copies of the previous week’s items via snail mail. That number is around twenty. Our audience is far flung. Former members of Trinity who live in Australia read about us. So do some friends of Rich who live in England, as do my husband and family and friends in El Salvador. Can you guess how mail emails and physical copies of these have been sent since the pandemic began? It deserves to be in big numerals:
In addition to these contacts, your pastors have been making lots of phone calls. Most teams have met at least once during the pandemic, sometimes via Zoom, at other times informally in the hallway, occasionally meeting face-to-face and practicing social distancing in the larger areas of the building such as the parlor. I was going to say “spaced out” but that has another connotation! Perhaps the record goes to the Worship and Music Team, whose members were together every time a service was held and/or recorded. The Property Team tackled some major issues, like a leak around one of the stained-glass windows in the nave. Social Ministry continued up through the end of the school year to pack bags for children via Micah’s Backpack. Others have been meeting regularly to tackle the concerns of the food and clothing banks. Since we could not safely operate either, tons of food were taken to other places where people in need can go and benefit from it. The team is now thinking about how these important ministries can continue when things quiet down. Meantime, the bills continue to be paid. The offices are open (with restrictions) every weekday. Ricky continues to keep everything clean and in good order. Council and its Executive Team meet by Zoom regularly. There is even a “tailgate” party at the Dutch Market on Friday morning- coffee and donuts to be sure.
As soon as it became obvious corporate worship was out, a group of people explored the possibility of broadcasting our worship services. Neophytes all, we bought equipment, learned how to use it, even facing the challenges of our aging sound system and the awesome but daunting acoustics of our worship space, and became familiar with the dynamics of uploading big files to social media. A special word of thanks goes to Maggie Stone for all her work doing this. We continue to improve weekly as we try new things. Guess how many worship services have been broadcast? Again—big numerals:
Each service required at least eight people to preside, play music, sing, record, prepare communion elements, etc. What an effort went into making the services available this way!
While some sense of normalcy has returned, because we have had corporate worship now for three weeks, people talk about the new normal. I think the use of social media will be crucial for our future. There are lots of reasons for this, but primary among these are the fact that more people attend church via the internet than in person. Shocking, isn’t it! How Trinity becomes part of this is our challenge. If we do, our impact can reach far beyond our corner of the world in Hagerstown. We have been deficient in one area—Bible study. This is being addressed and should become a regular feature of our presence online. Soon you will read about Segment 3 of our process of discerning our Vision and Mission. Hopefully, you will choose to be part of a course which will help us figure out how to be a 21st century church.
I wish to highlight one area of ministry wherein I feel all the work mentioned above has paid off. While many churches are facing severe financial challenges because corporate worship ended so abruptly, and people are not at church to put their envelopes in the traditional gold plate, Trinity has actually seen an uptick in our weekly offerings. I think that is remarkable! But why this has happened is no mystery. We didn’t shut down. Given new challenges, we rose to the occasion by being innovative and fresh in our approach. That was a clear decision on the part of your staff, a decision that few other churches made. The uptick in giving was a direct result of our decision to do something new. Please remember that, as there are other things we can do to strengthen and grow our Loving Community- stay tuned! Bishop Bill Gohl writes a weekly article and always includes the phrase, “the church is alive!” Because of how we have all chosen to be as a community of love and communication, Trinity as a community of faith is alive and well. We miss seeing people together, united in worship, and at meetings and sharing food together—but, by God’s help, we are still Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. And we will be Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church as the future unfolds for us.
Thanks to all of you who help make this possible.
– Pastor David
Micah’s Backpack Update
How we are continuing this ministry during the school closure
As soon as we found out that schools were going to be closing in response to the coronavirus, we quickly packed another bag of food, so that before the children left school on March 12, they had 2 weeks’ worth of food to take home with them.
Since then, we have had 3 food distributions at various sites, through the Washington County Public School Meal Machine. The first distribution was done in conjunction with the school system. Churches were able to take the bags to the schools or to a distribution hub, for school vans to take the bags to the Meal Machine sites. This was a good plan but only lasted one time, because the school system was busy expanding their sites to 19 around the county, and could no longer help us with the distribution of the bags. So we actually had to put a hold on the program, until we could plan the next step. We knew for many reasons that it was not feasible for the churches to hand out the bags on their own. A Micah’s volunteer at First Christian Church, Cindy Reeder, heard of our dilemma. Cindy is also very connected with the United Way. The Micah’s Steering Committee had a meeting and with the help of the United Way, the YMCA and Potomac Case Management, Micah’s is up and running!
Here is how it is working now:
– The churches still pack the bags and deliver them to the YMCA.
– A team of volunteers from the United Way remove the bags from the sponsors’ vehicles.
– Potomac Case Management employees then take the bags to the Meal Machine Sites. These case workers are very familiar with many of the students and their families.
– They distribute the bags to the children (we give them two bags as the distribution is held once every two weeks).
The first distribution under this new model was on April 3rd, at 4 sites: Pangborn Elementary, Otterbein Church, Hager Elementary and Salem Avenue Elementary. We had 22 sponsors participate by bringing over 800 bags, so we served over 400 children.
The second distribution was held on April 16th, and we expanded to 5 sites. We had over 1000 bags brought by 24 sponsors, so this time close to 500 children were served.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
We have tried to maintain social distancing while packing at Trinity. As usual, Jeff has beendoing setting up. I have been going in as well, as have Chuck and Sharon Poland, new volunteers with the Micah’s ministry at Trinity. They have helped with the packing. Chuck has a pickup truck that will hold all of the bags. He then brings them to the YMCA to drop off. Packing and taking the bags out for distribution the same day has helped us limit the foot traffic in the building. Believe me, we will need all the Micah’s volunteers to keep things going when school gets back to normal.
God continues to bless this ministry. We are most thankful and we are most grateful for the United Way getting other organizations involved so that we may continue to give out the bags. When we thought we were going to have to shut down the program, United Way asked, “How can we help”? God is good.
Our next planned distribution will be on May 7th.
The feedback Potomac Case Management has given us is that the children are thrilled to get their bags. The school system is dong a tremendous job getting food into the hands of the children. With close to 50% of all students getting free and reduced meals, the need is great. We are so thankful the program has been able to continue during this time.
Please keep the Micah’s families in your prayers.
– Carol Brashears