June 19, 2020

Pastor David’s Update

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:

32,000+

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:

22

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

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June 19, 2020

Outreach Update

Changes are all about us now. The pandemic and protests are making us take stock in what we value and how we live our lives.

The Church is about living God’s love in the here and now. However, we Christians are steeped in centuries of honoring and preserving our ancient texts and historical memories. So we are loathe to change and sometimes view any evolution as a threat to who we are.

But the mystery of truth for us is that we are created, guided, inspired, redeemed and sustained by a living God who loves us at every turn in our personal and corporate lives.

This is crucial for us at Trinity as we face the call for a different future for the church.

For I the Lord do not change; return to me and I will return to you”.
(Malachi 3:6 RSV)

As we regather as a congregation, our prayers are for the Spirit’s guidance for our future as a body of faith that seeks to continue our ministries to the neighborhood.

Here’s an update:

Micah’s completed its Sept.- May deliveries of food to school children with a coordinated effort of city & Trinity volunteers taking food to the YMCA, and then Potomac Case Mgt. staff distributing the food to needy homes, since schools were closed due to the pandemic.

The Clothing Bank is full of inventory as the Outreach Team prayerfully contemplates how to distribute the clothing we have and will receive in the future. Due to the continuing pandemic, we cannot safely distribute via our volunteers as we have traditionally done.

The Food Pantry is empty as Jeff and Ralph distributed all we had to places around Hagerstown that needed it. We made a decision to close until the pandemic is over, and we have developed a new workable mission vision.

Ralph continued all spring to work with Martin’s manager, Steve Blessing (sic), to truck excess and expiring food around town where it (and he) were warmly welcomed. In May, for example, he delivered 3600 lbs of food. Continue to pray for Ralph and his truck.

Jeff, Ralph and I have met several times during the past months to discuss developments, search for distributors and places in need, brainstorm new concepts of outreach and share information.

We have determined that:

  • With an aging crew of volunteers and the challenging layout of the church, we cannot return safely or realistically to the way we had operated the Food Pantry; we move 50,000 – 60,000 pounds of food into and around the church each year.
  • Who will take over our ministry as our volunteers age out?.
  • The only practical, workable location for the Food Pantry is the Fellowship Hall with its one ground level floor and kitchen, but that would disrupt the Contemporary Worship setup.
  • Our budget for the year is largely unspent and could really make a difference in the neighborhood. We even devised a possible plan to safely revamp the way we distribute food from the current location.

* So, although Jeff, Ralph and I want to continue volunteering in mission work, we need to find someone ready to start a new era in outreach and one who has calling to supervise this new process, whatever form that will take.

Outreach has long been a vital ministry at Trinity. We have volunteers who will follow a new leader, funds to support the program, as well as the calling and the heart to partner with the neighborhood. We can’t go back- only forward.

We will be praying for the guidance, inspiration and faith to ASSESS, ALTER, ADJUST and ADAPT, which means we will try new things, evaluate them, tweak or change them and try again. And again. Until we have something that works. Pray for the Spirit to fortify us and lead us in this.

Do not be discouraged. The Lord does not change. When we return to Him, He is there, always, with plans for a future and a hope.

If you have questions or ideas, please email Jeff: jeffreyreed@myactv.net.

– June Habeck Holler

 

 

 


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In this “Zoom” meeting the Rev. Ann Svennungsen, Bishop of the ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod, introduces esteemed epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm who goes on to discuss the nature of the Pandemic and the re-opening of in-person church worship. It is a telling look at What we Know and What we Don’t Know.

Osterholm graduated in 1975 with a BA in Biology and Political Science from Luther College. He completed his Master’s in environmental health in 1976, and a Master’s in Public Health and in 1980, he received his PhD in Environmental Health. Osterholm is a frequently invited guest lecturer on the topic of epidemiology of infectious diseases. He serves on the editorial boards of nine journals, including Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology and Microbial Drug Resistance: Mechanisms, Epidemiology and Disease, and he is a reviewer for 24 additional journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and Science.

 

Click Here to see Dr Michael Osterholm’s Video Chat

 


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December 26, 2019

Micah’s Backpack Update

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

 


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