October 20, 2020

Outreach Update

UPDATE ON TRINITY’S OUTREACH
October 2020

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 Micah’s Backpack Team was happily able to continue the distribution of bags last spring through the meal machines set up at various school sites. Our faithful Trinity volunteers will return to packing and delivering bags to distribute at the meal machine sites beginning in November. This will continue until all students are back in the classroom when volunteers will again be delivering the bags to the school personnel who will give them to the children to take home.  By God’s grace we have been able to keep this ministry going during the pandemic. If you are interested in joining a packing or delivery team, please contact Carol Brashears at 301-992-5016

Also, Ralph Conrad has been faithfully delivering food from Martins Grocery each week to venues around town that are providing food to the hungry throughout the months of the pandemic.

TLC outreach will be giving out Thanksgiving boxes of food again this November to 21 regular Food Pantry customers and 59 Micahs Eastern School families.  However, this year donations from Trinity members will NOT be needed as Maryland Food Bank is supplying the turkeys and trimmings. But those interested in handing out boxes Sunday Nov. 22 from 3-5 PM and/or on Monday Nov. 23 from 9-11 AM, can contact June Habeck-Holler or Carol Brashears.

We will also be providing our neighborhood Veterans at North Point this Christmas with gift cards again. More details in December.

The neighborhood people who frequented our Food Bank before the Coronavirus have been receiving food throughout last winter, spring and summer from numerous other food banks in Hagerstown. In addition, the food normally allotted to Trinity from the Maryland Food Bank has been sent each week to these open sites to aid in supplying needed inventory.

Outreach/Social Ministry members have just formed a Steering Committee to meet several times a month to begin work on the specifics for re-opening our Food and Clothing Banks. This will involve taking the time needed to redesign both the areas we have been using to achieve ultimate safety for volunteers and guests. Maryland Food Bank now requires that guests served are interviewed and that all information be compiled on computers, which will necessitate additional areas to be used for spacing people and for privacy while acquiring the information. We will keep you apprised of our progress.

The Clothing Bank has continuously received clothing donations from members and the community. TLC volunteers have been coming in each week to sort through the bags of clothes and to arrange them for display. So we will be well stocked when we are ready to open.

Numerous members have inquired about how Trinity can be helping our community during this most difficult time of Covid and loss of jobs/income especially with our Outreach banks currently being closed. THE REACH SHELTER will be opening soon and Trinitys week to help feed, shelter and comfort the homeless will be DECEMBER 6-12. Sign up with Scott Paddock.

 

The church office reports that people still come by each week seeking help from Trinity. We have a long history of providing for food and clothing needs of our neighborhood and, rest assured, our members have the vision, faith, heart and commitment for continuing this collaboration with the many souls around us.

–  June

– June Habeck Holler

 

 

 


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October 14, 2020

Thoughts form Pr David

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!

Introduction

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.

Pr David

 


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The 1925 Silent Film, “Phantom of the Opera” staring Lon Chaney and accompanied by Organist James Harp, will be shown in Trinity’s sanctuary on Friday night, October 30th at 7pm. A free will donation will be collected to benefit Boy Scout Troop 10.

Safety Precautions will be in effect. Masks are required and seating will be limited. For more information please call (301) 733-2878 Ext 206


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Pr. Fred Lehr recently gave his last of six presentations on his book, Becoming a 21st Century Church – A Transformational Manual.  We would all agree we want the ministry of TLC to go forward into the future. How will that happen? The process of discernment based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and lively discussion will show us the way.

You can and must join the discussion…

or the congregation will move on without you (sounds tough, but true).

  • Be present in the sanctuary at 6PM, social distancing and masks required,
  • Watch live on Trinity Loving Community on YouTube, or
  • Watch the session on YouTube when it is convenient, or
  • Ask for a transcribed copy when available.

Pr. Fred’s book is available for $8.00. You can get one at the office, through the mail, at Amazon.com, or in person—he will autograph it just for you. We will be looking at chapters three and four of the book on Wednesday.

 

Session One (youtube)
Session Two (youtube)
Session Three (youtube)
Session Four (youtube)
Session Five (youtube)
Session Six (youtube)


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October 2, 2020

October Prayer Ventures

In 1 Peter 5:6-7 we read: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” The Apostle Peter assures us that God will hear our humble, honest, and trusting prayer, made in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

 

PRAYER VENTURES:  October 2020

These petitions are offered as guides to prayer for the global, social and outreach ministries of the ELCA, as well as for the needs and circumstances of our neighbors, communities and world. Thank you for your continued prayers for the life and mission of this church.

Give thanks for the gifts, witness, leadership and faith of our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ. Pray that we will continue to grow as a church centered in the gospel and committed to the inclusion of all people. Pray that we will recognize and challenge the dynamics of bias, fear, power and privilege that discourage participation and equity in this church and in society.

2 Ezekiel confronted the Israelites for their resistance to change and to God’s ways of fairness. He rejected their arguments that change was too difficult, that they were acting only as they were raised and that he needed to live in the real world. Pray that we will repent, embrace God’s peace and justice, and heed God’s command, through Ezekiel, to “get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!”

3 Francis of Assisi, renewer of the church (1181-1226)  Pray that we will greet each day with a sense of awe, gratitude and respect for creation, for the organisms and creatures that inhabit the earth and for humanity in all its diversity and complexity ― the handiwork of God.

4 The Lutheran World Federation’s Season of Creation 2020 invites us, through prayer and activism, to give thanks for creation and renew our human vocation for its care. Join Lutherans around the world in the online meeting and closing prayer today.

5 Persist in praying for all affected by Hurricane Laura, by wildfires in the western United States and by flooding and severe weather. Pray that we will generously assist relief and reconstruction efforts and support the work of Lutheran Disaster Response.

6 Give thanks and praise to God that our righteousness and salvation come not through our own efforts but through faith in Jesus Christ.

7 Ask forgiveness for our involvement ― consciously or unconsciously ― in perpetuating the racism, laws and structures that benefit the majority through inequality and oppression. Pray for the Spirit to stir our humility, wisdom and persistence as we reflect on our lives and society and strive for racial justice, reform, reconciliation and unity as children of God.

8 Ask God to strengthen our faith and deepen our roots in the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that we will draw on God’s strength through our faith, especially when we grow weary or doubtful in the face of the world’s challenges, criticism and ridicule.

9 Pray that we will actively engage with our communities and neighbors, developing the resilience and hope needed to absorb, endure and recover from the spiritual, medical, social and economic impacts of natural and human-caused disasters.

10 Remember in prayer those who have lost jobs or are furloughed from work, that they will have the resources and support to meet their daily needs as they seek employment. Pray that our congregations will be welcoming, supportive and ready to help, concerned for their dignity and their spiritual, physical and emotional needs.

11 Give thanks and praise to God for welcoming us into the kingdom of God, an undeserved gift to be shared with the world. Pray that we will never take the joy and blessings of this gift for granted or hide it from our neighbor.

12 The Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), a joint ministry of the ELCA and the Lutheran World Federation, represents Lutherans at the United Nations. Give thanks for the LOWC’s work in monitoring issues of concern to the church, sharing our perspectives and speaking for peace, justice, human rights, respect for international law, and better standards of living for all people.

13 Pray that we, too, will hear Paul’s assurance to the Philippians in difficult times, that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Ask that the Spirit fill our lives with peace, love and mercy that will shine brightly in the world.

14 Pray for our companion-synod relationships throughout the world, especially during this time of physical separation, that we will continue to nurture and strengthen one another for life and ministry through prayer, study, communication, and sharing resources for doing God’s work in the world together.

15 Throughout our baptismal journey, Psalm 23 encourages, calms and nourishes us with the reassurance that we are never without God’s love, attention and guidance. Give thanks to God and pray that we will reflect God’s loving presence and care in all that we do and say.

16 Pray for the leaders, voting members and others gathered, in person and online, for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod Assembly, that the Spirit will strengthen, guide and encourage them in choosing leaders, proclaiming the gospel, growing the church, serving our neighbor and doing God’s work in an ever-changing world.

17 Pray for active-duty military and their families, especially in times of deployment, transition and separation, that their faith will comfort and strengthen them and that they will have confidence knowing they are always connected with the love, support and concern of their home community of faith.

18 Remember in prayer newly elected synod bishops. Ask the Spirit to give them the wisdom, vision and faith to meet the challenges of their ministries, helping congregations and special ministries spread the gospel, serve our neighbors in need and grow the church.

19 Ask God to help us provide comfort, support and hope to our neighbors who feel helpless and  overwhelmed amid the pandemic, natural disasters, economic struggles and social unrest.

20 Pray that we will experience God’s love, encouragement and unity in the body of Christ through worship and the sacraments ― in person, online or however we gather.

21 Give thanks to God for one another and pray for our siblings in Christ, that we will be steadfast in our faith, proclaim the gospel in our daily lives and serve as examples of God’s mercy and love in the world.

22 Thank God for our special relationship with the United Methodist Church, a full communion partner with the ELCA since 2009. Pray for the church, its diverse ministries and its members and leaders, that together we will find mutual support, new partnerships and new resources for the work of sharing the gospel and serving our neighbor.

23 “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it,” for God is great, powerful and wondrous. Sing praise to God!

24 Pray for students, teachers, school staff and parents as they continue to adapt to the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on school environments and distanced learning.

25 Reformation Sunday  Praise God for the gift of grace that sets us free to change and be changed, to form and reform as the body of Christ for the sake of humanity, serving our neighbor and doing God’s work in the world.

26 Pray for the Spirit to deepen our understanding of what being a Lutheran Christian means, through prayer, Scripture, reflecting on our creeds and teachings, being renewed and united through the sacraments, and opening ourselves to God’s voice and guidance in an ever-changing society and world.

27 Give thanks that, though we have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations, God has set things right with us and restored our relationship through the gift of grace we have in Jesus Christ. Pray that throughout our baptismal journeys we will spread the hope and good news of God’s merciful love for humankind.

28 The ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship program supports students of promise attending ELCA seminaries. Pray that we will generously support this program to make seminary more affordable, to enable more future ministers to study and to help them graduate with less debt as they respond to God’s call to serve as the church needs and the Spirit leads.

29 “God is our refuge and strength.” Give thanks and praise to God and reflect on how God sustains you, gives you courage, influences your decisions and actions, and equips you for living as a follower of Christ in the world.

30 Pray for the Spirit to guide and inspire our discernment and decisions in the upcoming presidential election, and to help us prioritize the needs of our neighbors, the well-being of communities in turmoil and the task of healing the deep divisions in our society.

31 Reformation Day  Give thanks and praise to God for the ministry, teachings and impact of Martin Luther and other church reformers, who took great risks to refocus our faith, institutions and practices on the word of God and the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that we will continue to be a reforming church, mindful of the Spirit’s guidance as we discern how to follow Christ ― now and in the future.

 

 


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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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Pentecoste Sunday was our first time for in-person worship. It went well. Some thirty-eight people were present. Everyone was agreeable in following the guidelines to sit only in designated places, to wear masks (except for worship leaders), to refrain from singing, receive communion in the pew, and social-distance upon arriving and finally leaving. There was a problem with the sound system, which we believe has been fixed. With the same procedures in place to keep us safe, we will continue corporate worship.

The service is live-streamed on YouTube, and available after worship time for you to see. Remember- it’s a blended service in the sanctuary at 10am. If you are at home, you may have elements of bread and wine in front of you, and feel that connection as we at Trinity’s altar receive the blessed sacrament.

 

As per the governor’s plan and guidelines for corporate worship published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its Delaware-Maryland Synod of which Trinity is a part, we will resume public worship on Sunday, May 31st.  As per the governor’s plan, attendance is limited to 50% of the available seating.  Since our nave seats several hundred, this should not be a problem (it would be nice if it were a problem!).  Since it is difficult to practice social distancing in Fellowship Hall, our services for the foreseeable future will be at 10AM (a compromise time, ala the Unity services) upstairs in the sanctuary.  We hope to have a blend of traditional and praise music at each or at alternating services.  Here is what to expect:

    1. You must practice social distancing at the entrance of the main door to the church.  You will be asked to remain at the end of the rail at the ramp door until the person in front of you has gone through the inner doors.  If standing facing the church, these are the doors to the far left.  DO NOT CONGREGATE IN THE NARTHEX OR OUTSIDE THE DOORS OF THE CHURCH!
    2. One usher in protective gear will be at the door to give you a bulletin and a communion kit (described below).  The production of the bulletins will be done in such a way as to minimize physical contact with them.  The person reproducing them will wear gloves&d place the bulletins in a box for the usher to hand to you.
    3. When you enter the church, you will you see tape roping off some pews, and tape marking off some areas of each pew, so as to allow separated seating for you and your family in others. so we can all keep at least 6’ feet apart.  This is strongly worded in the governor’s directive.
    4. You must always wear a mask.  The only exceptions will be the worship leaders who will remain in the chancel, and separated from each other and from you by larger distances.
    5. There will be no offering by way of the passed plate.  There will be a box at the doorway for you to place your offering on the way out.  Please be careful not to touch envelopes or cash which might already be in the box.
    6. We will attempt to leave by rows, again to practice social distancing.  Wait for an usher to direct you out.  DO NOT CONGREGATE IN THE NARTHEX OR OUTSIDE THE DOORS OF THE CHURCH!
    7. We will have communion, but it will be taken in your pew by way of an individual serving.  The elements will be in a container much resembling the liquid creamer we put in our coffee.  Upon tearing off the first seal you will find a wafer.  Upon removing the second seal you will find grape juice. You will be directed by the pastor when to consume the elements.  Wine is preferred to grape juice, but is not available in these cups, since they are generally used in congregations which use only grape juice.  Please dispose of your kit by putting it in a box at the door. I understand the communion cups are difficult to open so you might want to bring napkins in case of spillage!  If you have concerns about opening the wine portion, opening and consuming only the wafer is fine.
    8. Only the bathroom by Memorial Hall will be available for your use.  This is to minimize cleaning.
    9. The service will be around 45 minutes, since it is difficult to wear a mask for a longer period.
    10. Please take your temperature at home before coming out.  If you have a temperature, obviously you should remain there, and watch the service from home.

Some people will still be reluctant to come to public worship, so the service will be live streamed.

Under no circumstances should you feel
compelled to attend the service
.

We all must make individual decisions about potential exposure to the virus.  If you do not come, please be part of the service by watching on our live stream.  Your financial support of Trinity has been very encouraging, and we hope it will continue as the situation unfolds.

A further note—since it is difficult to practice social distancing in the office area, restrictions as to who may enter there will remain in place.  We do not want the staff to be infected.  Signs at the Randolph entrance will tell you how to interact with the staff.

Pastors David and Greg have not been making visits.  Fortunately, no one has been hospitalized lately.  Walter Bell died during the lock-down.  However, his family attended to his burial and Trinity did not play a part.  Rules are especially stringent at viewings and services at the funeral home.  Our pastors will not make visits to homes until it is safe to do so.  Hospital visits will be on a case-to-case basis.  It may be possible to arrange a Zoom meeting.  Funerals will have to follow guidelines established by the funeral directors, except at church- where our own guidelines will be in effect.

We are so happy that our community of faith will once again be able to meet in our beautiful sanctuary.  Please, please, please observe the guidelines above so we can all be safe!  We pray that the rate of infection for COVID-19 will continue to decrease and that our regular opportunities for social interaction will return.

If you have any questions about what is contained in this article, please call the church office at 301-733-2878 or email us at office@tlchag.org.  If you have other suggestions as to how we can be safe in worship, please feel free to share them.

 

Trinity Sunday

I told you we would be using the Athanasian Creed on Sunday, The Holy Trinity. Celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, inthis namesake feast of our congregation, we recall that God is for us Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I asked you to look at the creed and promised part 2 about the Trinity today. Here it is!

image.pngOne of the courses I had in seminary eons ago was simply called “The Holy Trinity.” It was taught by a brilliant but somewhat eccentric professor, Robert Jenson. Dr. Jenson had an illustrious career, teaching at several seminaries and universities. He was the author of many seminal books and articles. He died in 2017 at the ripe age of eighty-seven.

I remember the course with some chagrin, because I nearly failed it. Back then, grades at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (now United Lutheran Seminary) were pass/fail. Failure was below 70%. I eked my way through it with a 71. I would like to say that, after taking the course, I came through it with a clear understand of the Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, that is not true. I struggle each year on the Feast of the Holy Trinity (the Sunday after Pentecost) to preach a sermon which helps my listeners understand the Godhead we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This year I pawned it off on Alex Knepper, a first year student at United Lutheran Seminary. Count your blessings, deacons Inga and Peggy, for if Alex wasn’t available, it would have been one of you!

My best explanation of the Trinity is that God reveals himself (the pronoun itself is a difficulty) as the Father who creates the Son who redeems, and the Spirit which sanctifies. I have to admit that makes sense but it is a heresy called Modalism. I’m not exactly sure why it’s a heresy, but take my word for it, Dr. Jenson called a number of us in the class out on this point.

image.pngThere are three Monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Monotheistic means “one God.” All three rejected other world religious views (i.e. near-Eastern polytheism, Buddhism and Hinduism) to embrace one, single God. For Jews and Muslims, this understanding is quite clear. There is one God. Some people mistakenly ascribe to the Prophet Mohammad in Islam same status just short of divinity. That’s patently wrong. Mohammad is God’s prophet, important as he may be for the tradition. But Christianity is left with an uneasy understanding of Jesus as God’s Son.

Over and over again, Jesus proclaims himself as God’s Son. His meaning is quite clear. He is part of God, and while inhabiting a human body, he is more than human, more than a prophet or a teacher. He is the Redeemer, the long-expected Messiah. Of course, Jews could not accept this. The idea itself was reprehensible. It was blaspheme, a crime punishable by death. That was the charge which got Jesus into such trouble. Jews would look at Christians and say they were no longer monotheists because they had TWO gods, not the one revealed in Hebrew scripture.

Then add in the Spirit, which comes on Pentecost to the disciples and that band of followers who believed Jesus was the Messiah. Being described under many names—the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost—it seems that there is now another God. Jews would reject this notion out-of-hand.

When Mohammad received his call in the late 500s to be a prophet of God and begin a religious tradition we know as Islam, like Jews, he looked at Christianity and wondered how it could proclaim a unified God with three different persons as theology, by then well defined. He could accept Jesus as a prophet, but not equal to God. For Islam, there is but one God. That’s the cry you hear coming from minarets at prayer time in Islamic countries.

image.pngNeedless to say, the theology which supported this understanding of a three-part-Godhead (ugg, I’m back in Modalism) was fought out with incredible acrimony in the Church. Many heresies, especially about the nature of Jesus as part of the Trinity, came and went. People were persecuted and excommunicated because they espoused wrong views. I’m glad burning at the stake for heretics was not in vogue in the 1970s, when I nearly flunked the course on the Trinity at Gettysburg Seminary!

In the end, we can only understand God so far as God has revealed herself to us. We get a small peek at the vastness of God when we see the Trinity at work (I’m headed to Modalism again). The great mystery of God is that this divine thing chooses to be involved with us. The fullness of that divinity cannot be understood by us in the here and now.

The creed which bears the name of that great defender of orthodoxy in the Catholic Church, St. Athanasius, makes clear the unity of the Trinity. Where the creed comes from is a mystery itself. Some think it was a teaching lesson for Spanish priests. Its length and condemnatory language make it daunting for us to use but once a year on the only day of the year we celebrate a doctrine, rather than an event or a person. I think it’s important for us to use, since it is one of the three ecumenical creeds. Its very length and the strength of its language do make clear how important it is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be part of our belief in a God who is at the same time mysterious and available.

Give it a go, Alex!
– Pastor David

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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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