From 22 January 2020
Some weeks before Christmas I alerted the congregation to the deficit position that we were running with respect to our budget. The consequent giving response in November and December was exceptional and has caught us up to a budget which we all acknowledged last June might be a stretch.
So many thanks to all for all the ways you contribute to our community in Christ and to the mission of the church. Please continue to be prayerfully attentive to the challenge that we set before ourselves as we move toward Easter and beyond.
The next step in our liturgical year is to celebrate Reconciling in Christ Sunday, January 26. Our own community as well as the broader Lutheran and civic communities have been immeasurably enriched by the Reconciling call to be welcoming “to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Such welcome is truly Epiphany Light to the world. The Light of Christ. Thanks be to God.
A week later we will celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and hear Simeon’s acknowledging Jesus as “a light to the nations.” Because of the light theme, this day is also known and celebrated as “Candlemas,” a blessing of the candles to be used in the church in the coming year.
In keeping with the Candlemas tradition, we will begin our February 2 service in the Assembly Hall (aka Gym) and process (inside) into the church with lit candles, while singing “Christ Be Our Light.” There will be this single service on that day. Crepes will be served after the service as is the ancient tradition for Candlemas.
The night before Candlemas, Saturday February 1, is Lutheran Campus Ministry’s Trivia Night. Tables are forming and all are invited to support ministry to St. Louis area students. Bethel is the host and doors will open at 5:30 pm; games begin at 6:30 pm.
Peace & Light,
Pastor William Yancey
From 18 December 2019
Our tradition on the Fourth Sunday in Advent is to complete decorations for Christmas. That means placing the Chrismons on our two Christmas trees in the chancel. You are invited to gather after Sunday service to place one, or more, Chrismons on the trees.
In addition we will set out the poinsettias. If you are interested in taking any poinsettias home after Christmas, there is a sign-up sheet in the narthex. Or you can contact Sarah in the office. A donation of $5 per plant is suggested.
Our preacher on Sunday is our member, Rev. Barry Hong, PhD, who is an ordained ELCA minister, and on staff at Barnes Jewish Hospital working in the field of organ transplants. Rev. Hong’s doctorate is in the discipline of psychology. His sermon title is: “Stir up your hearts, wills and your power.”
After Christmas, Valerie and I will take a short break. Rev. Roy Ledbetter will be the preacher and celebrant on December 29. We want to thank Roy and Tom Dewey for setting out the beautiful Nativity Scene at the front wall of the church; and we continue to be delighted by Roy’s larger carvings of the Nativity which are set up in the narthex.
To preview my three Christmas sermons, I see a progression of proclamation from personal and intimate in Christ’s coming as child to children (both small and grown), to communities and nations as presented by Luke’s gospel, to savior of the universe as proclaimed in John’s prologue (1st chapter), a cosmic birth story, mirroring the creation of the universe itself. So, child, nation, cosmos. Hope in the fabric of creation; hope which sets a mission of life and liberation before us; hope in deep relationship with the word made flesh.
Finally, thanks to all who gave time and heart to the children’s Christmas program. The dedication and care which parents, leaders, and children gave to the proclamation made it a true and living word of faith.
From 4 December 2019
At our congregational meeting in June we adopted a budget that anticipated a slight increase in giving over the year. In part this increase was to enhance our ministry toward the Sunday School and Youth Programs. However, to date we’ve experienced a modest decrease in giving. While this often resolves during December with end-of-year and Christmas gifts, it seems good that we all intentionally consider doing what we can to get back on track with funding the ministerial goals that we set for the year. As always I am very grateful for the ongoing generosity of the congregation in support of our work together.
Also with respect to giving, for those of you who use offering envelopes, the 2020 edition is in the office. We will set them out for you to pick up at your convenience.
+ + +
Many thanks to Sherman Lee, Jim Wire, and Matt Bear for crafting and leading a meaningful Advent Center Service of healing, eucharist, and support of Project ARK to help families and children impacted by HIV/AIDS. And special thanks to our guest musician, Becca Grupe Burnett. This Sunday, by the way, is the last Sunday to donate toys and other physical gifts to Project ARK.
In the Advent spirit of anticipation we look forward with joy to the Children’s Program for Christmas which will be presented at the Sunday Service, December 15. Please come to see and hear our young people tell the everlasting story of good news for all.
Advent Hope to all,
Pastor Bill Yancey
From 6 November 2019
Today, Wednesday, November 6, Dr. Hal Taussig arrives in St. Louis. Dr. Taussig is a retired New Testament professor at Union Seminary in New York and an ordained Methodist minister. He will conduct a daylong (9:00 AM – 2:30 PM) seminar tomorrow at Trinity Lutheran Church in Chesterfield. He will speak about the newly discovered texts concerning Jesus and the Jesus movement, which were written around the time of our New Testament texts. (Walk-ins are welcome if you are interested but have not registered.)
On Sunday at Bethel’s Adult Education hour Dr. Taussig will continue this topic, and consider what these texts might mean for the Church going forward. I am encouraging anyone who can to attend the Education hour. First, because the topic is exciting and offers insight into the current challenges which the Christian Church faces; second, simply to give Dr. Taussig the warmest welcome possible.
Dr. Taussig will also be our preacher on Sunday. His sermon will focus on one of the newly discovered texts, The Gospel of Truth. Accordingly one of the three texts for Sunday will be taken from The Gospel of Truth. Although it is rare for us to use texts outside the standard New Testament, from time-to-time texts from the Apocrypha (non-canonical works, known and read for years but not placed in our collection of scripture) are appointed.
“‘The good news of truth is joy’ are the first words of the [Gospel of Truth], and they convey the power of the whole document, which brims with a sense of aliveness, engagement, contemplation, and inner richness.” While the Gospel of Truth does not contain the story of Jesus (as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), he is understood as a teacher of parables and one who challenges transgression in a unique way by his death on the cross. Throughout there is great emphasis upon “humans being fully alive in the present moment.” (Quotes are from “An Introduction to the Gospel of Truth,” found in A New New Testament, edited by Dr. Hal Taussig.)
In many ways these early writings mirror questions and insights which are surfacing in the hearts and minds of people in our current age (within and without the Church). One very notable example is their acknowledgment of women as leaders and evangelists of the church. Another might be, as noted above, a greater emphasis upon the real presence of our life here and now. Perhaps also there is a broader, more fluid, and accepting understanding of human sexuality.
The Church lost much in fearfully forcing these insights and questions underground millennia ago. Perhaps they have risen from the ground at the right time to encourage individuals and communities of faith to live anew and more deeply in the heart of God.
From 19 September 2019
Many thanks to the congregation for the warm and expansive turnout for Bishop Susan Candea. I’m sure our support was encouraging to her. It was also good for us to hear her vision for the churches in the Synod, congregational vitality (centered in Christ), and leadership (working the program of vitality).
Thanks also for your support of our young people in their Diaper Project. You can continue to support this project through next Wednesday by bringing more diapers for the STL Diaper Bank or making a donation of money which will go toward the purchase of additional diapers.
Let me remind you again of two upcoming events, both on October 6. The first is our annual Blessing the Animals service at 11:30 a.m. The service will be on the front lawn of the church. Bring your creatures. Second is the CROP Walk to raise funds to combat hunger locally and abroad. The walk beings at 5:00 p.m. (registration 4:30 p.m.) at Eden Seminary in Webster Groves.
Finally, next Sunday (September 29) our neighboring congregation, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, will install their new pastor, Rev. Andrew Baumgartner, at 2:00 p.m. at the church on Clayton Road. All are welcome to join me there to support the new pastor.
From 28 August 2019
Thanks to all who helped make our annual picnic a gratifying event. We had a great turnout, with great food. It turns out that a rainy forecast brings a crowd.
This Sunday a crowd will gather for the baptism of Theodore Lee Harms. The Harms family is providing food after the service and invites all to gather for refreshments and greet the newly baptized and his mother, Emily. Plus, a special presentation to young Theodore will be made by the children of the congregation.
The Sunday following (September 8) is Rally Day. All education programs for young people and adults will resume at 8:45 AM on that Sunday. See Deb Grupe’s note about incorporating the ELCA work day (God’s Work, Our Hands) into the children’s program that day. The Adult Education kick-off promises to be very exciting and local. Our member and professional dancer, Laura Roth, will teach us about Liturgical Dance and how dance can express the Gospel. Limber up!
Then on September 15, our Central States Synod Bishop, the Reverend Susan Candea will be both our Adult Education presenter and the preacher for that Sunday. Pastor Candea officially begins her six year term as our Bishop on September 1. By the time she reaches us, she will be a veteran. Let’s give her an exciting and supportive welcome.
From 26 July 2019
Welcome Deb Grupe. At our Annual Meeting in June we announced efforts to hire a person for child, youth, and family ministry. Deb Grupe began in this role July 8, 2019.
Deb has extensive experience in Youth Ministry, having held such a position for 16 years at Atonement Lutheran in Florissant, and has already made contributions to our programming.
We will welcome her in Sunday’s service (July 28). Please also take time to greet and welcome her at the hospitality hour afterwards.
From 28 March 2019
On Thursday, March 21, Pastor Rebecca Boardman announced that she is leaving the St. Louis Area Campus Ministry to serve as Lutheran Campus Pastor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She plans to complete this semester with her students here. Her official final day is May 31.
Pastor Rebecca lists 8 international trips, the building remodel, and strong fundraising as highlights of her tenure. We also note that she built strong personal and collective community with university students, was a committed and strong force for ecumenical relations, and was an excellent organizer.
She has served Campus Ministry with care and distinction. She also has been a respected and valuable colleague among the St. Louis area clergy and within our Synod. Finally, it has been our blessing at Bethel, that we have been her church home. We wish her Godspeed.
Currently the LCM Board is planning a farewell gathering. The congregation will join in this effort. The tentative date is May 11.
+ + +
Betsy and Robert Engle, with their son, Marcus, were members at Bethel a number of years, and remain dear friends of the congregation. As such, they are pleased to share recent good news, namely, their adoption of a baby daughter, Clara Grace Engle, who was born February 24. We give thanks that God’s new life has found its way into the hearts of the Engle family.
From 27 February 2019
A reminder to all that this Sunday’s 10:00 AM service is a “Center Celebration” with our worship band and a more informal setting. A choral eucharist service will be held at 8:30 AM.
Lent begins March 6 with an Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 PM. The following five weeks in Lent will be observed with a 7:00 PM vespers service on each Wednesday (March 13, 20, 27; April 3, 10). A dinner at 6:00 PM will precede the service. To carry on this tradition of dinners we need several volunteers to prepare a simple meal (often soup and salad) for 20-30 people. The first Wednesday is accounted for; so we need four more volunteers (individuals or teams) to fill out the schedule. Can you help?
Soon after Easter (April 21) will come the church’s semi-annual meeting. The Spring meeting is when we elect officers and congregation council members. Due to four council members stepping away from the Council after a number of years of exceptional service, we face a greater than usual challenge in order to fill out the Congregation Council. The vacant positions will be: Hospitality, Finance, Youth, and Adult Education. It is vital for the direction and well-being of the congregation that we maintain a strong level of lay leadership, which has always been a fundamental strength of the congregation. Please consider if you could serve as a council member.
From 10 January 2019
Healing! In the Fall, and particularly at our 105th anniversary, we were collecting funds for the needed health care of the Tanzanian church leader, Toto, who is also Dan Harms’ “adopted” son. At Christmas time Dan returned once more to Rwanda and Tanzania for mission work and to check in with his “son” Toto. The above picture is a testimony to Toto’s health and well-being, and a testimony to the value and effectiveness of the congregation’s care and generosity. Our collection enabled Toto to receive the medical care that helped him survive. I find this picture of Toto and his family to be one of Thanksgiving and Hope, to and for us all.
Good Gifts! At the 5:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service, during the children’s message, and with the children’s encouragement, it was decided that in the Spirit of God’s gift to us in the Christ Child, we would send “good gifts” (ELCA good gifts: God’s Global Barnyard) to those in need in Africa.
As a symbol and a pledge to do so, the children all set various animals around the Christ Child in our Creche Scene. We have fulfilled that promise by taking a portion of the evening’s offering gifts ($500) and sending one fish farm, 2 goats, 3 pigs, a hive of honey bees, a clutch of chicks, and 2 roosters through the ELCA Good Gifts program to help families break out of the cycle of hunger and poverty.
We give thanks for the inspiration of our children and for the hopeful, helpful support of their families. It is the light of Christ living in and among us.
From 20 December 2018
The word I was searching for at announcement time on Sunday was “paradox.” Deborah Bohlmann and the Bethel Sunday School and Youth Group had just led us through the paradox of “disruptive hope” with the Christmas story, the birth of the holy child among us. I generally think of hope as having a settling consequence; and so it has, suggesting a future sense of peace within and without. But hope inevitably disrupts the status quo, particularly when our lives are predicated upon status over against others. Disruptive hope brings a future in which all find favor with God.
This disruptively hopeful message was highlighted by the presentation of Jesus by the prophet Simeon walking down the Bethel aisle into the heart of the congregation. That the child in this instance was the baby girl, Esme, was strikingly disruptive and hopeful, shaking patriarchal notions of the nature of God and lifting up the inclusive nature and message of the holy child.
We know “disruptive hope” to be Jesus’ story throughout his days among us. His promise of life and peace to many, paradoxically brought disruption to individuals and social systems in which life is constructed upon the exclusion of some.
This season of hope, this anticipation of Emmanuel, points to the mystery, even paradox, of the cross where Jesus will bear the disruption and violence of the world, yet fill us with hope and peace, in forgiveness and the promise of life.
+ + +
Please note that 2019 offering envelopes are set out in the narthex. Please pick yours up when next at church.
For those who would like to help with poinsettias, there will be a sign-up sheet in the narthex. $5 per plant.
From 29 November 2018
Season of Hope
Advent is the season of hope. Throughout the ages people have experienced and understood hope to be the opposite of and antidote to fear. In an age in which divisiveness is stoked by fear and we seek paths of healing and unification, Advent hope is not only welcome, but life-giving. In this time, let the Spirit of hope and the anticipation of the holy child’s arrival fill our hearts and spill over into a world longing for hope and good news. In this hopeful time we give thanks for and live in the assurance of things hoped for – in the promise of God’s future which even now breaks into our lives once more and always with the coming of Jesus.
With Advent comes midweek services, traditionally preceded by a dinner. The way the calendar falls this year there will be only three Wednesday evening services (7:00 p.m.). We plan for dinner prior to the first two, with a reception (light refreshments) after the third. So, we need volunteers for the evening meal on December 5 and December 12. Whoever might be willing and able to provide dinner for the 5th or the 12th would find great appreciation among the congregation. Please contact Pastor or Sarah Brooks in the church office.
From 25 February 2015
March 1 Center Celebration
“All Creatures Great and Small.” That is the theme and title of this Sunday’s Center Celebration. This Center Service will continue to reflect upon the Genesis rainbow story of promise to “every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” There is a broad sense of belonging which is here attributed to our Creator. God does not want any level of creature destroyed. Habitats, environments, mixes of species fit together — belong to one another — for life. Our service will underscore this sense of “belonging” to one another and to the earth and all its creatures great and small.
To help us think and speak about this theme, we will set out dozens of small animals models for all the children. We also ask the children to bring a favorite stuffed or plastic animal from home —no live pets this time, please.
How do we fit together in God’s creation? How do we belong to each other and to the various creatures on earth? (We’ll save what might be on other planets for another time.)
We will gather downstairs in the fellowship hall. The children will begin our time together by picking three animals to name in prayer. Sherman Lee and his band will lead in music. We will sit much as we did last Center Celebration with the communion table in the middle. Refreshments for all afterwards.
Pastor Bill Yancey
From 4 February 2015
The Church’s Hope
I first recognized that our congregation was expanding in cultural heritage when Scandinavians like Eric and Deb Paulsrud arrived from Minnesota. But the hope of the ELCA for an inclusive church meant much more diversity than Scandinavian Lutherans getting together with German Lutherans.
The “sacramental” plate of bratwurst, lutefisk, and sushi which Sherman Lee is proudly holding on the front cover of The Lutheran magazine, February edition, announces the broader welcome of the church to all who wish to gather in the compassion and healing mission of Jesus. Of course we could from our own congregation add, with authenticity, creole food, greens, tamales, and more. But we get the picture.
How Sherman appeared on the cover of our national magazine is an example of the old dictum, “you never know until you ask!” Nathan Schroeder asked. Nathan had seen the call for stories of people who were “not cradle Lutherans.” Remembering Sherman’s faith journey story shared in the Adult Education hour, Nathan pointed out to Sherman that he eminently fit the category. Sherman submitted his story with the kicker, “I can deal with brats and sushi.” A week later, The Lutheran called and said “arrange a photo shoot.” Jessica White handled the photography with Nathan as assistant and Sherman the focus. Obviously a successful “shoot.”
Sherman jokes that the cover story amounts to his 15 minutes of fame. I counter that he gets a whole month until the March edition is out. He is right, however, to play down the angle of fame, which is actually following Jesus’ own example to not make a big deal out of so-called miraculous (even supernatural) events, but emphasize the relationship and community which are inspired by Jesus’ compassionate encounter with others, especially those in need.
For The Lutheran magazine Sherman is a living example of their cover headline, “What draws people to the ELCA.” In the inside article Sherman specifically mentions a church which “drew him to baptism and helped him wrestle with questions.” That statement describes a church which centers itself in the baptismal promises of Christ but which is also open to new questions and to new people who ask them.
So while we are all enjoying with Sherman his 15 minutes, or one month, of fame, we rejoice and give thanks for his witness to our lasting community of faith, our true heritage rooted in the everlasting mission to bring the food of life to all who long to be received.
Pastor Bill Yancey
From 29 January 2015
We have run the experiment, (sometimes running it into overtime.) For the month of January we tried a single service at 9:30 a.m., with all the education programs following. Thanks particularly to the Worship and Doctrine Board for galvanizing the energy to try the experiment and to all the education folks for working to coordinate the educational half of the morning.
Matt Bear, the chair of the Worship and Doctrine Board, will be working with others to create an instrument by which you all can weigh in with your reactions and evaluations of the single service format. There will be electronic and paper opportunities to make your views known.
Some random thoughts from my experience as pastor: I won’t soon forget addressing the congregation with the salutation “The Lord be with you.”
The response came back as a roar:
AND ALSO WITH YOU.
I wasn’t physically knocked back, but spiritually so. That was inspiring.
I use this salutation response as an example of a spiritual and palpable (call it real presence) dynamism which a larger gathering of the community of Christ effects. Other inspiring facets of the single service for me would be the flow of 20 or more children coming to the front of the congregation for the children’s message; the robust singing, which to me was more striking than normal, even though congregational singing is always a strength; the leadership of the choir at the service.
On the other hand, there were clearly time issues. The length of the service — somewhat explicable by the special events, baptism, new members, and a special children’s presentation, plus greater numbers taking communion — clearly threw the following educational programs, especially Adult Education, into a disjointed start. Furthermore, our time format pretty much wiped out any comfortable time for our traditional hospitality gathering.
Well, there is a lot more to be said and reflected upon. Running the experiment has proved valuable. We all have some specific reactions and analysis. It will be an added value to our community, for us to make our responses known.
Perhaps a “roar” of response. Look for the survey coming soon.
Peace & Joy,
Pastor Bill Yancey
From 26 November 2014
At Bethel’s Vigil of Peace on the night of the grand jury decision:
We heard from the Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, that God “seeks the lost…, binds up the injured…and strengthens the weak,” but the “the strong” will be “fed with justice.”
The point is that God intends both the weak and the strong to be transformed, to have new life. The lost are welcomed into the center of community, while the strong are not destroyed by revenge and retribution, but stripped of destructive ways by the radical justice of including all into community so that their strength no longer sets them apart in opposition to the life of others.
We heard from Thich Nhat Hanh: “When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that’s the beginning of insight. When you see in yourself the wish that the other person stop suffering, that is the sign of real love.”
We see in the ministry of Jesus that he bore the suffering of many by entering into their life in a way that showed that they mattered, that God cared for them. Jesus calls us all to be attentive and cognizant of the suffering of any and all. In this way both the weak and strong move toward the center of God’s heart and peace.
During a time of prayer for the healing of the world, those gathered at the vigil lit candles, and with prayers for help and hope, placed them on areas of a map of St. Louis and beyond where there is suffering, of community or individuals.
* * *
Jesus did not seem to mobilize large groups in order to confront systems of oppressive power. He chooses, in the stories that we have of his life, to be attentive individually to the lost and the suffering who come to him. However, it is clear that when he welcomes the outcast into his community and the love of God, he is also challenging the organizing reality of the dominant culture and rule. He is pressing in his ministry for a complete reversal of the social order: The first shall be last, and the last first. However, Jesus’ goal is not to make anyone last, but to create community in which everyone matters, everyone is welcome. In terms of worth and human value there is no first or last.
So when Jesus engages any individual with divine attentiveness, that is, with life giving regard, he does so with full awareness of a social context that must be challenged when it promotes exclusion and prejudice against individuals and people groups resulting in “social death,” if not physical death.
As we reflect on the grand jury decision around the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, anger and sorrow abound. In past this intractable position is the result of an argument between a call for personal responsibility and a challenge to the systemic devaluing of individuals or people groups.
That is to say: It may be fair to ask about Michael Brown’s personal responsibility in this devastating incident, but it cannot be done without an acknowledgement of the broad context of a legal system which statistically appears deadly to young black men, and a cultural structure which for centuries devalued people of color.
What we know is: young black men should not lie dead in the street for what begin as a minor incidents, making it appear that they lie dead because they are black. We also know that violent reactions are likely only to encourage cycles of revenge.
Still we are all connected. That connection was intended by God, to be good and good for us. It has come undone. Jesus’ own ministry was to restore our connection to God and to one another. His calling to us is to see that personal responsibility becomes a reality for us all when all have a valued identity from which to respond.
-Pastor Bill Yancey
From 24 September 2014
An Intern (After All)
As you know we are without an intern this year from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Various plans to have one fell through. However, we have been in consultation with Eden Seminary in Webster Groves (United Church of Christ), and they have they have referred one of their first year students to us, with a view to work 10 hours a week, particularly with young adults and families. After a series of interviews, we have hired her. Her name is Korla Masters, from St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a member of the ELCA and plans to seek ordination in the ELCA after graduation from Eden. (Her mother is an ELCA pastor.) She is starting this week. She will be here on Sunday; please plan to greet her.
Well, Korla is not technically an intern, but practically speaking very much like one. We look forward to her time among us.
In the past two weeks we have expressed much concern over Ferguson and the Ebola crisis in Liberia. Through a combination of recent donations and mission funds we have sent $1000 to Ferguson, designated to alleviate hunger, and $7,000 to Doctors Without Borders to assist in combatting the Ebola crisis. (The funds to “Doctors” will be matched.) Thanks also to those who sent money to the ELCA effort in Liberia. We will continue to support these efforts as contributions arrive. Thanks for your contributions of prayers, concern, and funds.
-Pastor Bill Yancey
From 18 September 2014
There is a great urgency to send help to the African countries stricken with the Ebola outbreak. Our congregation is planning to send support to Doctors Without Borders. In addition, the ELCA is also mounting a campaign to address the crisis through its disaster relief channels. Funds given to Lutheran Disaster Response would support efforts at two Lutheran Hospitals in Liberia. You will see an insert in Sunday’s bulletin giving you an opportunity to help by sending money to the ELCA “Lutheran Disaster Response”. Or, you may write the church a check and designate the funds for “Doctors Without Borders”
Blessing the Animals
Invite your pets. In two weeks, October 5, we will celebrate our annual “blessing of the animals” at our 9:30 a.m. Center Celebration. All animals welcome; that includes stuffed. We gather on the front lawn and will be led in service by the worship band. A special incense will be employed. The nose knows: dogs especially seem to appreciate “the smoke” and adopt a worshipful attitude. This service is also a joy because of the interaction with the community as it walks, runs, and drives by— a good sign.
Please join me, Valerie, Jane Gilchrist, our youth, and others on the “CROP Hunger Walk” sponsored by Eden Seminary and our dear friend Professor Clint McCann, Sunday, October 12. The walk, on the grounds of Eden in Webster Groves begins at 1:30 p.m. with registration beginning at 12:30 p.m. There is a one-mile course and a three-mile course. If you cannot make it, sponsor one of us. I will have registration and donation forms on Sunday to give out. Collection will support both local and international need.
-Pastor Bill Yancey
From 30 July 2014
Vicar Tina Heise concluded her education and ministry among us with the July 20 service at which she preached. She left St. Louis on Friday, the 25th, and is now back in Chicago for her final year at the seminary. Thanks to the many who helped her leave her apartment at the end, and all who were part of her education and ministry here for the past year.
Some know and others have asked about the coming academic year with respect to another intern. We will not have an intern for the 2014-15 year. Our intention and plan was to share an intern with another congregation for the coming year, but financial issues caused them to put our collaboration on hold for a year. Other options were explored, but did not work out.
Some events just over the horizon. Our annual Bethel Picnic is scheduled for Sunday August 24, 5:00 p.m. at the Memorial Park in Brentwood. Same venue as in the past three years. Again the church will provide G&W meats. The congregation is asked to bring side dishes.
The week following we will celebrate Pastor Rebecca Boardman’s 10th anniversary of ordination in our service, with a reception afterward in the Narthex. This celebration will appropriately coincide with the return of college students and the start-up of a new campus ministry year.
On September 7, we will, as we did last year, participate in the ELCA Day of Service. Stay tuned for the announcement of our project. For those who wish to participate, our plan is to work on that Sunday morning with prayer and song at the site. Our regular worship service will also be conducted at Bethel at 9:30 a.m. That service will be the last of our summer schedule. The next Sunday, September 14, will mark the resumption of two services (8:15 & 11 a.m.) and all education programs at 9:30 a.m.
– Pastor Bill Yancey
From 11 June 2014
The Central States Synod Assembly was held June 5-7 in Springfield, Missouri. Our faithful delegates were Jim and Judy Roos. Vicar Heise and Valerie Yancey attended as visitors. The Assembly theme was “Fear and Hope.” The idea was to name fears in order to speak words of hope to specific issues. One synodical concern that has loomed for a while is the challenge our rural sisters and brothers face. Many country parishes are struggling to remain viable, in part, because many towns themselves have been damaged by the economy, drought, and a general population flow to larger cities. The vast spacial dimension of our Synod can obscure our connection to, say, Hays, Kansas, more than 500 miles away. We used our time together to acknowledge our common, as well as, our specific challenges; but more importantly to speak words of hope, offer prayers of healing, and give thanks for the Holy Spirit who binds us together in Christ Jesus.
The Assembly, the Synod, the Church, we all have been grasping to find solutions to the challenges we face, chief of which for us in mainline denominations is a shrinking community. What creative, what new, what traditional approach can grow the church, bring back youth, speak relevantly, to mention a few related fears on the minds of Assembly delegates.
The blessing of this conversation was to raise the question of coherence (really of community). How do we fit together? How are we connected: to one another, to the world, the universe, to God? How do we hold together as human beings? We all fear coming apart; and we often feel it happening. What is capable of holding us together as we innovate, and/or recover lively traditions? What new thing? What from the tradition? Whatever?
What holds us together as individuals, as a community, and what propels us forward in mission and advocacy, is the Gospel of Jesus, God’s word of love and forgiveness. It is the unique gift we have to offer. Seems obvious, but I find that I need to be reminded.
Where the promises of God in Christ Jesus pull us together, create us anew, raise us from disconnection and isolation, there is church. Worship is talking back in recognition of ourselves and God; in thanksgiving for the goodness of life offered to us; in joy for the relationship with the whole universe through our connection to its creator. To continue to celebrate this truth gives us hope for the future church, the outward form of which we may not yet perceive as we weave between innovation and tradition, fear and expectation.
– Pastor Bill Yancey
From 7 May 2014
Thanks to the congregation for your response to our call for a 13th month. During this Easter season we have received about $20,000 over normal giving, with additional promised gifts to come. These gifts enable us to meet our mission promises to the broader church and continue our local mission efforts.
I am back a week now, with Vicar Tina Heise, Claire Flesch and Sherman Lee, from an exciting and successful retreat with the confirmands and high school youth. Thanks to the aforementioned three for great work in making our time together insightful, fun, and worshipful; in short a faithful experience. Thanks also to the young participants who demonstrated great maturity in person and in faith.
We all still glow with the blessings of EASTER SERVICES, which were uplifting and proclaimed resurrection in many ways. And before that, my celebration. And before that, “Baseball and Pancakes” And the Progressive Dinner, And…the Seminex Event. And, before that…
Also, let’s all prepare for the Voters’ Meeting to elect officers, amend the by-laws, and review the past year, all with a view toward our ministry with God’s future.
Finally, pray for and plan to celebrate Jayde Grams, Spencer Harvey, Isaac Ricklefs, and Jaron WIlliams, who will be confirmed on May 25.
Peace and Joy,
-Pastor Bill Yancey
From 6 April 2014
Warmest thanks to the whole congregation for creating a wonderful celebration at my ordination anniversary. The service, lunch, and program could not have been better. As is fitting, it was a true community event, demonstrating the communal nature of a call to a congregation. The ordained has his or her identity in relationship to the community which is formed by the Spirit.
Wednesday (April 2), someone noted that the day was the first day of my second 30 years. “How does it feel?”
“I feel great,” I said.
So far, so good. Thanks again to all for making it good in the Spirit.
– Pastor Bill
From 26 February 2014
This brief note belies the day and enduring appreciation I feel for those who did so much work to put the Seminex Recognition Day and the Progressive Dinner together, especially Vicar Tina Heise, Matt Bear, Valerie Yancey (Seminex), Stephen Phelps and Clarie Flesch, plus chefs, Steve Poplawski, Carrie Costantin, with Mark Banaszak, and Katrina Stierholz and with the Flesch and Webster-Stierholz families. (Progressive Dinner)
These events were great fun, missionally conscious, and and in the case of the Seminex event, deeply moving. It was a great week-end and inspiring as we move into our next century.
Many others helped, and all who participated added dimensions of warmth and vision. Many thanks to all of you.
-Pastor Bill Yancey