Women’s Day, our return to worship, and our calling to touch the world beyond our doors with our offering gifts
Celebrating Trinity’s generous $430,000 benevolence giving in 2020 to ministries beyond our doors
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. Follow this link to access ELCA worship resources and prayers in addition to suggestions for marking this day. You are also invited to know of opportunities to contribute to the ELCA International Women Leaders program, which supports and empowers international women leaders in the life and development of the church and society.
Regarding our return to “in person” worship yesterday in, this multi-tiered congregational epistle, I begin with an apology. For those of you who sought to tune in to the live streaming of our 9:15 a.m. worship service on Sunday, March 7, you encountered our technical difficulties. We had a significant interruption in our Wi-Fi connectedness on Sunday morning this week and our tech team worked hard to bring as much of the service to you as possible. However, because we were also worshipping “in person” in Centennial Hall, we did not have the flexibility to pause the service while we waited for a technical fix. Pastor Dan sought to weave together the recorded sections of yesterday’s liturgy – you can access that recording on our YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/RZXLnqyVCDU.
I believe that the cutting off of the homily on the recording was due to technical difficulties, but perhaps I was going on a bit too long . . .
Please know that with our return to “in person” worship yesterday, we were not seeking to send the message to those seeking to join us from home that you were no longer a priority! We will hopefully be back to the full ability to broadcast that live streaming of worship next Sunday.
We did return to “in person” worship on Sunday, March 7, and it was good to be together again. After a brief two-week attempt to return to worship last fall, yesterday’s were the first “in person” worship services since March 8, 2020, almost a year to the day since we chose to refrain from worship as the pandemic began to take hold. Last fall we anticipated that the return to worship would be short-lived as the pandemic was surging in west Michigan and throughout the United States. Our gathering yesterday felt different, as if we were joining the frontline of the evolving reopening of our community and society. We were careful, asking all to keep masked and distanced, with gracious ushers providing supportive direction to our movement through the liturgy. But there was a genuine hopefulness as well, that spring was coming, that new life in community was beginning to blossom, that there was indeed light at the end of this long, dark pandemic tunnel. It was invigorating to gather with three small congregational worshipping communities for traditional and Rejoice worship, after a year of a single live streamed service in an almost empty Centennial Hall.
We have begun to gather again for worship.
Please know that we will continue to provide live streaming every Sunday, barring technical difficulties. And we hope that, within a couple of months, we will be live streaming not just our 9:15 a.m. Rejoice worship service, but also the 10:45 a.m. traditional liturgy in the sanctuary. The upgrade of our AV systems is set to begin in the weeks ahead. It will be our intent to provide live streaming as a permanent part of our weekly sharing of worship with those who cannot be with us in the sanctuary or Centennial Hall.
In keeping with that intent, please know that we honor your personal decision as to whether or when to return to “in person” worship. For those who are not yet physically present in worship, we are grateful for the connection to our ‘virtual’ worship life. Still, we look forward to the day when all the people of Trinity feel welcome to return to worship in our beautiful church facilities.
The Gospel text yesterday was an evocative text for a first Sunday back in worship, as Jesus scattered the livestock and overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple in Jerusalem. Confronting the marketplace that was pervasive in the Temple of Jesus’ time and sacrificial systems that seemed to bargain for God’s favor, Jesus’ prophetic cry evoked the message of the Ten Commandments covenant in our first reading from Exodus, that God’s people were called to worship the Lord God only.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3)
He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:16-17)
We were reminded that the presence of God was not to be confined to the ancient Temple, or even our long-missed worship centers at Trinity. With the incarnation of Christ, the Temple of the Lord was newly revealed in the person and ministry of Jesus. And the house of the Lord exists wherever the followers of Jesus extend offerings and ministries of love and service. We bear Christ Jesus, the new temple for a new era, to the world.
So, this day I would like to take a moment to extend a word of thanksgiving to the remarkably generous people of Trinity Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, who seem to know that ministry occurs beyond the doors of our beloved old house on Fulton Street. A year ago, one of the concerns expressed by congregational leaders as we retreated from our church facilities, and began to experiment with staying ‘virtually’ connected in a time of pandemic separation, was how we were going to support our congregation with offering giving and how we were going to continue caring for ministries beyond our doors, those many community serving ministries and agencies we have long supported. Not only did we end fiscal year 2020 in the black in supporting our congregation’s operating budget, but we gave to ministries beyond our doors with deeply committed levels of support.
In the March 2021 issue of our newsletter, The Messenger, Director of Discipleship Sylvia Stouten reported that in the 2020 fiscal year, the people of Trinity gave to ministries beyond our doors more than $430,000. Of that amazing total, $106,000 was given to our synod and the wider Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and we were able to meet the Stony Lake Camp capital appeal challenge and gift that outdoor ministry of our synod with nearly $132,000. Beyond those two benevolent levels of support for our wider church, another $193,000 was given to local and global mission, an extraordinary level of giving during a year in which much of society was ‘shut down.’ The people of Trinity stepped up to meet the challenge of good stewardship amid the pandemic with courage and deep generosity, and our benevolent support of many ministries beyond our doors grew in 2020.
For a complete profile of our 2020 benevolent giving, check out the full report in our March newsletter. In addition to our $430,000 in financial benevolent giving, a profile of the many gifts-in-kind are also described in Sylvia’s benevolence report. You can access the March issue of The Messenger here:
The benevolence profile is on page 16.
Blessings to you, O people of Trinity. May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in love.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Robert Linstrom