The Call Committee has enthusiastically announced their “Candidate of Choice” and is excited to host a “Meet and Greet” Church Potluck this Sunday following worship! All are invited to join us as we get to know Pastor Susan this Sunday, Nov. 8 and as we vote to confirm and the appointment and compensation package next Sunday, Nov. 15.
- Sunday, November 1st: Joint presentation by Call Committee and Council about selection of Pastor Susan and next steps after worship.
- Sunday, November 8th: “Meet and Greet” potluck with Pastor Susan after worship.
- Sunday, November 15th: Congregational vote to confirm the appointment and compensation package for Pastor Susan. (Absentee voting is not allowed per the OSLC Constitution.)
Here is a short biography of Pastor Susan. She is looking forward to “meeting and greeting” as many congregation members as possible on Sunday, November 8th!
Year B, Lectionary 24
September 13, 2015
Pastor David Tryggestad
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
“Who Do You Say That I Am?”
Our youngest son got engaged this past Monday. He called from Minneapolis later that evening and said, “Dad, I proposed to Emily tonight and she said Yes!” My wife, Lynn, and I have hoping and praying for this day for a long time. More than once we’ve told our son, “Soren, if you don’t marry Emily, we’re going to disown you and adopt Emily!” The question, “Will you marry me?” is one of the most important questions we can ever answer.
I wonder if the question Jesus asks his disciples—and us—is even more important: “Who do you say that I am?”
But before we take a look at that question—the second question Jesus asks the disciples—let’s look at the first: “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples respond: “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” As Jesus’ ministry progressed, more and more people began to ask, “Who is this, who heals the sick? Who is this, who forgives sins? Who is this, who raises the dead?”
“Who do people say that I am?”
Thirty years ago, Jaroslav Pelikan, one of America’s leading theologians, a teacher at Yale, published a book entitled Jesus Through the Centuries, in which the author lifts up major images or understandings of Jesus through twenty centuries of scholarship and art. Pelikan identifies 18 different notions of Jesus and devotes a chapter to each. Some of them include: “The Rabbi,” “The Turning Point of History,” “The Light of the Gentiles,” “The King of Kings,” “The Cosmic Christ,” “The Son of Man,” “Christ Crucified,” “The Bridegroom of the Soul,” “The Prince of Peace,” “The Liberator,” and so forth. No doubt we could all add to that list. From my own pietistic background and from my own personal experience, I would add, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”
Now to Jesus’ second question, the one he asks of each of us: “Who do you say that I am?”
I believe that this question is one of the most important questions each of us answers in our lives, perhaps the most important question, even more important than “Will you marry me?” I believe that the way we answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?,” influences every aspect of our lives, each and every day.
Jesus’ disciple Peter got the answer right: “You are the Messiah.”
But while he got the answer right, he got the meaning all wrong. As we see, Jesus went on to tell Peter and the disciples what it would mean for him to be Messiah:
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed . . .”
Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Jesus. We can hear him protest, “No, Lord, this can never happen to you! No, Lord, this is not what it means to be Messiah! No, Lord, this is not what it means to be the Son of God! No, Lord, this is not what it means to be my Lord!”
This is the same Peter who protested that Jesus should never wash his feet at the Last Supper: “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:8).
“Who do you say that I am?” Peter got the answer right: “You are the Messiah.” But he got the meaning wrong.
Here at Our Savior’s we kicked off the Confirmation program this past Wednesday. Youth Director Meagan led young people grades five through ten through an engaging evening of fun getting-to-know-you activities as well as some introductory teaching about what Confirmation is all about. Poke your nose around any Confirmation program in any Lutheran church anywhere across the world and you’re bound to learn something about Martin Luther, particularly his Small Catechism. Even if you don’t remember much at all about the Small Catechism, even though you may have memorized it cover to cover when you were in Confirmation, no doubt you remember the question he asks over and over: “What does this mean?”
Peter got the answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” right; but he failed Martin Luther’s question: “What does this mean?”
It seems Peter had other ideas about what it might mean for Jesus to be the Messiah, ideas that had nothing to do with suffering and death. We wonder if Peter’s notions of Messiah were in part grounded in self-interest. If Jesus as Lord were going to deny himself and suffer, then perhaps those who follow him might be in for some of the same.
Jesus knows what’s on Peter’s mind, so he makes himself quite clear: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
During our Wednesday evening worship service this past week, Leighton, one of our young Confirmation members was present. I made the comment that when I was his age, I thought I had wanted to become a medical doctor when I grew up. But then, as I grew older and started to have biology in high school and began to dissect animals and reptiles, some still alive, I decided that I didn’t like the sight of blood. I wanted to be a doctor, but I misunderstood what being a doctor meant. I had not asked the question, “What does this mean?”
Perhaps Peter didn’t like the sight of blood.
During the time I served as pastor in Duluth, our congregation hosted a monthly evening worship based on the practices of a Christian community in Taizé, France, including prayer, reading of scripture, singing simple and repetitious songs, and incorporating silence. In addition to lighting scores of candles throughout the sanctuary, we placed an icon of Jesus front and center, in order to help us focus our hearts and minds on our Lord. One evening I had placed a large hand painted reproduction of an ancient icon depicting Jesus on the cross, with blood flowing from his head, his hands, and his feet. His face shown of despair and agony. It was a graphic depiction of suffering. Afterward, one of the leaders of the planning group protested that she didn’t like looking at the painting, that it was too depressing, that it was too graphic.
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed . . .”
“Who do you say that I am?” How do you answer that question? And we can follow with Martin Luther’s question, “What does this mean?”
I was in conversation with someone near and dear to me just a few weeks ago and we were talking religion and faith. She said something we’ve been hearing a lot recently: “I’m spiritual but not religious.”
Martin Luther would ask, “What does this mean?”
I wonder if being spiritual but not religious means that I can make up whatever I want and believe whatever I want. I wonder if being spiritual but not religious means making Jesus into our own image—or making God into our own image.
The problem with Jesus, as far as Peter was concerned, is that we cannot make Jesus into our own image. Rather, it’s the other way around. One of the hymns we sing during Lent is “On My Heart Imprint Your Image.” The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus . . .” (Philippians 2:5).
So what does it mean for us as individuals and as a congregation that Jesus says to us: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
One thing it means is that Jesus sets the example; we don’t. Jesus sets the agenda; we don’t.
A number of years ago a story circulated among all the pastors and all the congregations of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod. It was a story about a congregation that took Jesus’ example of self-denial and servanthood seriously. It seems that this particular congregation had been the victim of some significant vandalism. The perpetrators were later apprehended, but rather than pressing charges, this congregation offered to embrace them, to bring them into their midst, to engage them in meaningful ministry, to include them in genuine community. This congregation chose to risk being vulnerable.
This congregation is you.
This past Wednesday, I was welcomed by the quilters. They fed me without my having to do anything! I didn’t even have to wash the dishes. Our quilters make 200 quilts a year to give away. Hospitality and generosity.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
This past year has been one of transition for all of you. No doubt there are many and various notions of what it means to be the church and what your future might look like. We might all answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” the same way Peter did: “You are the Messiah.” At the same time, we might have among us various answers to the question, “What does this mean?”
Going back to the laundry list of titles of the chapters that Jaroslav Pelikan assigned in his book, Jesus Through the Centuries, one jumps out at me: “The Crucified Christ”—or “Crucified Messiah.” To the disciple Peter, “Crucified” and “Messiah” were an oxymoron. To be Messiah could not possibly involve being crucified. For one thing, it might have implications for those who follow Jesus. It might have implications for us.
We worship a Crucified Messiah. He asks each and every one of us: “Who do you say that I am?” It is perhaps the most important question we will ever answer. And Jesus asks it of us every day of our lives.
A word about our song, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.” I learned it 20 years ago on a mission trip to Monterrey, Mexico. We were among the poorest of the poor. We visited a worshiping community at the outskirts of the city dump. We saw a newly-wed couple rummaging through scraps of refuse to pull out discarded wooden pallets and corrugated metal to assemble their new home. The streets were dirt; the floors were dirt; and the only running water was a spigot of cold water from a public faucet at the end of each street. Yet these very people came together to lift their voices in worship and praise: “Lord, I lift your name on high . . . you came from heaven to earth . . . from the earth to the cross . . .”
“Who do you say that I am?”
Thanks be to God!
It is my great privilege and pleasure to be with you, a co-worker in Christ, during these few months during this “bridge” time in the life of the congregation. With the fine work you have completed during the year of interim ministry with Pastor Loren, you are now prepared to launch into the call process. Meanwhile, your many and various lay-led ministries are equipped and commissioned to carry out the ongoing vital ministry of the congregation, including education for various ages, homebound and hospital visitation, and service in the community.
As “bridge” pastor, I will be with you almost every Sunday through November (unless you have a new pastor in place before then). In addition, every Wednesday will see me poking my nose around the hallways, meeting with staff and the executive committee, helping to teach confirmation, leading worship, checking out the goodies the quilters have brought, as well as basking in the glorious music coming from the choir loft at the end of the evening. In addition, I will meet with the church council each month.
This particular time in the life of Our Savior’s is highly charged in a very positive way. I sensed it meeting with the executive committee and the staff, and I felt it during the special worship, “The Music of Forgiveness,” held at Our Savior’s August 19. You are excited about your ministry, individually and collectively, and there is great anticipation about your future! Perhaps a potential and unintended consequence of this “bridge” time might be a tendency to look to me to assume the responsibility of your ministry, which could result in a cooling of your white hot energy and expectation, a relaxing of your sense of urgency about your ministry.
I was deeply touched during “The Music of Forgiveness” worship at Our Savior’s when there was an opportunity for individual prayer at four stations in the sanctuary. Two adults and a confirmation youth laid hands on me while one of them prayed aloud for the issue I had brought to them to be lifted to our Lord. I was blessed by your ministry of intercession. I expect I will continue to be blessed in your midst during these few months together.
Pastor David Tryggestad
The Call Committee has been working hard to complete our Ministry Site Profile since late May. It was not an easy task. We conducted research, dug through demographics, and pored through the Transition Team’s report to complete this 14-page document. We are pleased to announce that it has been submitted to the ELCA!
The Synod will now work to find us names of potential candidates. Our focus is now on the interview process, including developing questions and deciding the overall format.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact any of the Call Committee members. We are happy to talk about the Call process with you, but remember that we won’t share any names of potential candidates!
As we patiently wait for the Holy Spirit to guide us to our new leader, please pray for the Call Committee, our congregation, and all pastors seeking their next call.
Call Committee members Tracie Wilcox and Dan Peliska (co-chairs) Gail Baribeau, Matt Louks, Garrett Ongalo, Jane Scherf Leah Siotiak, Ray Svatos, and Dave Toole
Rooted in Faith † Growing in Christ † Reaching to Serve
Transition Team Final Report
May 27, 2015
Who We Are
Our Team represented a cross section of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (OSLC) and was composed of Interim Pastor Loren Anderson-Bauer, David Toole-spokesperson, Carolyn Flaschberger, Gail Baribeau, Kay Rent, Kris Cochran, Tanya Carlson, Tom Witty, Bob Rutka & Tucker Nelson. We met twice a month on Wednesdays from October 2014 through May 2015.
Kay and Tucker came up with the analogy of being on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. We need to get out the map and determine where we are, then we need to decide where we want to go and what is the best route to get there. And then, we need to get everyone to paddle the canoes in the same direction.
What We Did
The Transition Team determined that our chief task was to “listen to the congregation”. We needed to gather information that would be helpful to the church council, the future call committee and the congregation as they make choices regarding future leadership for Our Savior’s. These processes were to help insure mutual success in the challenging time of transition.
One tool for “listening” was a paper and online survey that asked four questions:
- What are your top three reasons for being involved OSLC?
- If you could change something about OSLC, what would it be?
- OSLC would be stronger if…,
- Where is God leading us?
We received over 100 surveys responses. Each team member reviewed each survey. As a team we discussed the responses and condensed the responses into eleven categories or Priorities. The team followed up with personal interviews with those that requested them. Members of the team also reported back comments and concerns that were heard from church and community members at our regularly scheduled meetings.
Our next tool for “listening” involved a congregation coffee an’ table talk session. The list of eleven Priorities were discussed and then ranked.
The Team performed an analysis of OSLC’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
We discussed our OSLC Mission Statement.
Based on the priorities identified by the congregation, we developed a list of recommendations to help OSLC address those priorities.
What We Learned
As a team, we learned the characteristics of different sized congregations. Congregations with 50 to 150 active members (average worship attendance) tend to be pastoral centered. The pastor has a direct personal relationship with each member and the congregation acts as a single group.
Larger congregations with 150 to 350 active members focus more on church programs. These include youth, music, education, service, fellowship, committee work and other interests. People connect to others in these respective groups, through leadership opportunities and organizing program functions.
The pastor’s role is one of oversight for each program and less development of a personal relationship with each member of the congregation.
OSLC, with 146 active members has characteristics of both “pastoral” and “program” congregations. When larger program congregations reduce the numbers of programs offered, they often times shrink membership and take on the characteristics of a pastoral congregation. As we move forward, it will be important to have pastoral and staff leadership to oversee the programs that OSLC prides itself in.
The following is the rank order of the Priorities in order of importance to the congregation:
- Fostering and building a strong youth program.
- Finding agreement on church financial responsibility and strengthening our congregation’s financial stability.
- Being inclusive and encouraging involvement by all.
- Drawing in and welcoming others into our Christ-centered church family.
- Worship and music that is meaningful and moves us to discipleship.
- Spiritual care and appreciation for members who are in care facilities or homebound.
- Building nurturing relationships and friendships.
- Maintaining our church property so that we can serve not only our needs, but the needs of the community.
- Offering learning opportunities for all ages.
- Providing opportunities to serve in the greater community and world.
- Exploring ways to partner in ministry with other area churches.
Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats
Following are the results of the SWOT analysis:
We have many Strengths. First is our meaningful, Christ-centered, Gospel based worship and preaching. We have both traditional and contemporary worship services that include all ages. Our music is inspiring and allows each person to lift her/his heart to God while participating in community worship.
We are a welcoming, open congregation where people truly care for and respect one another. We seek to serve others both within our congregation and throughout all of God’s creation. We have a strong and growing youth program. We strive to keep our youth interested and involved in worship and service as they mature.
Our congregation has a very strong history of nurturing the call to ordained and lay ministry. We foster and maintain partnerships in missions through our Synod, the Seminary, Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry (VLM), and other mission organizations. We have a strong core of committed members who are dedicated to God and the church.
Even in times of financial challenges, our congregation has always been able to rise to meet those needs. Our building, with its stainless steel kitchen, lack of a mortgage, accessibility and location is a great asset, with many community organizations making use of the west wing for meetings.
Our building has its weaknesses: The aging heating system, lack of handicapped accessible restrooms, and old inefficient windows.
We have not only an aging building, but an aging and declining population/congregation. Financial shortfalls and reluctance to address financial issues is a recurring theme.
As individuals and smaller groups we have, at times, shown a resistance to looking at both sides of an issue. Likewise, we may fail to put personal bias aside, while not advocating for the mutual benefit for all. We have exhibited the phenomenon of the “meeting after the meeting” that leads to “cliquish” behavior.
We have a need for more “unofficial greeters” to extend the welcome to visitors and new members.
The team also felt that there is a need to offer more for families and young adults. Our congregation wants to see more interesting Bible study opportunities for all ages. We have the ability to expand our outreach to our community through our youth programs, our musical offerings, and staff and volunteers.
Our proximity to Mesabi Community College and the HRA Housing/Pine Mill Court lends itself to outreach and invitation. OSLC already participates with local aid associations including Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and food shelves.
Our building is a safe and welcoming meeting place for many outside organizations. We have many opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community.
Our economy is based on Taconite (Mining), Timber (Forestry) and Tourism. With the downturn in the steel and oil industries, there are increased financial worries for our families and our congregation. There is also less involvement and less interest in all religious activity throughout the general population. Many of our children and youth are not able to be present on a consistent basis for Sunday school and other activities. Traditionally, society has set time aside for church activities on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, but with community and secular activities being 24/7/365, we find that community worship is taking a back seat and church becomes an afterthought.
We have learned in assessing our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that as we work and plan for our future, developing a Vision Statement can help serve as a guiding tool for program development and staffing needs.
We learned that our Mission Statement is a valid and relevant mission to live by.
We are Rooted in Faith – We are a church family that is Christ-centered where the Gospel is preached and proclaimed in worship, music and learning opportunities for all ages. We wholeheartedly embrace former ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson’s statement, “We finally meet one another not in our agreements or disagreements, but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ.” We have a rich and long history as a church that has seen at least 14 sons and daughters of its congregation pursue higher levels of theological education and ordination. We have a strong history of lay ministry and leadership.
We are Growing in Christ – We are working on building a strong youth program, especially with the hiring of Meagan Esterby as our Director of Youth and Family Ministry. Our church is a welcoming part of our community that strives to be inclusive to people of all cultures and backgrounds. We are also working on strengthening our congregational financial stability so that we can continue to grow and thrive.
We are Reaching to Serve – We are a congregation that is a cornerstone within our community. Our church building is available for community groups to meet and is a place where many may meet Christ in real and tangible ways. We minister to members who are homebound or in care facilities. We are a mission partner through our Synod, with Mission Jamaica, with Teller-Brevig, Alaska and with VLM Ministries.
Where Are We Going
The Transition Team makes the following recommendations based on the top six congregational priorities:
The top priority is growing a strong youth program. The Transition Team recommends the continuation of Meagan Esterby as the full time Director of Youth and Family Ministry (DYFM). The Transition Team recommends that her compensation be reviewed and include health benefits. We also recommend that Youth and Family Ministry programming be adequately funded.
Maintaining financial stability is the number two priority of the congregation. This requires thoughtful utilization of our resources. In the past, we have been blessed with a full-time Senior Pastor and full-time Associate in Ministry (AiM). Brenda Tibbetts has provided almost 15 years of called ministry as a very dedicated AiM to our congregation at OSLC. This was noted in many of the congregational responses reviewed by the Transition Team. Brenda has recently resigned her call to OSLC effective June 30, 2015, and accepted a position as an Assistant to the Bishop of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. We wish Brenda the very best in her new opportunity.
With this change, the Transition Team recommends that the AiM position be eliminated. This will assist in achieving and maintaining fiscal responsibility as we move forward. Our staffing will more closely reflect what similar sized congregations have in the NE MN Synod.
The Team also recommends that the annual budget reflect the reality of our general giving. We need to continue to emphasize the importance of Stewardship in strengthening the spirit of our generous congregation.
The number three priority is Being inclusive and encouraging involvement of all. We recommend that the congregation revisit the “Fellowship Team” concept and explore other ways to energize people into more active membership. We strongly encourage members to go out of their way to welcome, include and invite all to participate. Similarly, our fourth priority, Drawing in and welcoming others into our Christ-centered church family, is an extension of our congregation into our communities.
Worship and music that is meaningful and moves us to discipleship, has been a strength of OSLC. Our congregation expressed appreciation for our talented worship leaders, preachers, choir, and musicians. They provide substance and joy to our worship experience and gives direction to our daily living. Many expressed a desire for continued and expanded variety of music in worship.
Spiritual care and appreciation for members who are in care facilities or homebound will need to rely on a strengthened lay program as we transition to a smaller staff.
OSLC is a “bottom-up” organization of people. Members step up and volunteer their time and talents when they see that something needs to be done. They pride themselves in taking the initiative to accomplish necessary tasks. Coordinating our efforts by working through our committees and elected council insures collaborative efforts. Improving our communications and connectivity strengthens our congregation and shows respect to our members and our leaders.
The Transition Team feels very positive about our future. We recognize that success for our congregation and our called leadership depends on continued hard work, mutual respect, fiscal responsibility, long range planning, and the ongoing prayerful determination of all.
We will be the church of choice for all people in our community.
NOW LET’S GET PADDLING!!!