Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

October Newsletter Update

October 2020
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

As one whose calling it is to do a lot of communicating, I must always stress that the verse above is my goal.  Considering the tense times we live in where communicating is hard to do on a good day, the challenge is certainly before me and you.  

But when I step into the pulpit, there is a tiny plaque that comforts me. It reads, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  I use that to remind myself every time I step into the pulpit that those words from John 12:21 are also now your prayer for me as your pastor.  

That grace to those who hear is the love of Christ that builds up your faith in him.  That is the foundation for our getting along.  As our Apostle Paul stresses elsewhere, “Christ has torn down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”  Ephesians 2:14

Therefore, this month’s letter is written to this end: to give grace to all who read and to build us all up in Him.  

By now, the ministry of our congregation is in full swing.  Word & Sacrament, PUPPETS, Bible Classes, Confirmation, LWML, Maintenance, Council, Elders, you name it.  A few more pieces need to be put together, but largely we are getting there.  An eye to the future is also appearing.  Advent, Christmas, Bethlehem Walk, and Christmas Programs are already on our minds and I would ask that you pray for these things because there are a lot of tough choices and decisions that need to be made.  

There has been a lot of reorganization happening as well.  Council and Boards are trying to meet more at the same time so that we may be on the same page, improve communication, and to also have mercy on my time schedule.  

Something that has been important to me, our staff, and our council is communicating with all of you.  These monthly newsletters mailed to everyone is a start, but we also want to sit down and level this, and more, out with you in person.  Mark this date on your Calendar: October 18th, after the 9:00am service.  We will have a voters informational meeting in the Sanctuary.  

This meeting is going to heavily focus on just communicating information such as a maintenance update, our property and land, Covid updates, Pastoral Staff, Budget. This is just a meeting where we lay things out there for you to see and inquire about.  No decisions or votes are going to be done save one:  What you are going to do with me.  That is our first topic in this letter.  

Pastoral Staff: Technically, I am still your associate pastor.  A lot of talking has happened over the last couple of months.  Many of you have commented and also our board of elders and our council have sat down and looked and talked things over.  After doing all this, our Council reached a recommendation that we are now passing onto you.  This recommendation comes after sitting down and looking at events going on around us, by looking at our budget, and by also asking for the advice and input of our District President and Circuit Visitor who attended our September council meeting.

After doing all of that, it was their recommendation that our congregation affirm me as the sole pastor as we move forward.  This allows us to do several things. In the short term, it allows us as a congregation and as a staff to make decisions that need to be made at an administration level and the day to day.  In the long term, it will help give us time as a congregation to plot our next moves.  
By calling me as sole pastor, we can still one day call a second pastor.  That option is not closed to us.  And personally, I think that is a worthy goal to pursue.  

However, before we would call a second pastor it is important to get our ducks in a row.  Our budget needs to be worked on if it is our desire to call a second pastor.  We want to be sure we can care for another pastor and his family. Let’s work on that goal in the months to come.  Pray to God for direction in this, and he will light our path.  

Before we would call a second pastor, it would also be wise to get through the events around us and to also give us the time to transition and move forward as a congregation.  We are not the same congregation we were even a year ago.  We have gone through a lot this year and I think it is good that we take some time to rest and heal as a congregation, discover from God where he wants us, and to have some goals in mind before we add someone else into the mix.  Dear God our Father, may you grant us success in this and bless our congregation’s undertaking of Your tasks.  

That is the major thing in this letter, but here are a few other notes that I wanted to let you know about:

Snow Birds.  If you head down south for winter, please call us. We want to take down some information before you go so that we can provide better Pastoral Care for you.  If you are still in town, please attend the following services: Thursday, Nov. 5th at 6:30pm or Sunday, Nov. 8th at 9:00am.  During these services we will recognize who you are and give you the rite of sending and safe travels until God returns you to us in the Spring.  

Covid update. The threat of Covid is still looming over us.  Cases are on the rise and we would do well to take note of this.  If you have listened to my sermons over the last couple of months you know how I feel about it all.  Be careful and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and others who are at risk safe.  Of course if you are sick or show symptoms, please take care of yourself first.  God will not be upset if you miss church to heal up.  

I am continuing to watch events as they unfold and will take needed precautions as we move forward, while still making sure we provide the Lord’s goods.  What we do as a church is needed now more than ever.  Please add this all to your prayers.  Scenarios play out in my head over and over and do keep me awake at nights.  When there are people under your care though, it would be strange if it did not.  Thanks be to God who does not slumber or sleep as we turn to him.  
Along with this, our services are filling up.  On October 4th we had 101 inside and 8 people outside on Sunday and 39 on Thursday. This approaches 25% capacity with 450 being the occupancy.   The week before we had a combined total of 168 people for both services.  This is a good problem to have.  We are trying to figure out how to record attendance again which will help with pastoral care on my end.  We also will start putting chairs out in the narthex and possibly open up the fellowship hall if it continues to grow.  Wednesday’s at 9:00am we will have a 30 minute chapel service.  This is an abbreviated service, containing what I usually do with shut ins. This could be an outlet for those weary about attending the other two services.  

This sickness has also taken a toll in other respects as well.  As someone who reaches out to our most at risk and elderly, I see these events also taking a gut wrenching turn for them in their loneliness.  Please check in on each other and reach out.  A lot of our brothers and sisters are hurting and there is only so much I can do as one person.  

Fortunately, we recently began a pen pal correspondence between members of the congregation and our shut ins.  If you would like to write to people or know a member of our congregation who would benefit from that, let us know and we can see what we can do.  

Advent: This year we are going to break tradition and do something new with Advent. In the ancient church, Advent used to be 7 weeks long instead of our usual 4.  This year we will honor that ancient tradition.  We are doing this for a few reasons.  First, because we were cheated out of Lent his past year.  Second, Advent is also a season of hope, and I believe we need more of that this year.  Third, December is so bogged down with commercialism and business that Advent gets gutted and overlooked.  This year, we hope to reinvigorate and end our year differently with a 7-week Advent season, focused on music and God’s salvation in Christ.

I think this is enough for now.  There is more, but I am sure if I tried to convey every single point I fear there wouldn’t be enough books in all the world that could be written.  God’s peace to you all.  Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.  Know that I give thanks and love you all in Christ our Lord.  Our Triune God will continue to see us through.  In Christ name.  Amen.  

Pastor Andrew Belt
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