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Senior Pastor, Melody Eastman
Associate Pastor, Mark Williamson
A Safe Place for Healing
Huh. Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting that.
Last year, we added a full-time position for a Director of Youth and Family Ministry. Usually, when a church does that, you sort of expect that might mean the pastors have less contact with the youth—because the kids are relating to that staff person who spends the most time with them.
Evidently, that’s not so. I have realized lately that there has been a shift in my own ministry, which I believe is also
reflected in Pr. Williamson’s (although he doesn’t have 25 years of experience to compare this to). I am providing a
lot more pastoral care to middle- and high-school youth than I ever have in my career.
I don’t think it’s because the needs have changed. The congregations I’ve served have always had kids who were
hurting—running away from home, cutting, suffering panic attacks, using drugs, dealing with addiction, you name
it. The thing is, in the past those kids never came to the church for care. They went the other way, figuring we couldn’t/wouldn’t understand.
But now they come to us. To the church, and to the pastors. We provide the same kind of pastoral care and counseling for them we’ve been providing for our adults—
because they ask.
Do you recognize how monumental this is? This is the safe place to come to when they’re in pain.
And another thing: years back, most parents wanted to hide their kids’ struggles from the church. They were
ashamed, and assumed they’d be judged. But now we have families who come to the gathered community and
name their struggles, and ask for the community’s prayers. Again, the church has gone from the place where you
have to put all your energy into looking good to the place where it’s safe not to have your act together. This is
You all know that the fall “stewardship campaign” is inevitably going to kick off. When it does, do me a favor. Try really, really hard to forget about the budget—and think about the ministry. Think about the kids who are cutting,
who are using, who are struggling with anger and panic and fear—and who are running, but now they’re running
to God, through us. Through you. Think about the kids who are able to love their friends when they’re in pain, instead
of judging them, because they know who we all are as children of God--and in that knowledge they share in
creating that safe space for healing for all of us.
Think about the adults who are growing deeper in faith than they ever have, and who are loving and supporting
each other, and our youth. Think about the folks who come to the computer lab on Saturdays and mid-week to learn computer skills, English, financial management, and to prepare for GEDs and citizenship tests. Think about
the lives changed because we are here—because you are here.
God has given you a mighty gift, in being able to be part of something like this. The image of God the Creator, God
the Forgiving One, God the Restorer lives in you. Please, pray on that as we set our ministry goals for the coming
year, and ask for your support.
Come and See
"The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, 'Follow me.' Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.' Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'"
Sometimes I wonder why our evangelical outreach doesn't often happen as simply and naturally as other things we testify to through word of mouth. You have got to see this movie, we say, and when enough people say it enough times, even a small budget movie with little official marketing behind it—a Little Miss Sunshine or My Big Fat Greek Wedding — becomes an enormous blockbuster. We do this out of our own enthusiasm, without any strategies or pep talks, for grocery stores, furniture stores, restaurants. Someone on an episode of the local restaurant review show Check, Please! Jennifer and I were just watching said, "You might have to drive a long ways and then wait two-and-a-half hours to get seated, but, believe me, it's worth it!"
The analogy probably breaks down in several ways, but one of them, in our own modern North American context, is that organized Christianity has a lot of negative publicity already out there ahead of whatever ringing endorsement any one St. Paul Church member might give. In that sense, we're not so different from this little village of Nazareth that Jesus came from, which apparently had an underwhelming rep. Can anything good come out of there? From those people? When you've got a PR problem like that, it's a tough place to carry out a positive word-of-mouth campaign.
Our church, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran, located in the heart of Wheaton, probably has a keener sense of this that most. The response of those who encounter Jesus through our community is typically not just enthusiasm but surprise. On one side of the coin, you have those who say, "Can it really be that a church as open and diverse, as comfortable with differences and uncertainties, is in Wheaton?" These are the folks who say, simultaneously complementing this faith community and indicting our too-timid outreach: "This place is the best kept secret around!"
On the other side, perhaps a bit less frequently but also represented, are those who say, "Can it really be that Jesus is in an oldline Protestant, Lutheran church, one that's been around for 85 years?" This comes off the tongues of those long exposed to the stereotype that churches like ours which belong to an organized, traditional Protestant (for us, "reforming" or "evangelical catholic" is more accurate) denomination are "liberal Protestants." We are just about kind deeds, progressive causes, and lowest common denominator God-talk; not the truly good and truly new Good News of Jesus Christ—so the negative PR goes. The surprise in this case is that we are found singing robustly, praying earnestly, and taking Scripture seriously—or at least striving to grow in these fundamental Christian practices. For some, the surprise is simply discovering that we believe Christ to be alive as Savior and Lord!
But before anyone can be surprised, the word-of-mouth thing has to happen. Few people are going to crash a party they haven't been invited to in one way or another. So if you’re an inquirer or God-seeker reading this, wondering if you are really invited to “Come and see,” I’m inviting you to visit. If you’re already a member or worshipper at St. Paul, your invitation of others will mean more than mine (which is rather predictable). Plus, it’s easier for you to sit alongside your guest. Rest assured, we do firmly oppose loneliness, which was the first thing God ever called “not good” (Genesis 2:18). We know God loves the lonely and is unwaveringly pro-Communion. So bring a friend, or come and introduce yourself. Come and See!
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515 S. Wheaton Avenue - Wheaton, Illinois - 60187
630 668-5953 Fax: 630 668-0020