Stories of faith in action
On Sunday, September 23, Bishop Tim Smith traveled to St. John’s, Hudson, to install Pastor Dan Duke (not Dan Carolina…much to the bishop’s dismay) as their new pastor even though Pastor Duke is still the pastor at St. Stephen’s, Lenoir. How can that be? After a period of discernment on the part of both congregations and in an effort to be vital and healthy, these two congregations with the support of the NC Synod have decided to “yoke” their ministries (share a pastor). As the bishop shared, “Extensive research and prayer revealed to the congregation that if Jesus and Pastor Dan could show up at 9:30 a.m. they could too!”
Pastor Dan shared, “On August 26, members of both congregations voted overwhelmingly in favor of yoking together. The congregations celebrated by joining together for an afternoon of great food, fellowship, and fun. Over and over, I heard: ‘We need to get together more often!’ Scripture teaches us that we can accomplish more together than we can when we are apart. Maybe all we really need is a frequent reminder of what God can accomplish in us as a community of believers.”
For many years, the ELCA has shared the publication called “Stories of Faith in Action” so you can see how your congregation’s regular financial offering is being used—that portion that is shared with the synod and then sent on to the churchwide organization. Enjoy this story about Good Soil Congregation in Ohio which is a consolidation of two congregations. Consolidation is different than being “yoked” like St. John’s and St. Stephen’s in our synod, but is still a great example of new ways of doing ministry in vital congregations with whole and healthy leaders.
Two Become One—a churchwide story
On a recent Sunday, Mark Rollenhagen noticed something special as he looked out at the worshipers of Good Soil Lutheran Ministries. The youngest among them was six weeks old; the oldest was 90. To the pastor, it represented “the fullness of a healthy community.”
Born from the consolidation of Faith and Our Savior’s—both ELCA congregations two miles apart in suburban Cleveland, Ohio—Good Soil is a new congregation that receives funding through Mission Support.
Rollenhagen was originally called to Faith in 2011. In 2016, Our Savior’s contracted with Faith to share his ministry. Sharing a pastor intensifed discernment in both congregations on whether to consolidate. The two churches began joint worship in 2016 on Pentecost Sunday.
At the 2017 ELCA Newly Organized Congregation Gathering, also funded by Mission Support, Rollenhagen and three members met leaders from other congregations who are being church in new ways. One speaker, Fred Nelson, served a growing two-campus congregation in Illinois. “For us, it gave support to the idea that you can be a two-campus church and grow,” Rollenhagen said.
On Feb. 1, 2018, Faith and Our Savior’s merged to become Good Soil Lutheran Ministries. Rollenhagen said the name reflects the purpose—not “to prop up two small congregations” but to “strengthen and expand” Lutheran ministry in greater Cleveland.
Faith and Our Savior’s are now two campuses of Good Soil Lutheran Ministries, with worship held at each during alternate weeks. Members and guests were reminded of the new schedule through signage on both buildings; maps and schedules are posted online.
“The biggest challenge was for people to grow beyond the identities of Faith and Our Savior’s,” Rollenhagen said. But he thinks worshiping together Sunday after Sunday has aided in this transition. Attendance has grown, with younger families. “The energy is being directed toward living into the future instead of trying to save the past,” Rollenhagen said.
This story and eight others can be found in the 2018-2019 issue of Stories of Faith in Action which is available to order or download from the ELCA website. Additionally, free bulletin inserts of each story are also available.
The goal of the synod and the ELCA is not survival, but vitality. Bishop Tim chairs a national effort for vitality across congregations. For some, yoking is the answer for how they can make a difference in their community. For others, it is sharing a pastor and worshiping at different times, like they are with Pastor Duke in Hudson.
This is a major emphasis of the work of your synod, helping congregations to have vitality. It isn’t a simple process. It takes prayer and discernment. It takes listening to the Spirit. It is holy work and it is what we ask our synod servants—the bishop and synod staff—to engage in on a daily basis.
Thank you for walking together as synod to help lead every congregation in NC to live into the fullness of what God is calling them to become.