Summer is here!
Somehow summer has arrived suddenly. Maybe it is because we are taking our summer family vacation earlier than usual. Our normal pattern is to vacation the first week of August. That is not the case this year so we are more quickly turning from graduations to vacations. In the end the point is not so much when you take vacation but that you take vacation. We all work hard and especially you pastors. There are many demands that are placed on you and your time. Too often we give up our day off for more work. Only recently I was talking to one of our pastors and in response to a ministry need he said, “Well, there goes another Monday” (his normal day off).
I like to talk about “seasons” when I talk about our work schedules. There are some “seasons” that require more of us. Those times before Christmas and Easter are good examples. But there are other busy times as well; September is one and May/June can be another. There are times when you just have to do what you have to do. Our families will often graciously understand. But can we make it up to them and ourselves? Are there other “seasons” when we can take a little more time for our health and our family? Some call it comp-time. I just call it wise and healthy. And I pray that our congregations, and particularly the Elders of our congregations, see it the same way.
Pastors, take care of yourselves and your family. Elders, take care of your pastors and make sure they get the time off they need. When they are healthy and rested they will be able to serve the people of your congregation much better.
Let’s all, pastors and laity, have a great summer and get a little time off.
This summer we will celebrate God’s gracious provision of a pastor for a couple of our congregations. We recognize the pastoral shortage in our Synod and the challenge it can be to call a pastor so we are especially grateful for this provision. We pray that God would continue to send in greater supply workers into the harvest for the fields are still white unto harvest.
On June 26th Rev. Jordan Peiser was ordained at Zion, Maywood and installed at Zion and Apple of His Eye Mission Society in a Sunday afternoon service of praise and thanksgiving. Special guests were Pastor Peiser’s home pastor Rev. Anthony Oliphant, Redeemer Elmhurst IL who was the Preacher and Mr. Steve Cohen, Founder of Apple of His Eye Mission Society, who participated in the installation.
The following is a letter of introduction from Pastor Peiser himself:
My name is Jordan, and I am the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church and
a front-line missionary forThe Apple of His Eye Mission Society in Northeast New Jersey. I was raised in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and grew up going to Hebrew school at Beth Tikvah
(a Reform JewishCongregation) until I had my Bar Mitzvah.
Throughout the years, I had close friends who witnessed to me about Jesus Christ and invited
me to Church. One of those friends was, himself, a Jewish believer in Jesus! The Lord God
graciously used their witness to bring the Word of God to me, and I was baptized a few years
later. As a result of my own personal experience, I have developed a profound desire to see
more of the Jewish people brought to saving faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As St. Paul says, “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to
shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all,
bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are
they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without
someone preaching?” (Rom 10:11-14 ESV). All people— Jew or Gentile— need to hear the
saving message of Jesus Christ. Jesus came into the world, died, and rose again so that all who
believe in Him might receive eternal life (Jn 3:16).
I am looking forward to serving our Lord’s Church as the pastor Zion in Maywood by preaching,
visiting my members, and bringing the word and sacraments to them as I also partner with
Apple of His Eye to bring the Gospel to those who do not yet know the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I pray that the Lord will use me to be a faithful witness, friend, and preacher to those who have
not yet come to know Jesus as their savior and Lord. I earnestly desire your prayer and support
as I begin this ministry to the community around me, continuing the work that the Lord
established His Church to do to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20).
Recently, the Rev. Jon Dunbar accepted the call to St. Peter, Hopewell Township. His last call was to St. Paul, Utica, NE. Pastor Dunbar, his wife Hope, and his family will be arriving here in NJ in August. He will be installed at St. Peter on Sunday afternoon August 28th.
Prince of Peace, Hamburg, Somerset Hills, Basking Ridge, and Bethlehem, Ridgewood are all at various stages in the call process. Please keep them in your prayers that the Lord of the harvest will provide them with a pastor. We hope to be celebrating with them later in this year.
Set Apart to Serve
Speaking of pastors, our Synod fully recognizes the need for more pastors and church workers. A new initiative called Set Apart to Serve is well underway. They have been researching, planning and working for several years now and are rolling out their pilot program. One church from each District is being asked to be a part of this pilot. After the pilot is conducted, feedback is received, and changes are made, Set Apart to Serve will be made available to all of our congregations. The reports I have received through the Council of President have been very encouraging and even impressive. I hope that when your congregation is asked to participate in this church worker recruitment effort that you will eagerly rise to be a part of it. Please pray for this initiative and for God to provide us pastors.
Right to Life
The Supreme Court decision concerning Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was handed down after I finished writing this blog, but once it was I felt compelled to come back and add this brief section.
We are an unabashedly pro-life church body. While we stand up for justice for all, in our day and age it is especially important that our voices are heard on this issue, the right to life for the unborn child. Many will try to make this Supreme Court decision about other things (such as a court’s overreach or a women’s rights). Those are important subjects but ultimately this decision is about the life of the child in the womb and the fact that the Constitution does not give the right to an abortion.
Now the decision on such thing is turned back to the states. We lament that our state laws continue to deny the unborn the legal right to life. It is now even more important for us, citizens of this state, to be engaged in the discussion on behalf of the unborn who cannot speak for themselves.
Killing is wrong. Both God’s law and natural law teaches us that. There should be no need for any law in this regard. Love should compel us to protect life. However, our situation reminds us of the depravity of our condition and our need for law. Laws exist to curb our sinfulness, show us our wrongs, and guide us into better ways. But let us always remember and look for opportunities for the gospel. Those caught in sin will only find escape in the gospel. The love of Christ compels us to reach out to those in need of both the gospel for forgiveness and help in taking the bold step of choosing life.
IMD (Initiative for Ministry Development) and Small Church Clarity
Our Small Church Clarity I-80 Corridor churches will be having their 3rd session this month (July). They have written and fleshed out their guiding statements, addressed barriers and challenges, and are working on a ministry plan and campus plan. At the end of the 4th session they will have a year long plan to guide them in their ministry.
Last month I announced that we will be offering a second Small Church Clarity, this one for our central and south Jersey churches. It will begin in September. Invitations have been sent to pastors and church leaders. We are waiting for replies and now enrolling congregations for this ministry development opportunity. If you have not received an invitation and would like to receive one or would like to know more please contact me. I would love to talk with you.
What do you do if you only have one or two youth of confirmation age? You know it is your responsibility to provide quality confirmation instruction but that is hard to do with such a small group. Part of the dynamic of a good class is in the interaction between students and the variety of thoughts.
How about partnering with other local NJD congregations and Pastors to solve the problem?
Starting in the fall, Pastor Steve Vera (King of Kings, Mountain Lakes) and Pastor Dan Fenco (Camino de Fe, Somerset) would like to offer a joint-confirmation curriculum and program. What a great blessing it can be for our youth to see they are not the only Lutherans in the state, that they have peers in other communities that believe the same things they do. This is an open invitation to any LCMS church in our district or geographical area to partner in this confirmation endeavor.
Questions? Give Pastors Steve or Dan a call. They would love to talk with you and hear your thoughts about how this could become a reality. Don’t delay! Fall will be here before you know it and there is planning that needs to happen.
NJ District Congregational Lay Deacon Program (NJDCL Deacon)
I am pleased to announce that the NJ District Congregational Lay Deacon Program has been birthed! Our committee has drafted the guiding documents and the Board of Directors has endorsed the program. In July I will be finalizing the curriculum and starting to accept applications.
Individuals are not to make application to the program to become a NJD Congregational Lay Deacon. Rather, because this is a position of congregational service, an individual is nominated for participation by letters of recommendation from his/her congregation and pastor. The individual will then be considered for acceptance into the program.
After completing the course work, an internship, and final interview, candidates will be certified by the NJD Congregational Lay Deacon Board and made available for placement in their congregations to serve as Lay Deacons. Afterwards Deacons will be asked to complete yearly continuing educational opportunities and participate in NJDCL Deacon conferences. Service by a NJDCL Deacon will always be given under the supervision of a called pastor and in keeping with the needs and direction of the local congregation.
I am extremely excited about the theological training this program will give to some of our lay people and the extraordinary service they will give to our congregations as they assist our pastors in ministry. Already it is looking like we will have a strong cohort beginning classes in September. Congregations, please begin to nominate individuals from among your members to enroll in the NJDCL Deacon training. A document that defines and explains the NJDCL Deacon Program is available upon request from the District Office.
Synod’s next convention is July 29-August 3, 2023 in Milwaukee. Circuit Forums will be meeting this fall to elect pastoral delegates, lay delegates, and alternate delegates. Congregations will have the opportunity to make nominations for various elected positions and to vote for President, 1st Vice President, and Synod Secretary (watch for mailings to your congregation). For more information and a poster to display the timeline of pre-convention events go to lcms.org/convention.
Over the next several months congregations should properly elect or appoint according to their bylaws people to represent them at the Circuit Forum. Remember each congregation has a pastoral and lay vote. Please be diligent in this effort since some Circuit Forums may be held as early as September.
As you read this I may very well be boating on the lake, reading a book in the hammock, catching some rays on the dock, or any number of other non-work-related things. I hope at some point you can say a similar kind of thing right back at me. Let’s get some rest and come back with ever greater enthusiasm for the Lord’s work.
God bless you,
Keeping you informed…
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Yes, the season is wearing on but it is still very much the season of Easter. The proclamation is still (as it always is) appropriate. None-the-less there is a subtle difference in our readings and the flavor of each Sunday. The first Sundays of Easter focus on the resurrection of Jesus and his appearance to the disciples. This gives us the assurance of eyewitnesses and the fact of the resurrection. We can and do believe the word and the testimony of these eyewitnesses. But then the focus shifts to what that resurrection means for us. The focus becomes Christ’s resurrected life in us! We see the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16), Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (John 17), and his Ascension highlighted. We see the same movement in the readings from the book of Acts. It moves from proclamation of Jesus resurrection to the life of Christ in the Church. Our season of Easter is a blessing to us in that it reminds us of this connection and the movement we celebrate in Christ’s resurrection. Christ is risen!
April’s Council of Presidents Meeting
As some of you may know, the highlight of April’s Council of Presidents Meeting is always the Call and Placements Services at our St. Louis and Fort Wayne seminaries. This year the St. Louis vicarage placements were at 3:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday. The call service for graduates was that evening. The next day, Wednesday, was dedicated for travel from St. Louis to Fort Wayne with the call service at Fort Wayne being in the evening. Yes, it is a bit of a whirlwind but such joyous days as we celebrate those men and women (most young but not all of them) who are entering church work as vicars, pastors, and deaconesses. The atmosphere is electric with anticipation as workers, spouses, parents, and congregations await the assignments.
The New Jersey District is blessed to be the recipient of a candidate from the Fort Wayne Seminary. His name is Jordan Peiser from Illinois. Jordan is uniquely gifted in that he is a Jewish believer. His call is also unique; it is a joint call between Zion Lutheran Church, Maywood and Apple of His Eye Mission Society. Apple of His Eye specializes in evangelistic ministry to Jewish people. So, when the seminary called asking if we had a place for such a joint ministry I set to work to see if such a place existed that would welcome such a partnership. Zion, Maywood was that place! We rejoice with Zion in receiving this pastor and their partnership with Apple of His Eye. Please pray for Zion, her ministry, and this special ministry to Jewish people.
At the same time, we are disappointed that Prince of Peace, Hamburg did not have her request for a candidate fulfilled. We trust that our Lord, the gracious Lord of the Church, has other plans in store for Prince of Peace. Please pray that the Lord will provide for her pastoral needs. This vacancy situation reminds us to be praying and working toward the enrollment of people in church-work and especially pastoral training. Very simply more individual from New Jersey need to enter the ministry and return to our beloved state to work in God’s kingdom. What a blessing it would be if each congregation would send at least one person into the ministry in the next ten years!
On Monday of the Council of Presidents we met at the International Center (our denominational headquarters also in St. Louis). The chapel service for that day was the observance of the 175th Anniversary of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. For more information go to: https://reporter.lcms.org/2022/lcms-international-center-marks-175th-anniversary-of-synod/
President Harrison preached on Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”. The sermon title and theme of the service was “Jesus Only” reminding us that, as before, so now, we rely on Jesus alone for our salvation and life.
Coincidently, this year is also the 50th Anniversary of the New Jersey District. Efforts are underway to plan a celebratory service for this anniversary. Expect the service to happen this fall.
IMD (Initiative for Ministry Development) and Small Church Clarity
I reported last month that we had the first session of our I-80 Corridor Small Church Clarity. We had 11 churches in attendance working on developing ministry plans. The second session met on May 15th at St. John, Clifton. All eleven congregations returned for the second session and a twelfth joined in. This is a wonderful retention rate! Congregational leaders continued to flesh out their guiding statements and one-page explanations and started work on campus planning.
At his time, I would like to announce that we will be offering a second Small Church Clarity for our central and south Jersey churches beginning in September. Invitations will be going out by the end of spring. Churches that would like to be a part of this second round of Clarity are encouraged to contact my office to reserve a spot.
In order to offer this second round of Clarity, the start of our NJDU is being postponed until January, 2023. You will hear more about this offering as we draw closer to the time.
Lay Deacon Training
The defining and development of our Lay Deacon Training is underway. For now, let me simply repeat what I said last month. Please keep this effort in your prayers.
Part of our NJ District vision is to train Lay Deacons to work in our congregations under the supervision of our pastors. Our hope is to have at least one trained and certified Lay Deacon in each congregation. We are currently developing this training program and intend to enroll our first cohort this summer to begin training in September. Individuals interested in this training must be nominated by their congregation, endorsed by their pastor, and interviewed by the District before enrollment. Congregations are encouraged to start identifying people for this training and to nominate them to the District.
Older Adult Ministry
Most, if not every one, of our congregations has the opportunity for older adult ministry. If you are looking for ideas or support in how to do that ALOA is a great resource. Shirley Carpenter is our NJD staff person for older adult ministry and she would be happy to talk with you. In addition, you can check out ALOA’s newsletter at https://aloaserves.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/ALOA_March-22.pdf
Synod’s next convention is July 29-August 3, 2023 in Milwaukee. Circuit Forums will be meeting this fall to elect pastoral and lay delegates and alternate delegates. Congregation will have the opportunity to make nominations for various elected positions and to vote for President, 1st Vice President, and Synod Secretary (watch for mailings to your congregation). For more information and a poster to display the timeline of pre-convention events go to lcms.org/convention.
The end of Easter is a kind of mini-festival season. It includes Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. All of these, as well as every Sunday of the Church Year, is a celebration of our God, born out of the resurrection of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ lives, may he live in you too!
God bless you,