Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!
These words easily and joyfully rolled off our lips in recent days. The double alleluia signifies the double joy we had on Easter Day. Actually, the double alleluia is meant for the whole of the Octave of Easter, starting on Easter Day and continuing through the Second Sunday of Easter. The gospel accounts reveal the shock and surprise of the first disciples; they can hardly believe Jesus’ resurrection and perhaps don’t at first. But as one of our pastors proclaimed in sermon, their thinking had to catch up to the reality.
Thank God that it did! And thank God that he has worked in us so that our thinking can catch up to the reality. As we pause to reflect once again on what God has done for us in Christ there is some real marvel. Once again, our thinking has to catch up to the reality. On this side of heaven, we will ever fully get there. It is too great for us to comprehend. But the joy still fills us. The double alleluias flow from our tongues. That joy will perhaps temper as we move deeper into the season of Easter. It doesn’t go away but neither do we need to sustain it at a high level. Our joy is quite organic as God speaks to us in his word. It is constantly with us in the gospel but also peaks at certain times as we experience once again the marvel of the resurrection.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!...
Thank you for your Generosity
The joy of the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is always followed by the thankful giving of ourselves and our possessions. I would like to pause for a moment and recognize a few of your responses of faith over the last several months.
The close of our District’s fiscal year saw a positive conclusion. A number of our churches gave generously and even beyond what was planned. As a result, we finished in a more favorable position that was at first expected. We still have much work to do and I am working diligently with the Operations Council to restructure our finances and develop creative solution to our financial needs. For right now though, I would like to say thank you for your partnership with the District as together we share the gospel with the people of NJ.
Second, I would like to say thank you for your generous contributions for the tornado relief in the Mid-South District. We were able to match your gifts and send it all to the Mid-South District ($8,000+) as they worked through our congregations in Tennessee and surrounding states for aid to those in need. The Mid-South District has acknowledged our gift with a very kind Thank You Letter.
In advance, I would like to also thank you for your relief offerings for the people of Ukraine. Many of you took initiative early and set plans for an offering. You may have already sent that gift off. Others of you are responding to the District’s appeal to give through LCMS World Relief. We have encouraged you to take an offering on Palm and Easter Sundays and either send it to the District or directly to LCMS World Relief. Our hearts and prayers go out for these people. We pray for peace, good government, and the work of the church in the midst of trouble. Of course, your efforts do not need to end on Easter. The need will continue.
And finally, I would like to encourage you to support our NJ District Spanish Mission and particularly Pastor Dan Fenco and Camino de Fe. Some really good work continues to happen here and there are plans to expand this work. Pastor Dan has a number of Sundays available to conduct a Mission Sunday at your church. Along with this, I would ask that you adopt Pastor Dan as your congregation’s missionary and include him in your congregational budget as well as giving your members an opportunity to support him directly. Some of you supported our mission in Hoboken which recently closed. Would you now transfer that support over to our Spanish mission? Your support will be a blessing as we reach out to this people group.
Thank you so much for your generosity in these various ways! Our resurrection joy shows in generosity.
IMD (Initiative for Ministry Development) and Small Church Clarity
Hey, there is even more joy to share! We had a marvelous start to our IMD with our first Small Church Clarity session in April. I invited 16 congregations along the I-80 Corridor to attend our Small Church Clarity and to work on developing ministry plans. Eleven responded positively and attended our first session. That first session was about reviewing, refining, or creating a guiding statement for their congregations. The session (as well as the future sessions) was as much workshop as it was seminar. So, teams from each congregation sat together around tables and worked on their guiding statements. Our presenter Pastor Billy Brath made it understandable and easy for our people to accomplish the assignment.
But that is only the beginning. Each congregation has follow-up work to do. Yes, homework! They were asked to do four things:
- finish work on their guiding statement
- break down the statement by phase, explain it, and support each phrase with Bible passages
- identify barriers and challenges
- make a list of all their ministries.
We left with great excitement and anticipation for our next session together in May.
Another of the important items we talked about what how to mark success. We started with the District. How do I know when the District is successful? How do we measure success? The primary premise is that the District’s success is tied to the congregation’s success. In other words, the District will not claim success simply on the basis of planning and conducting as series of sessions. Holding this Small Church Clarity and having eleven congregations attend is certainly a reason for rejoicing but it is not the measurement we want to use to gauge success. Nor do we desire our congregations to declare success if they simple attend the four Small Church Clarity sessions.
Let’s keep pushing the measurement for success down to more elemental levels. Again, the District’s success will be tied to the congregation’s success. So, we will measure such things as:
1. Has a ministry plan been developed?
2. Has the ministry plan been executed?
3. How many people are involved in serving?
4. How many contacts with new people are made?
5. How has attendance and membership been impacted?
We thank God for this great beginning and we look forward to involving other congregations in future Small Church Clarity and NJDU events.
Lay Deacon Training
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. Please look for more information on this next month. Congregations are encouraged to start identifying people for this training and to nominate them to the District.
Mission Golf Classic
Our Mission Golf Classic is quickly approaching. It is scheduled for Thursday May 5th at Heron Glenn, Ringoes NJ. There is still opportunity for last minute entries. More information may be found on the District website at https://www.njdistrict.org/mcgolf.html. Proceeds will go to support Pastor Dan Fenco and Camino de Fe. It is always a fun day.
Easter’s appointed OT Reading from Isaiah reminded us of the new heavens and a new earth that are our in the resurrected Christ. This too is part of the marvel of the double joy. May this double joy be yours this Octave of Easter and in in the days to come.
God bless you,