Bishop's Blast March 2023
Lenten Prayer and Meditation
It is Tuesday and the nor’easter is blowing up the east coast and well into New England now. I might say that the snow is falling outside my window but really is moving horizontally. I’m glad I chose not to commute to the office today but work from home. It is a day for emails, phone calls, writing a newsletter, and contemplating District plans. It is good to have such days; days where we are not running around but have some time to give attention to basic things and even think a bit.
In some ways Lent can be that for us. One of our traditions is to set aside extra time for prayer and hearing God’s Word. In many of our churches that comes on a Wednesday. Our Midweek Lenten services are meant to help us slow down a bit and give some attention to really important thing like our relationship with God. I find it refreshing in the middle of the week to be in God’s house, hear his Word, sing hymns, and pray. An intentional focus on my waywardness, God’s grace, and Christ’s sacrifice re-orientates my life, my thinking, and my living.
I thank my pastor and all of our pastors for their diligent work to provide these times for us. It is extra work and makes for busy weeks. I pray for them that their work may be a joy and edifying; that, as they prepare for us, God would be feeding them too.
We are close to the midpoint of Lent. Have you availed yourself of the opportunities and blessings of the season of Lent? If so I pray you are realizing those blessings and are being edified. If not, it is not too late. There are still opportunities this Lent and especially in Holy Week. Let’s be intentional in our observance of Lent and take full advantage of the opportunities to think upon our waywardness, God’s grace, and the sacrifice of Christ for us all.
And if I may, allow me to encourage you to give special attention this Holy Week. The joy of Easter is greater and sweeter when we have been with Jesus on Thursday in the Upper Room and Garden of Gethsemane and on Friday at the cross. These events are to be taken together as a whole and celebrated as one continuous event. Be with Jesus in his suffering; there you learn the deep things of God. Be with Jesus at his resurrection; there you find pure joy.
May you be blessed as you take the time to be with Jesus.
17th Annual (except for covid) Mission Golf Classic
The NJD Mission Gold Classic is always a great time for fun and fellowship. We enjoy a day together on the links and in the sun and at the same time raise some funds for our NJ District missions. This year the proceeds will be divided among our three ethnic missions; Dan Fenco Hispanic, Peter Wee Korean, and Jordan Peiser Jewish. They will be with us for the day and you will have opportunity to speak to them if you like. We encourage each congregation to send at least one foursome to the event and, if you cannot, to sponsor a hole or other activity. We are also looking for members of our congregations who own businesses that can donate toward our trick trays and raffles. Donors should contact the District Office at 908-233-8111.
Heron Glen Golf Course, Ringoes NJ will host us on Thursday May 4th. Registration and a brochure are available at the District website https://www.njdistrict.org/mcgolf.html.
Christian Heritage Endowment Fund (CHEF)
For many years CHEF has been a blessing to the congregations of the NJ District. Twice a year the Board meets to consider applications for grants. These grants can be for a variety of congregation ministries such as new outreach ministries, leadership training, technology upgrades, sabbaticals, and ministry focused post graduate education.
CHEF has recently undertaken a rewrite of the bylaws and policy manual. The changes made were for the purpose of updating the grant categories and managing the fund to preserve and increase the principle while ensuring that there are grant monies to be distributed.
We thank the CHEF Board for their efforts and service as they manage the fund well for us.
Lutheran Education in NJ
The LCMS has a long and proud history of Lutheran education. Even today many of our NJ churches offer preschools to their communities. However, it is a sad fact that we no longer have any elementary schools in our District.
What, if anything, can be done about this? Are there new ideas and new ways that can help us reenter the arena of Lutheran education in NJ? My gut feeling is that, given our current climate, there may be a pressing needs and opportunities on the horizon for us to aid our families in educating their children, especially with a Lutheran understanding and focus.
I would like for us to start thinking about this as individuals, congregations, and District. If you are interested in furthering this conversation or have some ideas you would like to share please contact me. For now, I would love to have a brief conversation and who knows where this may lead!
District Short Clips
Called to Glory: Rev. John Welge
Pastor John Welge served five congregation during his ministry the last of which was in the NJ District at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Blairstown. Visitation is Thursday, March 16, 2023 from 1-3 PM and 6-8 PM at the Maguire-Scala Memorial Home, 124 High Street, Hackettstown, NJ 07840. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 11:00 AM at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 31-18 37th Street, Astoria, NY 11103. We keep Susan and the family in our prayers even as we give thanks for God’s saving grace for John and his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The full obituary may be found at https://www.scalamemorialhome.com/obituaries/John-Willis-Welge?obId=27491466#/celebrationWall
Calling Congregations and Retirements
Bethlehem, Ridgewood has received their 2nd call list.
St. John, Bloomfield and Calvary, Verona have called Clint Thorson of Our Savior, Madison and
St. John, Howard SD
We are anticipating a number of our pastors retiring this summer. To these we say “Thank you” and “Well done good and faithful servants”. At this time the following have announced their retirement:
Rev. Eric Rieker, St. Paul Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, Pompton Lakes
Rev. Christian Schonberg, Good Shepherd, Point Pleasant
Rev. Bruce Smith, Christ Memorial, East Brunswick
Vote for Synodical President
I will readily admit that I was very nervous when the report came from Synod regarding the registration of our pastors and congregations for the Synodical President voting. We were somewhere around the 30% range. Thanks to the work of our Circuit Visitors and a few emails that number has skyrocketed! I don’t know what the results are yet because many congregations have indicated they only recently have had their meetings to appoint/elect a congregational representative. But if the emails are a true indication of what is to come, we should have a very good registration rate. It will be a joy to speak proudly of you at the Council of Presidents when the results are shared.
Spring Pastors Conference
The Spring NJ District Pastors Conference is scheduled for May 22-24th at Shawnee Inn, Shawnee, PA. This is a Respite Retreat run by Doxology. Surveys and studies have shown that covid was/is an arduous burden on our churches and pastors. Many pastors have experienced burn out and discouragement in their calls. Doxology’s Respite Retreat specifically addresses this situation and encourages our pastors toward better health. Please encourage your pastor to take advantage of this opportunity. He will serve the church and you better. The costs are very reasonable due to a generous grant from the Synod. Information and registration can be found at https://www.njdistrict.org/events.html. Registration deadline is Monday April 17th. Please register soon.
Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD) Update
Small Church Clarity (SCC) has completed its second round of training. Five of the seven churches that began the process completed it. These five are now moving into the implementation phase. They will be assigned a coach to encourage them in the process. We pray that they will see the fruits of their labors as God blesses their ministry plans.
NJ District University (NJDU) begins later this month. Currently five congregations are committed to the process. Our goal is healthy congregations and healthy pastors working together in vibrant ministry. NJDU is meant for our larger more mature congregations and as a result the process is seven rather than four session and more in depth. We expect that NJDU will help these congregations retool their ministry plans after covid and launch into a new era of ministry. Let’s pray for God to use this opportunity in a very special way in these congregations.
Tomorrow is Wednesday. I anticipate being back in the office but more importantly I’m looking forward to being with my brothers and sisters in Christ to worship, hear the Word of God, and meditate on God’s goodness.
Let’s make sure that we don’t miss out on this blessing of the Lenten season. It is a rich time for God to be at work in our lives. Take advantage of the extra services and time to focus on God. May our dedication in this Lententide prepare us for the joy of the Paschal Feast!