Advent’s very clear message is that Christ is coming. In fact, the message is that he has come, he is coming to us now, and he will come again. That message gives us plenty to preach and reflect upon. And it brings joy because it is the gospel.
But for those who are listening closely the message doesn’t end there. There is an expected response from those who receive the gospel that Christ is coming. The gospel elicits faith and response in action. So, for those who are listening we also hear God’s call to faithful living. For example:
That’s worth a response; a response of faith. So, let’s celebrate. Let’s celebrate in Word and Sacrament, song and praise. Let’s celebrate in repentance, readiness, patience, and fearless obedience. For that matter there are so many other faith-filled ways to respond. Listen for them this Advent and Christmas. You will hear sweet gospel and inspiring stories of faith in action.
He’s coming! Blessed Christmas.
A Generous Gift
Advent and Christmas also remind us of gift giving. I want to thank all of you who so generously gave to Hurricane Ian Relief in Florida. Our congregations and individuals gave $6,903 which the NJ District was able to match through some designated funds. The total given was $13,806!
The Florida/Georgia District President, James Rockey expressed his thanks to us in a letter. Through their monthly newsletter we were able to learn that our funds along with others were used in the following ways:
Faith in action help others and brings glory to God!
Preaching at the International Center
I had the privilege of being Tuesday’s Chaplain of the Day at the November Council of President’s Meeting. A brand-new policy now dictates that the Chaplain of the Day will also preach at the morning Chapel Service on days when the COP meets at The International Center. In fact, so new is this policy that I was the first to receive this honor. How did that come about? Well, I just happened to call the Chair of the COP on another matter and he said, “Steve, can you be our Chaplain for the Day on Tuesday?” “Sure,” I said. To which he replied, “By the way that means you preach at Chapel too!” Depending on your view, it was either being in the right place at the right time or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was privileged to preach on 1 Timothy 6:7-14, the love of money as a root of all kinds of evil, and our Lord Jesus who is the good King and supplies us with all we need and more. In him we find contentment and the strength to cling to the creator and let go of the created.
District Short Clips
There are a lot of things going on in the District. God continues to be good supplying workers for the harvest and blessings upon his people.
The following congregations are in the call process:
Prince of Peace, Hamburg will install the Rev. John Babbitts on Sunday January 15th at 3:00 pm.
Rev. Matt Peeples will be installed as Director of Kairos during the January 24th Circuit 1 and 2 Meeting.
Jeff Campbell will be ordained Specific Ministry Pastor at Good Shepherd, Old Bridge Sunday January 29th at 4:00 pm.
Bethlehem, Ridgewood has narrowed their call list to a preferred list and continues to interview.
Calvary, Verona and St. John, Bloomfield have a call list
Rev. Daniel Fenco was installed as pastor of Camino de Fe Lutheran Church and Somerset Hill Lutheran Church on December 11th at 3:00 pm. The two congregations agreed to become a dual point parish and share Rev. Fenco as their pastor. The service of installation was held at Somerset Hills in Basking Ridge. Pastor Chris Schneider was the liturgist and Pastor John Trinkline, former Interim Pastor at Somerset Hills, preached the message. The readings were read in both Spanish and English and the sermon was interpreted into Spanish by Pastor Fenco. We pray God’s blessings on these congregations as they begin this new chapter of ministry.
Pastors please mark your calendars for the Spring Pastors Conference on May 22-24. Doxology will be doing a Respite Retreat for us. This will be a great opportunity to be renewed and encouraged in ministry. The location is not yet settled but the dates are firm. More information will be coming soon.
Director of Education
The NJ District is seeking to fill the position of Director of Education. This position involves working in a wide range of aspects of education in the District. It especially focuses on helping the nursery schools of our District regarding change, compliance, and development. It is also responsible for the annual NJ District Educators Conference. This is a part time position. For a fuller job description please contact the District Office.
Congregational Lay Deacon Program
Now is a great time to be thinking about enrolling in our NJD Lay Deacon Training. All classes are online making participation a bit easier. Classes are either one or two months long and meet one night a week. The cost is $150 or $300 depending on the length of the class. A new class is starting in January so those interested should enroll soon.
Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD) Update
NJD University. The invitations for NJDU have gone out and should be received by Sunday December 18th! I will be following up on those invitations with a phone call in the next week or so. Pastors, Congregational Presidents and/or Head Elders are encouraged to share the invitation with the other leaders of the church and discuss the benefits of participating in NJDU.
NJDU is a more in-depth version of Small Church Clarity. This is the flagship component of IMD and meant for congregations that are further along in their ministry development than the churches in SCC.
The purpose is to help congregations to manage well the planning and ministry development portion of their work. This is not a program where we tell you what to do. Rather it is a process that helps you to develop ministry plans and create a ministry plan unique to your congregation and community.
Congregations that participate are expected to bring a team of 4-6 congregational leaders to each session. Such a team is necessary since the format of the sessions is both seminar and workshop. Each session will have a component of teaching on the subject of the day but add a second component of workshop where the teams from each church will begin to work on developing their plans. In this way, congregations will have an opportunity to ask questions or get help when starting and get a good start on planning.
The costs for NJDU are heavily subsidized by LCEF and the NJ District making it very cost effective for congregations. The costs and the dates for the first five (of seven) sessions are listed in the invitation. Locations are yet to be determined but are anticipated to be in several of the participating churches.
NJDU is for congregations of any size who want to revisit or more fully develop their ministry plans. Some of our congregations will already have a ministry plan. If that is the case, then NJDU is an opportunity to further develop that plan. We are not expecting congregations to scrub their plans and start over. For them the process may simply be to revisit, modify, and further develop what they already have. For other congregations their plans are old and tired, they need new beginning. The guidance of NJDU will aid in that process.
Wherever you are in the process, let NJDU help you take the next step toward fuller and more effective ministry. Call the NJD Office to enroll.
As you read this we will already be in the 4th week of Advent or even into Christmas! May the wonderful gospel proclamations of the season uplift and encourage you as well as motivate you to a life of faith filled with service.
Blessed Advent and Christmas,