Keeping you informed...
Our Liturgical Calendar
Recently, I was once again reminded of the blessings of being Lutheran and some of the traditions that shape our life and piety.
I was driving home from the office one evening this week along Route 202 from Bridgewater to Flemington. I was heading directly west and into the setting sun. Actually, it was dusk and the sun had already set but there was a beautiful orange glow modeled with dark gray clouds on the horizon. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and noticed it was 4:55. “Just a week ago it would have already been dark,” I mused. The thoughts of lengthening daylight warmed my heart and mind on this cold evening.
Very quickly, as Lutheran piety is wont to do, my mind turned to our liturgical calendar and the growing light of Epiphany. How blessed we are to be reminded yearly of the way our God has revealed his Son to us. I never tire of the travel and worship of the wisemen, the symmetry of the bookend proclamations of the Father, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased” at Jesus’ baptism and Transfiguration, the miracles over the consequences of sin, and the words of eternal wisdom. Our gracious God leaves us without a doubt that Jesus is in fact the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior.
My mind had drifted and suddenly the commute was over as I pulled into the driveway. Max’s (my German Shepherd) walk would be in the dark again today. But in a couple of weeks, by the end of Epiphany we could at least start the walk in the daylight. But then other thoughts from Lutheran piety and our liturgical calendar will begin to take over, like Ashes on the forehead and palms and…I thank God for our Lutheran tradition of the liturgical calendar and the yearly rhythmic cycle of teaching and remembrance it gives to us.
One of the goals of my Presidency is to build the relationship between the President/District and our congregations. As with any kind of relationship the way to build it is to spend time together and get to know one another better. To that end I spent the first 16 months of my Presidency visiting all the congregations of our District. These were just casual visits when I showed up on a Sunday morning to worship with and introduce myself to the congregation. I thank you for all the gracious welcomes you gave me. It was a joy to see some of you again and to meet others for the first time. My hope is that I can be an encouragement and resource to our congregations.
As we move forward I will begin to make Official Visits to our congregations. These will be more formal, structured visits. The plan will be to visit a congregation on a Sunday for worship and Bible Class and then to meet with the leadership of the congregation. I will be wanting to share some information about the District with you but also to hear from you regarding your mission and ministry.
Specifically, I will be asking you about your Ministry Plan, both short and long term. It is another of my goals that each of our congregations has a fully developed ministry plan and is implementing it. To that end, I have instituted the Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD). Its three Phases of Small Church Clarity (SCC), NJ District University (NJDU), and Advanced Studies (AS), along with the NJ District Coaching Network, are all intended to encourage and equip congregations to develop and implement ministry plans. (See the IMD Update below.)
My hope is that congregations will take advantage of these opportunities and develop their ministry plans, so that we can have productive conversations at our Official Visit.
Installations and Memorials
This is a month that is packed with special services to which we give our attention.
On Sunday January 15th Rev. John Babbitts was installed as Pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Hamburg. Pastor Babbitts has, for a number of years, served various churches in NJ after which he then served for a period of time in the Eastern District. He is now back in NJ to serve at Prince of Peace. We pray that God will bless his service and that there will be a time of growth for Prince of Peace.
Two other installations are scheduled for this month. Rev. Matthew Peeples will be installed to ministry in connection with LINC, Houston. His installation will be at the Circuit 1 and 2 Meeting on Tuesday January 24th. Vicar Jeff Campbell will be ordained and installed as Pastor at Good Shepherd, Old Bridge on Sunday January 29th at 4:00 pm. We rejoice as God answers our prayers sending workers into the harvest.
Two memorial services are scheduled for loved ones in our District who have passed. Eileen Izzard, wife of Rev. Richard Izzard, will be remembered in a service at King of Kings, Mountain Lakes on Sunday January 22nd at 2:30 pm. Eileen will be remembered for her unending love and kindness to the pastors and people of the NJ District.
Rev. Arthur Doring whose service was postponed because of Covid will be remembered at a service on Saturday January 28th at 10:30 am at Our Savior, Stanhope. Pastor Doring will be remembered for his long term and faithful service to Our Savior, Stanhope and the NJ District.
District Short Clips
Here are some quick bits of news from around the District
The NJ District has filled the position of Director of Education. We are please to welcome Kathleen Hodges to this position. She will be serving the District, congregations, and schools of the District. She has an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education and advanced studies at University of Albany and Columbia. She brings a wide range of experience from classroom teaching to consulting to administrative oversight to Site and Executive Director with the public schools, Lutheran Special Education Ministries, and a Family Resource Center. Kathleen is a member of Christ the King, Ringwood and married to Pastor Jon Hodges. I expect that Kathleen will be a great blessing to you as you seek to develop your educational ministries. Please welcome her as she reaches out to you.
Congregational Lay Deacon Program
Our Congregational Lay Deacon Training got off to a slow start but seems to be gaining more traction lately. There are more and more individuals who are expressing interest in enrolling in the classes. The classes last either 4 or 8 weeks and meet once a week in the evenings online. Classes are $150 for a four-week class or $300 for an eight-week class. If you are interested please contact the District Office and we will put you in touch with Dr. Josh Hollmann who will assist you with the registration process.
Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD) Update
The big news this month is that the final session of Small Church Clarity and the first session of NJDU have been postponed a month. The second round of SCC will have its last session on February 26th at 1:30 at Good Shepherd, Point Pleasant. The postponement is giving time for these congregations to rally after the Christmas break and work on their ministry plans in preparation for the last session. A special Zoom session was held on January 19th to review assignments and identify unfinished work. After the final session these congregations will be assigned a coach and start implementing their plans.
The first session of NJDU will now be on March 25th (location TBD). The postponement is giving congregations time to consider participation and to prepare for the first session. A special informational session for those congregations that have questions about NJDU will be held on February 1st.
Progress is often imperceptible in the short term. Day to day we hardly notice that the daylight grows longer and longer. Only as we step back and look at things from a larger perspective do we see the change. Likewise, God works quietly and almost imperceptibly. He continues to be at work bringing the light of the gospel into our lives and revealing himself to us. Embrace this season of Epiphany as God reveals the Christ to us so that you may one day step back and see the way the light has grown in your life.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,