Greeting in the name of our gracious and merciful Savior Jesus Christ to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit we are ever thankful.
By the time you read this we will be drawing ever so close to Thanksgiving. I have always found this day to be somewhat peculiar. In one sense it is a secular holiday, called for by our government. But on the other hand, we are called upon to give thanks to God. Of course, here God is quite generic. It can mean many things and, in fact, does mean many things depending on the one to whom you speak. Most recently I am finding that the spirit of thanksgiving is directed to no one or nothing in particular. Just having a thankful spirit is good enough. As we gather and celebrate this year let us give thanks to God the Holy Trinity! Is this not the intent of the Gospel reading assigned for the day? The one leper returned to give thanks to Jesus. May your thanksgiving this year have the true object of proper thanksgiving.
Speaking of thankfulness, I am so thankful for the pastors and lay leaders of our congregations. On Tuesday November 9th the Pastors of our District gathered at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Flemington for our Fall Pastors Conference. The main speaker for the conference was the Rev. Dr. Larry Vogel most recently of the CTCR. He spoke to the pastors about “The Catechism: What Does This Mean Today…”. The three-part presentation included
As I write this article, I am eagerly anticipating my first Day with the Presidents. We will be meeting tomorrow at Trinity Lutheran Church, Morris Plains. We will share devotions and some Bible Study, I will present some important information about the District, and we will have a time of sharing in which the Presidents will have the opportunity to raise concerns or ask questions. I am thankful for these wonderful, dedicated people of God!
The Covid Pandemic continues to linger among us. The subject of vaccines and mandates is top shelf right now. Some of the members of our congregations are struggling with the requirement to get the vaccine and others are concerned about a mandate for our children. Our pastors are called upon to be wise and godly guides in this weekly changing scene. On Friday October 29th the District hosted a Zoom seminar on the mandate for businesses (which may include our congregations and schools), what might be coming in future days, and how pastors can help guide their people. We are thankful for Christopher Fusco Esq., a graduate of Concordia Bronxville and lawyer for the Dioses of Metuchen, who deals with these things for the Roman Catholic Church. He led us in this short training session.
There continues to be movement in the filling of the Pastoral Office in our congregations. As reported in the last Bishop’s Blast, Rev. Jon Hodges was installed at Christ the King Ringwood and Rev. Andrew Wolfgram was installed at Holy Cross, Bordentown. We now look forward to a December installation of Rev. Adam Carnehl at Good Shepherd, Randolph after his acceptance of the call in November. Going the other way, Rev. Jared Cooksey has accepted a call to Christ Lutheran Church, Egan, Minnesota. Congregations in the calling process are Prince of Peace, Hamburg, St. Peter, Hopewell Township, St. John First, Bridgeton and Somerset Hills, Basking Ridge. We give thanks and pray for all of these pastors and congregations in transition.
We know that having faithful pastors to serve our congregation is a high priority. If you know of a faithful pastor that might be interested in considering a call to one of our NJ congregations, please let me know. I will be sure to follow up on that information.
Back in 2017 (I can’t believe it has already been that long ago!) I was privileged to make a visit to the Holy Lands with a tour hosted by Dan and Connie Schmaltz. It was a wonderful trip that truly opened my eyes to so many of the scenes we read about in the Scriptures. Upon returning I used my pictures to do a months long Bible study on the places we visited. Normal attendance for that Sunday morning Bible Study doubled and it was a great blessing as this experience and the picture brought new insights. Dan and Connie are again hosting a trip to the Holy Lands in February, 2023. Please consider going by yourself or with a group from church. You will find it a blessing. Watch the Grapevine for more information.
Finally, let me place some opportunities to serve before you. At both the Pastors Conference and The Day with the Presidents the attendees were presented with these opportunities to serve. But we also others to serve and be a part of the ministry of the District. Below you will find some of the opportunities that a are available. A few of you have already indicated your interest but I would love to hear from more of you. If you are willing to serve please email or call us at the District Office.
Opportunities to Serve:
Congregational Services Council
Older Adult Ministry
Leadership Development Ministry
Congregational Health Ministry
Resolution Task Forces
Church Worker Recruitment
Models for Shared Ministry
Opioid Addiction Crisis
The Great Sending
A blessed Thanksgiving to you all. May our thanksgiving always have an object and may that object be our merciful and gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.