From Sept. Newsletter

From Sept. Newsletter

To all the Saints of Geeseytown and Newry:

Grace and Peace to You in the Name of God the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! You may know that I serve on the Allegheny Synod Reconciliation Team. This is a group that gathers for the purpose of working with congregations in our synod who are experiencing conflict. Our hope is that the group, led by our Bishop, can help the congregation in question work through problems and find ways not just to ‘fix’ a particular challenge, but to do it in such a way that there is healing and reconciliation among the people involved.

There are different challenges faced by different churches, but more often than not, the problems stem from instances where trust has broken down within the congregation and/or the sense of community has eroded. It is all too easy for we sinful human beings to fall into camps and factions, and to start finger pointing. At times like this we can often offer up a solution to the problem, it is that the other person just needs to stop acting like they are. Such is the nature of conflict.

To be honest with you, some of the things I experience in other congregations make me cherish the situation we have together. I think we do work well together as a parish, we listen to each other, and most importantly we strive to remember that our mission here is to point to and to worship Jesus Christ. As long as we keep Christ as the center of our life together, we will (for the most part) be okay. So first off, thank you for being awesome and a great collection of people. You make it easy to be your pastor and I am honored and thankful that God has put us together.

So what I want to hold up to you is that our strength comes from our community, our relationships with each other, and by the building up our ties to each other for the sake of our life together.

This may not sound like an extraordinary disclosure to you. Most of us have been members of these congregations for the majority of our lives. You know that you gather strength from your church because for many the members of the church are your life-long friends and family. Geeseytown and Newry are simply part of who you are.

But it is important for us to notice that having a community which we can count on and know that is always there for is more unique than we might think. We know that this is a world (or at least a country) where we have seen the gradual eroding of community in the last 50 years. Often times people are quick to think first about I and ME rather than about US and WE. Of course people try to place blame for this on that decline of the family, people not being in church, rise of individualism – etc. Whatever the reason, we can know that things are not what they once were – and many in this world don’t have the benefit of having a life with others – people they can turn to and count on.

This sense of each other, of community, or being part of and caring for each other is a strength here. It is something which we should attempt to continue to build upon – to strengthen relationships. As I say that the temptation may be to think that you know everyone in the church. That is probably true. Many of them you are related too. But I would question you, when was the last time you spent time with and took time with people of the church (that you are not related to) outside of worship?

I don’t mean this as a implication –but an invitation. You know that in the relationships you have within the church that there are people here you can count on. People that if you were ever in trouble would do all that they could to help you. I know that is true because I know that is who you are. You go out of your way to help people whose names we will never know as we assist the shelters and food banks of our area, and our support of international relief agencies when natural disasters strike. You are people who live with, support and assist each other.

My invitation then, is to reach out to each other. Strangely enough, it might be easier for us to reach out to in the other congregation. Naturally, you will know the people at the other church, less well than you do the people at your home congregation. Toward that end, we do have parish events coming up: Sept 9th is the Rally Day Picnic at Canoe Creek; we will be involved in the Hollidaysburg Pumpkinfest, and the Winterfest (Christmas Parade); we will be having the Family Fun Night/Trunk of Treat; we also have our midweek Advent joint services right around the corner.

We have then, several opportunities to gather as a parish – and I invite you to take advantage of these gatherings to get to know one another. The temptation is always to sit with the people you know – but take advantage of these chances to talk to and become more acquainted with those you don’t. I promise – because I know you – you are all very nice people. You welcome each other. The only problem is that often you feel like you don’t want to impose upon the other person. I promise that if you go up and start a conversation with anyone in our parish (especially if it is someone you could know better) you will have a positive experience and a good time. As you grow in your relationships with each other you are actually building the life of our parish. You are strengthening the bonds we have between each other – so that when we want to move forward on a new project, or possibly face a new challenge, we will be more able to respond with each other, in trust, friendship, and mutuality.

Take advantage of this invitation. Realize that there is no accident in your being in this parish. God could have put you in any place at any time. But God placed you at Geeseytown and Newry. I hope you know that the purpose of Geeseytown and Newry Lutheran churches is to be about the business of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. . We are here to say to the broken world that the way of God and the way that God does things has broken into this world in Jesus Christ – and that makes all the difference.

What I am saying is that God has placed you here for this mission – and placed us with each other. You are with these specific people for the sake of the gospel. As we grow in those bonds with each other – that helps us be better able to carry out the mission which God has called us to.

I hope that you have a great month and I pray that God will bless you with his grace and peace.
In Christ,
Pastor Mike

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