From the Pastor’s Desk

A letter from Pastor Angel

St. Jacob’s visioning statement is pretty simple.  “All Are Welcome!”  We put it on the sign, it’s all over our website, we begin every council meeting with it, and most important to me, we say it on Jesus’ behalf every time we move into Holy Communion.  Our God is a God who welcomes all, especially those who have trouble finding welcome in the spaces of our world. 

 

This is something that is easy to say, but sometimes harder to live out.  I’ve been so touched by our efforts to put these words of welcome in action by changing to all gluten free bread for communion.  While we always had a gluten free option, the people who needed that accommodation had to ask for it, making it one step more difficult for them in a journey that already makes fellowship more complicated.  Also, for our folks with very dramatic issues with gluten, there was always the possibility of me cross contaminating their wafer if I used the same hand that I had used with the regular bread. (Not to mention the time when I just got rolling along and had to “take back” a piece of communion that could have made one of our beloved’s sick!)  Of course making this change hasn’t been without some bumps along the way, but every step into something new requires some experimentation and a willingness to adjust!  But it is all worth it when I see the smile on faces, knowing that we have made the effort! Our moving to gluten free only allows us all to share in the same meal and makes it easy to extend that hospitality!

 

The next logical step in this effort to be welcoming is to think about the blood of Christ.  To this end, we are experimenting with offering only one option, alcohol-free wine.  We Lutherans have never believed that imbibing alcohol in moderation is sinful (Luther is rumored to have said that if there isn’t beer in heaven, he doesn’t want to go.) Still, we know that alcoholism does a lot of damage to individuals and families.  Our society has a tendency to blame people who “can’t hold their drink,” rather than acknowledging that alcohol is actually poisonous to the human body, addiction is a disease like any other, and that it is also a coping mechanism to deal with the brokenness in the world.

 

There is a lot of stigma involved in choosing not to drink, which can make it hard for folks to ask for juice instead of wine, even though we offer both.  If the sacraments that we serve are all alcohol free then we can possibly remove a stumbling block and all sit at the table together!  This is true for the folks who are already members of our congregation, but it also means we are making space for people we don’t even know yet, who might need to hear God’s message of welcome and perhaps things like this will help them find us!

 

We are also currently seeking to welcome more and more people to our building, inviting folks to use it as a safe gathering space.  We have youth group, 4H groups, Girl Scouts and a really large Boy Scout troop meeting in our building now and we are hoping to welcome even more diverse young folks in the future.  Simply not having alcohol in the building is an easy step towards keeping these kids safe! 

 

As always, any changes we make should be towards being faithful to where God is calling us and we listen to that calling in conversation with each other.  So I welcome your questions, concerns and thoughts about this and pretty much anything!  I’m grateful for your faithfulness and your efforts towards welcome!

 

Blessings,

Pastor Angel

 

 

St. Jacob's is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Visit the ELCA Website.

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