Pastor’s Thoughts

From your Interim . . .

I intend to take a bit of a breather through the month of December, and am actively working at this point toward securing a new community in which I might ply my trade.  Jenny and I are looking at short term opportunities for me locally, and are also investigating longer term calls within a much larger radius.  We have long ago learned to trust God’s Holy Spirit to guide us to new and exciting vistas.

A note about the final transition to your new pastor:  While I will make myself available to Pastor Ingrid to help her get settled in, beginning on November 25thshe will be your one and only pastor.  I will make myself as scarce as possible and will not respond to any pastoral requests beyond that date.  It is very important that interim pastors, just like departing settled pastors, put distance between themselves and the congregation that they have served so as not to color in any way the relationship that the congregation will develop with the new pastor. I wish the best for all of you and will keep you in my daily prayers, asking that Zion continue to be an anchor of faith for its members, for the surrounding community of Long Valley, and for the world.          

Grace and peace,

Pastor Dan

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am very eager to arrive in Long Valley and begin as pastor to Zion Lutheran Church!  My first day will be Christ the King Sunday, November 25th, which is the final Sunday of the church year.  In a show of hospitality and to accomplish a smooth transition, Pastor Dan will overlap with me for a day or two, which I appreciate very much! I’m excited about making Long Valley our home, and getting to know our neighbors and the surrounding communities, but I especially look forward to getting to know the members and households of Zion. May God bless this new chapter at Zion, that together we might be faithful in bearing the gospel to the world.

Pastor Ingrid Wengert

Friends in Christ,

The time is upon us! On October 7th Zion’s candidate for its next settled pastor will be here at the church to lead worship at 10:30 am. Everyone will have the opportunity to join the candidate in the joyful worship of God, and then all confirmed members of Zion will be asked to vote whether they want to receive the candidate as their next called pastor in a special called congregational meeting. Rev. Scott Schantzenbach, Assistant to the Bishop, will lead the meeting. Because of the special service and congregational meeting, there will be no Sunday school classes on the 7th .
You will have an opportunity to meet the candidate informally on Saturday, October 6th here at the church at a reception hosted by the Church Council in Faith Hall. The reception will begin at 6:30 pm and will run to 9:00 pm. We urge you to come on Saturday and engage the candidate in conversation, and to ask any questions that you might have. The candidate has been vetted and recommended by the Bishop and staff of the New Jersey Synod, has undergone interviews by the Call Committee and the Church Council, has been observed leading worship by members of the Call Committee and finally has been recommended unanimously by the Call Committee and Council to the congregation for final approval.

We offer our sincere thanks to the Call Committee for the hours and hours of work put into creating a profile of our congregation, creating and rehearsing questions to be posed to the candidate, and then working with the candidate in interviews, discussions and observations. We also give thanks to the Transition Team for their preliminary work in gathering data and “preparing the way” and to the church council for the review and approval our church profile and the candidate. Seldom in the life of a congregation is there as important an event as this. We ask all of Zion’s members and friends to come to the service of worship on the 7th. Then, we ask all confirmed members of Zion to give serious reflection to the matter and to vote. (Confirmed Members are those adults who have joined Zion Lutheran Church through affirmation of faith and those who, as youth, were confirmed here at Zion. If you are not sure of your membership status, please contact the church office. Laura or Pastor Dan can check the database.)
This should be a joyous celebration in the life of the congregation. Let’s fill the sanctuary to overflowing and worship God with fervor!
Grace and peace,

Friends in Christ,
Well, the summer has flown past at seemingly (at least for me) breakneck speed and we are now on the threshold of another Fall-Winter-Spring program year. We call upon you to read through this newsletter carefully, as it is brimming with important information, schedules, and notes. It is always exciting to enter the program year of a congregation and the excitement is compounded this year by the upcoming “candidate Sunday”. Yes, we have a candidate for the pastoral position here at Zion. The Call Committee and Council have both given unanimous approval to that candidate and have voted to present the candidate to the congregation!
I know that I have written and said this before, and I’m going to lay it out once more just to make sure that we are all on the same wavelength. The Call Committee has interviewed a candidate and has had the opportunity to experience the candidate leading worship. The Call Committee voted to recommend the candidate to the Church Council and, in a joint meeting, interviewed the candidate once more. The Council then voted to recommend the candidate to the congregation. The candidate will come to Zion and lead worship on Sunday, October 7th at 10:30 am (only one service that Sunday; no Sunday school hour). Following the service, there will be a congregational meeting led by Rev. Scott Schantzenbach, Assistant to the Bishop, for the purpose of voting on the candidate. A two-thirds majority vote of all confirmed members present that day is required to approve the candidate for the position.
In the case that the candidate is approved by the congregation, and a formal letter of call has been approved by the Bishop and delivered to the candidate, the candidate has up to two weeks to accept or refuse the call. The candidate and our Church Council will then decide together when the call will begin. Generally pastors are given one month to disengage from their current position (if there is a current position to be disengaged from).
It is critical that the identity and/or information on the candidate be kept confidential, so the congregation will not be given any information on the candidate until immediately before the candidating service. The council is working out details for a “meet and greet” opportunity where you will have an opportunity to meet the candidate on Saturday, October 6th from 6:30 – 9:00 pm in Faith Hall.
We want to make a good impression on the candidate, which means putting the physical property of the church in top-notch condition and showing good participation in the many programs that take place here at Zion. This would also be a good time to review your giving record to the church, as our giving has dropped off a bit during the summer months. We want a solid budget for the new pastor upon arrival!
I am excited and deeply happy that Zion has come to this point in the transition process. Let us all pray that the transition will come to fruition in the weeks ahead in a way that will be a blessing to the candidate and to this congregation, to the glory of God our Creator, Christ our Savior and the Spirit that binds us together as one!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dan

Friends in Christ,

“Time it was, and what a time it was, it was . . . . “ For some reason those opening lyrics to the old Simon and Garfunkel piece “Bookends” came to me as I was thinking of the current moment and of the past few weeks. It is supposed to be summer, here at Zion Church we went into “summer” mode way back on Memorial Day weekend. Yet it’s hard for me to think summer mode when my wife still has a few days of teaching to do (as I write this) in the public schools. Vacation Bible School, the epitome of summer at the church is yet to come, but coming up fast. And in a blink of the eye we will be moving back into program year patterns and the fall. Time moves, and we must move with it.

Our time of transition is moving as well. And yet, as you well know, this time of transition is not something that we can mark out in exact increments with a specific date of closure. Our Call Committee has prepared for, and has even rehearsed for that point at which they will be interviewing a candidate or candidates for the pastoral position here at Zion. Yet we do not know how quickly a candidate will be presented to us. And if that candidate is not a good match, we do not know when successive candidates will be presented. Such timing is determined by a myriad of factors. It is my sincere hope that when a candidate is nominated, we take our time in researching and interviewing so that the choices that Zion makes are spirit led and well-discerned.

And through all this time the daily work of Zion Church continues on. Worship and ministry, stewardship and study, fellowship and celebration in the church does not and should not know times of inactivity. This congregation and the greater church need your constant presence, your constant engagement, your constant voice, your constant prayer and support. Even now, even in the lazy days of summer, we need your daily prayers for our Call Committee, for our youth, for our ministries. We need your presence in worship, your support and volunteer assistance with our Vacation Bible School, your time and talents with a host of summer repair and renewal projects, your financial dedication with our financial stability. “Time it was, it was a time it was, it was . . .” It’s always good to reminisce about the time that was. And yet the actions of this time, the present time, and the planning and preparation that we do for a time that is to come is critical. Let us look forward to the time that will be, knowing that God our Creator encompasses all time and even that which is beyond time. Let us trust in God’s grace, made known to us in Christ our Savior as we press ahead. Let us continually call upon the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit as we strive to welcome God’s eternal kingdom into this time and into our midst.

Grace and peace, Pastor Dan

Friends in Christ,

Summer is here!  (Don’t say that too loudly around our children as they look toward another three weeks or more of school!)  For the church, summer means a shift to a somewhat more casual schedule, yet the church certainly doesn’t go into hibernation.  Sunday school may be taking a break, and we are also gearing up for a fantastic week of Vacation Bible School!  We may have only one service on Sunday morning instead of two, and our Sunday services will be filled with special music and messages, and at least three baptisms.  We have special programs coming up and special opportunities to try out some new adventures (like gospel singing).

Our transition activities will not be slowing down in the least this summer.  The Call Committee has finalized the site profile that will “advertise” our church and pastoral position to candidates, and the Church Council has approved that document.  We will be meeting with representatives from the Synod and will hopefully be soon communicating with a candidate or candidates.  Again, the Bishop will sent us a candidate.  We will interview that candidate and will decide whether he or she has the gifts needed to minister at Zion.  If we release that candidate, one more candidate will be sent to us.  This pattern will continue until we find the candidate that the congregation can approve.  If a candidate is released, that candidate cannot be “re-visited”.

We ask your continued patience as we enter this stage of the transition process.  We have no idea whether this part of the process will move quickly or slowly.  The important element is that we do a thorough job of examining candidates and that we do so always leaving room for the presence and wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit.  Your prayers and your support for the Call Committee and the Council in the weeks to come are critical to their work.

In the meantime, we have plenty to keep us busy!  Please take time to read carefully through this newsletter.  There are bios and profiles of some of our members – especially of our graduates. There are ministry opportunities in a wide variety of fields. There are informational programs and “just plain fun” events for young and not so young. There are special worship opportunities and more. Please take the time this summer to help the church keep up with you as well.  Let us know of special times in your life.  Please keep me informed of illnesses, injuries, hospitalizations and such in your family.  Let us all continue to support one another through the coming months!

Grace and peace, 

Pastor Dan

Friends in Christ,


As I write this piece to you, we have actually had two decent seasonal days in a row!  I am beginning to believe that the “winter that just wouldn’t end” has finally ended and that we can look to the glory of spring breaking forth in our midst.  For places like Long Valley, springtime is a particularly beautiful time, when God puts on a show of greening and budding in every direction.  The promise of new life is present among us, prompting us (I would hope) to first give praise and glory to God for this precious gift, and secondly to renew our own commitment to care for and preserve the natural beauty which surrounds us.  Of course we welcome you to share your praise of God in the midst of the congregation on Sunday mornings!

As we move into springtime at the church, our Call Committee continues to work diligently in the preparation of the Site Profile, the document that the Synod will use in attracting candidates to Zion.  A great deal of deep thought and prayer, as well as hours of discussion has already been put into our responses in the profile, and more work is yet to come.  While we cannot put a schedule to the work of the Call Committee, we do plan to forward the profile to the Bishop in May.  The speed at which a candidate can be vetted and presented to the committee is also unknown.  We realize that these “unknowns” have the ability to produce anxiety and we pray that you will continue to walk with us steadily along the road of transition.  Please keep the Call Committee in your daily prayers.

And while the Call Committee does its work, life at Zion continues!  The month of May brings us Mother’s Day and our “Blanket Appeal”, Pentecost Sunday and the Rite of Confirmation, Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of our summer schedule, and many other opportunities for worship, fellowship and service.  Please take the time to look through this newsletter carefully so that you can enjoy the opportunities that we offer.  I especially hope that you will come on Pentecost Sunday to support our youth as they take upon themselves the promises made at baptism by their parents and commit themselves to “confirmed” membership in the church.  This year we hope and plan to confirm ten students! Grace and peace Pastor Dan

“Christ is Risen!”

“Christ is Risen!”

         As Christians we proclaim that phrase joyfully and boldly – at least at Easter.  It is, after all, the central claim of the Christian Church and the central theme of the season that we now enter.  In a few weeks though the phrase will be spoken far less often and with less enthusiasm, most often as we dutifully and obediently read it in a Sunday morning church bulletin where the line is in bold and headed by the word “Congregation”.  Beyond that, for the greater part of each year the phrase hardly escapes our lips outside the confines of a church sanctuary, because that would be just . . . . . embarrassing now, wouldn’t it?  As a pastor I find little more depressing than proclaiming with joy in a church service, Christ is risen!” and hearing a congregation respond in a flat monotone and with no energy whatsoever, “He is risen indeed.”

Paul boldly proclaims in his letter to the church at Corinth, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and your are still in your sins.  Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  Friends, if not for the resurrection, then we in the church have little or no purpose at all!  The resurrection is what distinguished Jesus from any other scholar or philosophers in his age.  The Gospel of John even proclaims even the miracles of Jesus as “signs” that lead us to the power of God made manifest in Christ’s resurrection.  Everything leads to, everything points to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul goes on to write in his letter, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”  In other words, Christ has truly been raised from the dead, and because of that fact we will rise as well.  And If I know that I will rise from the dead to a new and joyous life in Christ, then I have no need to fear death nor to fear anything in this world that I might consider “death dealing”.  I have that confidence, that victory not because of anything that I have done, but simply because Christ is risen.  And my friends if that is not good news, then I don’t know what good news is!

Let us then, both individually and together, be a resurrection people; a people who proclaim boldly that Christ is risen; a people that live without fear, free to give boldly of ourselves in the manner of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Let us be a resurrection people beyond Easter Sunday, beyond the Easter season, beyond the confines of a church sanctuary, in every aspect and every moment of our lives. One more time, let the people say (and with gusto!) . . . .


“Christ is risen!”

Grace and peace,

Pastor Dan

Pastors thoughts March 2018

Friends in Christ,   We are now well into the Lenten Season and moving steadily toward the passion and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As I have noted often already this Lenten season, Lent should be a time of discipline in preparation for the Three Days and Easter. This discipline can take many forms and could and should include elements of prayer, scriptural study, fellowship and charity. The purpose of such discipline is not to be able to boast of your accomplishments.  (I didn’t touch a crumb of chocolate through the entire season of Lent! Trust me, I can’t make that boast!)  The purpose is to deepen your faith and to make the celebration of Hoy Week and Easter more profound.

Our Sunday School children have taken on a discipline this season and we invite you to join them in this discipline. The children are collecting funds to purchase an animal through Heifer Project International. The type of animal that they will purchase through their donations is dependent on how much they can collect. The children took some time to determine how they might earn money to donate toward their Lenten project and some of them got very creative. How creative can you get?

One of the greatest parts of the discipline of Lent is to be able to think outside yourself; to become less self-centric. We strive to do this because it is our way of mirroring the attitude of Christ, who according to the Apostle Paul, “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7) in obedience to God and in service to humankind. Thinking outside yourself promotes compassion toward others as Christ was compassionate. Thinking outside yourself promotes obedience to the will of God as Christ was obedient, even to death upon a cross. Thinking outside yourself allows you to be honest about all that is inside you and to work for change.

We hope that our times of worship, fellowship and study here at Zion will be a benefit to you as you travel the pathway of lent and as you employ your own personal Lenten discipline. Please remember that we will begin a new worship schedule this month, with our second service beginning at 10:30 am on Sundays.  We will also reinstitute our Adult Forum program at 9:20 am.  Wednesday evening study and service begins at 7:00 pm each week, preceded at 6:15 pm by a light soup supper.  As always, our Tuesday afternoon Bible Study group is open to everyone who wishes to join us.  Please note our schedule for Holy Week here in this Newsletter.

Grace and Peace,