Pastor’s Thoughts

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,

Friends in Christ,

We have come to a point in our transition time together for me to put on my “transition hat” and to review with you where we are in our transition and what the next steps will be.  I’ve also asked Laura to include in this newsletter the “transition roadmap” that our Transition Team created a few months ago.

On January 28th at our Annual Congregational Meeting Fred Humcke announced the makeup of Zion’s Church Council appointed Call Committee.  The committee members were selected based upon the suggestions given by church members back in December and with the intent to have a committee that is diverse and which represents the congregation well.  The Call Committee members are:  Marcia Horner, Emily Rochotte, Larry Salvatore, Tom Scudese, Christine Stabile and Linda Tucker.  It will be the task of this committee to request candidates from the Synod and then to interview those candidates. This is a big job and we ask that you keep the committee in your prayers.

Once more, the process for securing a new pastor is this: The Call Committee and Church Council submit to the Synod a document known as the Site Profile which tells the Synod about the church and what we are looking for in a pastor.  The Bishop will then recommend one candidate who will be interviewed by the Call Committee.  If the Call Committee approves the candidate, they will pass the information and the candidate to the Church Council for another interview or interviews.  If the Church Council approves the candidate, they will pass the candidate on to the Congregation who will receive information on the candidate and will hear the candidate preach and lead worship.  After that worship service a congregational meeting will be called to vote to receive or reject the candidate as Zion’s next pastor.  A 2/3 majority vote is required to call the pastor and the pastor.  At every step of the process the candidate can be rejected (by the Call Committee, the Council or the Congregation) or can himself/herself opt out of the process.  If the candidate is rejected or declines, another candidate will be offered by the Bishop and the process will begin anew.

In the meantime our Transition Team will continue to gather information that will be passed to the Call Committee and Council.  Please keep an eye out for future discussion group opportunities!  And please know that my office is always open to you for your opinions and wisdom to share, especially if you cannot make it to one of our discussion groups.  Now, more than ever, you need to keep yourself abreast of current events at Zion; so watch your monthly Long Valley Lutheran newsletter, your weekly Happenings, and your announcements on Sundays.

And also in the meantime, life at Zion Lutheran Church will continue as usual.  What I have said many times over, I continue to say – I am your “full service” pastor!  Please let me know of illnesses, injuries, life changes and especially of hospitalizations of anyone in the congregation.  I would much rather be notified six times that “Art” is in the hospital than to find out three weeks after the fact that “Art” had been in the hospital! Grace and Peace, 

Pastor Dan

Oct. 2017 LVL Pastors Thoughts

Friends in Christ,Friends in Christ,

The countdown has begun!  By the end of this month the world will have seen five hundred years of history of the Protestant Reformation.  It all began on October 30, 1517 when a young catholic priest and scholar named Martin Luther posted his concerns and complaints against the hierarchy of the church.  It has been said many times over that this young priest had no idea what he was putting into motion with his “95 Theses”.  What has become clear with years and centuries of hindsight is that Martin Luther was voicing the concerns of many.  The people of the church as well as many scholars and priests within the church in many lands and in many settings had tired of the corruption that was so obvious within the church hierarchy and of the staggering difference between the wealth and opulence of the greater church and the widespread poverty of the vast majority of the population of Europe.

Contemporary theologian and scholar Phyllis Tickle has offered the thesis, “that every 500 years, the Church goes through a rummage sale, and cleans out the old forms of spirituality and replaces it with new ones.”  The Protestant Reformation in 1500 A.D. followed by 500 years the great schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church which took place in approximately 1000 A.D.  Luther’s primary belief was that each and every Christian can access the grace of God without the intervention of the church.  To encourage this, Luther worked diligently to put Holy Scripture into the hands of the general population.  This meant defying the church that had for centuries dictated that the Bible be only issued in Latin, a language understood only by priests and their superiors.  Supported in their efforts by the newly invented “moveable type printing press”, Luther and others distributed the Bible to the masses – in their own language!

Standing now at the portal of the 500th anniversary of these amazing acts, we must ask ourselves, “Is it time for another of Dr. Tickle’s ‘rummage sales’?”  Is this the age when spirituality and our relationship to our God will be ‘reinvented’, shifted radically, cast in a new and powerful light?  Is it time to take a serious look at the way we ‘do faith’?  Does our worship, our prayer, our study of scripture need to find new forms of expression?  Do we need to reinvigorate the call of Christ to minister to those around us?  Does our ministry to others need to take new form in order to maintain its relevance in this current age?

I have no easy answers to these questions.  I do, though, have a great love for the Gospel and a great curiosity in my faith.  I am always ready and happy to engage you in conversation around the simple aspects of life and faith as well as around the deep and weighty matters of life and faith. So come and celebrate with us here at Zion Church!  Come and explore with us!  Come and find the joy of life in Christ Jesus our Savior that has – throughout all the rummage sales – been at the core of who we are and what we are about!

Grace and Peace,  Pastor Dan

Change is coming to Zion!

Please join us for a Contemporary worship service at 9:00 am September 3rd—our last of the summer worship schedule.

Beginning on Rally Day, September 10th, Zion’s worship schedule will change! We will continue to conduct our contemporary worship service at 8:00 am, but we will now hold our traditional service at 9:15am during the Sunday School hour. Sunday school children will be dismissed to class after participating in the opening in the Sanctuary at 9:15am instead of 9:00 am.

Parents may then stay for the remainder for the service.

Nursery Care will now be available for both the 8:00 am and 9:15 am services.  We hope this makes it easier for parents of Sunday School and young children to join us for services each week.  Please look to the weekly Happenings emails for all the latest news and information about worship at Zion.