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Summer Reflections: Discernment, Growth, and Exciting Changes at St. James

Greetings, St. James Community:

I hope you all are enjoying the summer weather as I write this on the first official day of summer, June 21st. We are into the time after Pentecost, the green season. This is a time of discernment and growth, a time when we see Jesus doing the ministry on the ground, and we emulate that. This is also the summer season and a time when the energy shifts at the church to the larger children and youth events such as Mission Trip (July), Campfirmation (last week in June), and Faith in Action week (August 7-11th). We are in preparation and planning mode as well for the fall.

There has been a lot of life happening in and around St. James these last few weeks. The blog post this week will be much more informative than descriptive. I am grateful for this space to speak to you in ways that help connect us and greater inform the congregation and community.

This month alone, we celebrated the 36th Annual Synod Assembly for the Metro Chicago Synod as well as our own St. James annual governance meeting. Ron Koepke, Denise Norberg-Johnson, and I were our representatives at this year’s Synod Assembly. If you are interested in learning more about our experiences, feel free to reach out to any of us.

At our governance meeting, we thanked folks rolling off council leadership, elected new leadership, and heard about what’s new at St. James, such as our new Health and Safety committee. In the Trinity Sunday worship service that day, we honored, prayed for, and blessed eight of our graduating high school seniors as well. We also heard faith stories and the impact this church has had on two of our amazing youth leaders, Ned Wanda and Kevin Taylor. If you were not able to attend online or in person for that service, I encourage you to go back and watch the moving stories of these high school graduates–they will move you.

Since that Sunday, there have been questions about the shape of summer services and the changes people have noticed. I’m grateful for this space to share my thoughts and vision for worship over the summer. The summer is a chance to have a little different pace in our worship and programming.

It has been my custom in my previous ministry settings to take a break from robes for the summer so there can be more breathing room for myself and worship servants. This mitigates overheating in the church during the warmer summer days.

I highly value our traditional Lutheran heritage and the practice of wearing robes as a sign of our baptism. I also know that our ability as a congregation to try different things on for size, even if for a season, will open us to new ways of seeing each other and seeing Christ. I fully intend to return to wearing robes in the fall after we have completed our three outdoor worship services in the summer. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions or dialogue with me about these decisions; I will always listen.

I think it is also important to keep in mind the wonderful, intense work staff and volunteers put in throughout the high seasons of the church. We are also in transition in the church office and will be announcing a new hire for our Office Coordinator position! With this in mind, in coordination with the Worship and Music committee, we’ve decided to speak the Psalm for the summer. This will provide simplicity for our music and transitional office staff during this time after Pentecost. I am also looking to reformat parts of the worship and music committee to view worship more seasonally so we can make room for greater creativity with longer view planning.

This Sunday is our first outdoor worship service for the summer. We will hold three outdoor worship services, one per month at the end of the month. I look forward to worshiping with you all in the midst of God’s great earth outdoors! We will welcome Aaron Arnold, the Executive Director of Waukegan to College, a nonprofit organization that supports young people on their journey to college. He will be preaching for us and sharing in a service project for his organization after worship.

The following week, Sunday, July 2nd, I will be out of town at a wedding in New Jersey for my spouse’s college friend. We are holding a service of the word with lay leadership on this Sunday as another change of pace and an opportunity to lift up our lay leadership. Typically, we will have a supply Pastor present when I am away; however, with the holiday weekend, finding a supply Pastor to join us that Sunday was a challenge.

After our worship service this Sunday, I will journey to Augustana College with our Youth Director, Doug Dusthimer, and three of our Confirmation students for a week of Campfirmation. This is the first time since covid that we are returning to Augustana College for this special, exciting week of faith formation and fellowship. I look forward to returning with the congregation and sharing the experience after this rich week and vacation time afterward.

Lastly, I attended a wonderful, intense, and meaningful conference called Faith Leader’s Week through the Kellogg Center for Nonprofit Management. I learned so much from esteemed professors and leaders in various faith traditions. You can see in the picture that we were a wonderfully diverse group. I learned alongside bishops from the Church of God in Christ, next to a Rabbi and his team from California and a smattering of Presbyterian Pastors, and one other ELCA Lutheran Pastor. There were so many wonderful takeaways from this week that I shared at our Council meeting this week. I encourage you to read about more of this in our minutes from Council.

As we journey together in this season of growth and change, know that I am so grateful for all of you; for your dedication to the ministries of this congregation and how you make a difference being a part of this congregation and community. I look forward to the rest of the summer with you. Continue to ask questions, pray to God to be open to where the Spirit is leading us all, and know that ‘Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever.’

God’s blessings be with you,

-Pastor Amy


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