Looking Back With Hope for the Future

Pastor Rick
As I consider my time at St. Peter’s, I could not have imagined all that was to take place when I first arrived.  I first came to St. Peter’s 18 months ago.  The expectation was that St. Peter’s had already laid the ground work for calling a new pastor and I would not be here long.  Maybe 3 months?  At most 6 months! By the end of February, 2020, I had earned a two-week vacation, which I took the beginning of March 2020.  My last sermon was on March 1st and I headed out on a cross country road trip to visit my father-in-law in Florida.  When I was to return I was planning to fulfill a commitment made to Pastor Dave Nagler at Christ Lutheran to serve as pastor at Christ during Dave’s sabbatical.  Then COVID hit with full force.  Deby and I made it as far as New Orleans and we started back, seeing that the country was locking up.  Dave postponed his sabbatical for at least a year and I ended up at the door step of St. Peter’s for phase two of being bridge pastor.  Being a COVID bridge pastor turned into a whole new definition of the term.  Being a church during the pandemic turned out to be a new definition of what it means to be a church. When I returned, St. Peter’s, like all of the Lutheran churches in our area, started recording worship services.  It was difficult learning to preach to a camera, but it became easier.  Music had its own challenges.  At first we tried to sing hymns and have choir practices via Zoom.  There was no hope of sounding like we were singing together even when we tried many times.  The result was an annoying mess.  What a saint Doris is in learning a whole new way to bring us worship music.  Thanks to a program called “Garage Band” and the infinite talents and patience of Doris, she created sacred music by recording voices individually and combining them electronically.  The results were truly inspirational.  I remember our first in-person worship when people were wondering where Doris came up with music from a Men’s chorus, thinking it could not have been the result of our own church’s music ministry.  It was, thanks to Doris’ work, and it sounded great.  Some even said the music brought tears to their eyes. Speaking of in-person worship.  I was slow to come along with the idea, but I am now very proud of our choice, knowing it was the right combination of stepping out in faith and keeping us safe.  We opted for worship once a month on the preschool parking lot, live streamed, with masks and reservations for seating to ensure social distancing.  I had my doubts that a worship service with these precautions and limitations would be enjoyable, but I would soon be convinced that our efforts were both enjoyable and safe.  Since then an infectious disease doctor said she and her fiancé were drawn to our church by our willingness to step out in faith by offering worship that was safe and inspirational. I also provided an online daily devotion for St. Peter’s and a very intentional fellowship hour via Zoom that have helped to maintain spiritual depth and connection in our church while we were not able to be physically together.  I love the thought that we have made our homes places of worship and devotion through recorded worship and daily devotions.   I love the work of our deacons in offering spiritual care for those in need. I love the Zoom memorial services that have offered an option to bring intimacy and comfort to those that need it most in a time of loss. I also have loved the Men’s Bible study and the book study on Saturdays that have concluded, but plan to start again in March with some changes.  We are considering offering Bible study to men and women and offering a new book to study.  The direction is a bit unclear, but I am sure they both will continue in one form or another. God has been good!  I am thankful for our time together and proud of what we have been able to accomplish.  All of us have been blessed and those blessings will follow as St. Peter’s crafts a post-COVID church, enriched by the past and looking forward to what God has called the church to be in the future. Pastor Rick