A Decommissioning and a Groundbreaking: Joy and Hope in Both Journeys
by Kathye Hamm
I must tell you about my day – on Sunday, January 27th. I live in San Rafael, so I drove to Santa Rosa in the morning to Thanksgiving Lutheran Church. I passed beautiful rolling hills with vineyards and small farms. The congregation was celebrating sixteen years of ministry in that church building. But it was time to downsize. It was time to move.
Their interim pastor, Pr. Diane Bowers, preached an incredible sermon. Right next to the pulpit, there were some suitcases. In her sermon, she spoke about what they would be leaving behind – namely, their beautiful building for which they would no longer struggle to pay the mortgage – but they would be taking some things with them. She reminded those folks, that no one can take away their Holy Baptism, their community of faith, the Word of God and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
So, at the end of the worship, they put their baptismal font into a suitcase (Really! It comes apart into two pieces!), along with their altar hymnal, a bible, communion ware and some altar cloths. The suitcase was carried out of the sanctuary. She told them they’d be in exile for a while – a people without a building. They would travel the long distance of two miles over to the building where the Presbyterian church meets. They would begin their journey and adventure of sharing worship space with those people of God.
After a quick lunch, I left the folks at Thanksgiving Lutheran Church and headed to San Francisco for the Groundbreaking ceremony of St.Paulus Lutheran Church.
At the construction site for the new church building are ELCA pastors from the city. What a wonderful show of support for Pr. Solberg and the members of St.Paulus, with fellow pastors from the city, the mayor’s representative, Lutheran Social Service staff, members of St. Paulus and Pr. Dan and Barbara Solberg – with the sun shining down upon all of us, we all gave thanks to God for this faithful group of saints who are beginning a new chapter in their journey.
When I spoke, I recounted that I had attended the service there with my husband for the two lesbian women and the gay man who were ordained in an “illegal” service, back in 1990. St. Paulus was brave and faithful for proclaiming that these three people were indeed called by God to serve the church – and so they allowed the ordination service to be held there. I still haven’t been to a more spectacular and wonderful ordination service than that one! In November of 1995 – that building burned to the ground. I remember standing in my office at my church in Teaneck, New Jersey with tears rolling down my face when I heard the news.
And now – from the ashes, they are rising! A church with ninety-five housing units, eleven of which will be below market rate, will rise above the sanctuary.
Thanksgiving Lutheran Church and St. Paulus Lutheran Church: two churches with their fine pastors and courageous members finding creative ways to be faithful in our synod.
The hymn which TLC sang is appropriate for both churches – indeed, for all our congregations!
Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey;
I’ll tell everybody about you wherever I go:
You alone are our life and our peace and our love.
Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey.
I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey;
but courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side.
And with all of the family you saved by your love, we’ll sing to your dawn at the end of the journey. (ELW# 808 Lord, Jesus, You Shall Be My Song)
May God’s blessings shine upon your journey,
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