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Note from the Pastor

Dear Friends of the Good Shepherd,

A heartfelt thank you for everyone who made the Installation Service and Dinner so special! I was overwhelmed by the powerful worship service and the hospitality shown to all our guests: some people were surprised by the wonderful meal after the Spirit-filled service. We welcomed Bishop Gary Wollersheim, as well as many pastors and guests, including some of our friends and family from out of town. An installation service is a community event for our church and our church family throughout the area, rather than an event focusing on the pastor; and yet I was deeply moved. The Lord willing, I look forward to Living and Sharing Jesus with you for a long time to come!

This season of Lent, this season of rebirth, renewal, and recommitment, is both a healing and an empowering time for me, and I hope it is for you too. For me, this season has revealed to me the importance of the Ancient Christian Spiritual Practices in centering our daily lives.

In her book, The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church, Diana Butler Bass writes, “One of the lesser-noted findings of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research’s massive Faith Communities Today (FACT) study was the link between ‘personal spiritual practices’ and congregational vitality. According to study co-director David Roozen, ‘The study does confirm that the more emphasis a congregation gives to the values of home and personal religious practices the higher the congregation’s vitality and the more likely it is to be growing in membership.” (Thanks to The Reverend Pamela M. Hillenbrand for this quote.)

As Brian McLaren notes, Christian faith is more a way of life than a set of beliefs: that is why the first name for followers of Jesus is the Way. We are people on the Way, following Jesus on our life journey. The Ancient Christian Spiritual Practices help us find our way as we follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These practices include daily prayer, weekly worship, fasting, communion, pilgrimage, and tithing. The long term vitality of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd is tied to how we help one another deepen in faith not just on Sunday mornings but throughout the week, in our homes, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods.
Take a moment, if you will, and reflect on these words from Psalm 46:

Be still, and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am.
Be still, and know.
Be still.
Be.

God’s Work, Our Hands,

Pastor Eric Lemonholm

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Reflections

Yesterday, I mailed the defense draft of my thesis to Luther Seminary. It’s the beginning of the end of my Doctor of Ministry. In April, I defend the thesis, and in May, hopefully, I graduate. The D. Min. program was a theological lifeline during the last three years at Grace in Detroit Lakes, reconnecting me with the wider church and renewing my mind and heart. I am a better pastor because of it. What I realized from both the D. Min. experience and my collegial relationships in the Northwestern Minnesota Synod (especially the text study and the Synod Council) was the importance of learning and growing in community – the community of pastoral colleagues, as well as the community of the congregation.
Now, we have been in Rockford for 1 ½ months. It has been a whirlwind. It was just a little over 2 months ago (Jan. 10) that I gave my one month’s notice at Grace: we left ten days early because I had accrued vacation time. The next week after giving notice, I turned in the rough draft of the thesis (Jan. 17), and we moved in to our new home in Rockford February 1, in the midst of a snowstorm. I officially started working at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on February 11. This first month at Good Shepherd has been wonderful. I am getting to know the congregation and their worship and community life. Worship at Good Shepherd is powerful and participatory, with an active choir and lay participation in every aspect of worship, including worship planning by the worship team: for the Lenten Wednesday services starting tomorrow, I am only preaching once (plus last week’s Ash Wednesday service): otherwise, lay church members are preaching. The music is awesome; the Liturgical Arts team is always doing something surprising and spirit stirring in the sanctuary.
We love our new home and neighborhood and city. We love our children’s new school: all three tested into the Washington Academy, an excellent public school. I have gotten involved with the Rockford Partners for Excellence (www.rp4e.org), a grass roots organization that is working to help the students, teachers, and administrators at the West Middle School right across the street from our church building. I also attend a couple text studies (though usually just one of them per week) and monthly Rockford Clergy meetings (including a Rabbi, an Imam, etc.) and monthly North Conference meetings. These meetings keep me connected and involved in the community.
I finally feel that the whirlwind is subsiding. On the bright side, one learns and grows through challenging times, and recent struggles opened doors that eventually led us to Good Shepherd here in Rockford. To deal with all of that, plus the D. Min., plus going through the call process, plus moving, all in a short period of time has indeed been stressful. This is a time of healing and rebirth, which is definitely how I am experiencing Lent this year. Now is a time to deepen in faith in God and build relationships with the disciples of Good Shepherd. Amen!