Going Low-Tech

It’s official: after 10 years of using an electronic calendar – usually through Outlook on my laptop, synced on my phone, and occasionally printed out – I am switching back to a paper calendar/planner for this coming year.  I love working electronically: writing sermons, letters, curriculum plans, email, social media, etc.  And, we have a Google calendar for our congregational events, which we need to keep updated.  But I was growing increasingly frustrated accessing my calendar, tasks, daily and weekly plans via phone or laptop – they don’t always sync properly, leading me to double book or even miss meetings on a couple occasions.  And, I do not want a tablet, which some people use effectively for their calendar/planner.  I don’t need more hardware to lug around, power on, fiddle with, and sync.  So, instead, I am going back to the old fashioned paper and pen for yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planning, tasks, and notes, using a Franklin-Covey planner ( plus my own adaptations.

I am already seeing benefits from the change: it is so easy to flip from month to month.  Taking notes or even basic to do lists for a given day or week are a snap, and if I am checking email and entering events or tasks into my calendar, there is no flipping back and forth between apps or even tabs; the planner lies open right next to the computer.  If I am talking to someone and trying to set a meeting time, it’s easier to just open my planner and check the calendar, no start-up time required, no scrolling through my calendar on my phone.  If I am talking with someone on my cell phone, I can check the calendar while we are speaking.  Also, I find that one of the so-called benefits of an electronic calendar, the ability to add recurring events, was filling up my calendar with too much information.  I mean, I am a pastor; do I really need to have Sunday worship on my calendar each week?  Weekly recurring events such as text studies and my children’s after school activities, it seems to me, are best put on a single sheet of paper in my planner rather than needing to be filled in every week on the calendar.  I can put them into the daily schedule as I plan the week ahead.  I also find that task lists or to do lists are easier to keep track of in my planner, rather than in an app.  It’s too easy to just not open that app or that tab, and forget a simple task.

So this is my experiment: returning to a paper and pen model of planning, or really a hybrid model, since, of course, I still use the computer for writing documents, schedules, curricula, etc.  And, I’ll probably electronically scan the monthly calendars from time to time for backup.  How do you calendarize and plan?

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I love this statement of faith, or creed, from our Presbyterian brothers and sisters.  We are using it in worship at Good Shepherd, divided into four parts.



In life and in death we belong to God. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve. Amen.


We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God.  Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel.

Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world.  God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal.


We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father.  In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community.  But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.  Ignoring God’s commandments, we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.  We deserve God’s condemnation.  Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.

In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth.  Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage.  Loving us still, God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.  Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still.


We trust in God the Holy Spirit, everywhere the giver and renewer of life.  The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith, sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor, and binds us together with all believers in the one body of Christ, the Church.

The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture, engages us through the Word proclaimed, claims us in the waters of baptism, feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation, and calls women and men to all ministries of the Church.

In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.  In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives, even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth, praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.*



*Instead of saying this line, congregations may wish to sing a version of the Gloria.

The Book of Confessions, pages 267-8.

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Renewing Our Vision

Our church’s mission is “Living and Sharing Jesus.”  Living Faith: the ELCA’s Call to Discipleship focuses on the seven faith practices – pray, study, worship, invite, encourage, serve, and give – which form us as disciples of Jesus Christ.  The first three relate to living Jesus, the first part of our mission: we live Jesus, indwell and commune with Jesus through prayer with God, the studying of Scripture, and worshipping together.  The last four relate to sharing Jesus: inviting others into a relationship with us and with Jesus; encouraging one another in our walk of faith; serving our neighbors as they have need; and giving of our time, talents, and treasure for the sake of our neighbors.

The question is, how are we going to embody those faith practices and grow in them during the next year and beyond?  How can we more effectively live and share Jesus today and in the days to come?  The foundations are the first three – pray, study, worship.  This year, our worship, Christian education, and home devotions will be coordinated, with lectionary based worship materials, curricula, and the Daily Readings.  We will focus on faith practices ‘at church’ and in the home.  In fact, the church is wherever the faithful are gathered or alone.  Living Jesus, together and in every area of our lives, grows our roots deep in the soil of God’s grace, mercy, justice, peace, and love.  It’s connecting with and feeding our souls.  My goal in living Jesus as pastor, preacher, worship and education leader is not to frantically do more in terms of programming in the congregation, but rather to focus us in, and do excellent worship, learning, and prayer that grounds us in a common story and a common life.  Music and the arts will be integral parts of our renewal of worship, study, and prayer.

If the first three faith practices are more inward facing (not in a self-centered sense, but in the sense of connecting with God and our souls), the next four faith practices turn us outward toward our neighbors, and remind us that our mission as a church is to be a church for others.  Let’s look at each in turn.

Invite.  It used to be that inviting people to join a congregation was straightforward: members (and/or the pastor) walked door to door in the neighborhood, inviting people to come and worship.  This worked, more or less, in the post war world, when people were likely to have grown up in a church (often another Lutheran church), and were likely to respond to such and invitation.  I often hear stories of how people in the 40s, 50s and 60s were invited to Good Shepherd.  In almost all cases, they were already Lutheran (often Swedish, Norwegian, or German), and had recently moved into the neighborhood.  As the church grew, right across the street from West High School (now a middle school), Good Shepherd became a destination for youth and young families.  At one point, over 100 high school youth met weekly for youth group.  It was easy to invite neighbors, because they shared a common culture, religion, and ethnic identity.

It is no surprise that the situation is very different today, and there is no point in bemoaning the fact.  As the cultural, religious, socioeconomic, and ethnic – yes, racial – geography of the neighborhood has changed in the past 40 years, inviting our neighbors is not as easy as it was.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Church as an ethnic or class-based club is not the model to which we should aspire anyway – as the early church spread in the Roman Empire, it was known being a community of equals, where there was “no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female.”  Good Shepherd must grow into its identity as a multicultural church, or wither away.  We must be the kind of community that gets to know our neighbors – all of them – and loves them without ulterior motive.  We must build relationships and partner with our neighbors, at West Middle School, Welsh Elementary, our neighborhood associations, and other community groups.  You cannot effectively invite people that you do not know and truly care about.

Encourage.  Pray for one another.  Encourage one another in our walks of faith.  Keep each other accountable.  Visit the sick, care for the elderly, care for those imprisoned, call, write, and visit one another.  Help each other grow.  Give one another courage to live out our faith in the world.  This is where advocating for justice and organizing our community come in as well.  Encouraging our community to speak truth to power, in the tradition of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets.

Serve.  This one is critical to our practice of sharing Jesus – service gives credibility to invitation, for example.  How is God calling us to serve?  We do some service – hosting organizations that meet in our building, collecting goods for food pantries and other organizations, throwing a party for our neighborhood each year – the Ice Cream Social.  But on a week-to-week basis, we do not have a big impact on our community. 

One idea to explore in earnest is an after school program, similar to the ones at Zion or Grace Lutheran Churches.  This can be Wednesdays or Fridays (or any other week day), with a combination of a meal, fun activities, and learning.  There is not enough time to put this together well before the fall, but work needs to be done now to make this a possibility in 2014 – in January.  Specifically, we need to gather information about what’s happening in our community already, and what are the needs and resources at hand.  We need to rebuild bridges with West Middle School and Welsh Elementary.  We need to find other organizations with which to partner, and pursue funding sources.

Give.  This is stewardship – how we use the gifts God has given us, especially for the sake of our neighbors.  We will have a renewed stewardship focus this fall at Good Shepherd.  In terms of the church, stewardship of time, talents, and treasure is the fuel of our common life.

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World Gardeners

Faith at the End of Your Fork Message, April 28, 2012, Eric Lemonholm

This is my message for the Faith at the End of Your Fork Opening Worship today at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.  Anna Lappe spoke, and the day was filled with learning about the intersection between faith and the food we eat.  An awesome day!



Psalm 65 (The Psalm 65 translation adapted from Ellen Davis, Sojourners, May 2012.)


Jeremiah 17:7-8

7Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.8They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.


The biblical witnesses testify to our connection to one another and to the earth.

In the first creation story in Genesis 1, God sees all of creation and calls it good.

The seas and land, plants, animals and humans, all are good in God’s eyes.


In the second creation story in Genesis 2, God is a Gardener, planting a garden called Eden, “delight,” and creating Adam and Eve.

Adam means earthling, child of the earth, Adamah.

It’s like our word human.   Human means earthling, one formed from humus, the soil.

Long story short: Adam (human, earthling) gets together with Eve (life), and God gives them a vocation, a calling to care for the earth, to keep and till the garden of creation, to be stewards of the earth.

That is our number one job as human beings, as humus-beings: to care for the soil, the water, and the air, and all the creatures that live therein.

  • How are we doing?
  • How is our garden growing? 
  • How is our world ecosystem thriving? 
  • How is the health of our soil, our water, and our air?


That’s what we are here today to find out.

The answer (I fear we will learn) is that our garden is in crisis mode, and we are so alienated from our being as humans, that we hardly notice.


We are also here today to learn what we can do about our global crisis, how we can reclaim our common vocation as stewards of the earth, caretakers of the soil and waters and air and life.


Like much of Scripture, Psalm 65 testifies to the deep connection between God the Creator (the Soul of the world) and all of creation.

God “abundantly enriches” the earth.

We are called to be satisfied with the good God has provided, and to rejoice with the animals and plants in God’s abundance.

We are also called to come before God in silent praise, bringing before the Creator our failure to fulfill our vocation as world stewards.

We repent for the careless way we have treated God’s good world.

We seek atonement – at-one-ment – from and with the Soul of the world.


Our roots are shallow.

Our connection with the earth is weak.

Our global food system is a house of cards.

So when a crisis approaches, fear and anxiety arise within us.

As the heat rises and drought approaches, we keep doing what we’ve been doing, but we have a nagging awareness that there must be another way.

  • A way to send out our roots deep into the soil of God’s world.
  • A way to live connected to one another, to the earth, and to the farmers who grow our food.
  • A way to live more simply and healthily for the sake of our neighbors and the earth – and ourselves.
  • A way to fulfill our vocation as keepers and tillers of God’s world garden.


The greatest revelation is God’s book of creation, the world, the cosmos.

Our call and our joy today is to no longer be alienated from the soil from which we came, but to be reclaim our identity as human beings and join with other children of earth in holy living and holy eating – living and eating for the sake of our neighbors – all our neighbors, human and animal and plant.






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Open Source Church

I just started reading The Open Source Church yesterday – pretty timely to find this book after completing my thesis The Open Source Lectionary. “Open source” is definitely in the air. One of the points author Landon Whitsitt makes well is the free nature of the Gospel: the Good News of Jesus Christ is free and sets all free. You cannot put a price on the Good News. You give it away for free – or rather, God gives it away for free, and we pass it on, freely and openly. Whitsitt re-imagines the church through the lens of the open source concept: what is a church like where everyone is free to share Jesus in any way to any one at any time, with the only limits being the basic boundaries of Christian faith and loving action?

Ironically, yesterday I also received some literature from the International Association of Scientologists. No, I am not interested in Scientology; I don’t know how I got on their mailing list. I know so little about the organization/religion that I will not here critique it, but simply note two points based on the material I received. First, Scientology is very much focused on knowledge. It feels rather Gnostic, with a standard set of books and recorded lectures by their founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, which Scientologists are expected to read and master. In their “Churches,” Scientologists have “course rooms” in which students are expected to “fly along with swift duplication and full comprehension” as they participate in “the Golden Age of Knowledge.” Scientologists advance along a set course of study and attain different levels “on the routes to knowledge.” An Ideal Org(anization), according to the material, “is a living representation of LRH and his legacy, with every function in place per policy, every post manned, every hat worn standardly.”

Now, the contrast with an Open Source Church could not be greater. I am not interested in knocking down a straw man, but simply noting that in Jesus’ beatitudes in Matthew 5, as well as the whole prophetic tradition, it is the poor, the oppressed, the marginal, who are blessed, not the possessors of knowledge. The Gospel is foolishness to the wise, says Paul. Following Jesus is not a matter of possessing secret knowledge but rather a relationship: not intellectual believing but relational beloving.

At the same time, there is something to be said for organized curricula of faith formation. In many Christian churches, Christian education virtually stops at the end of middle school. While I would never want to be stuck with a “closed source,” static curriculum of Christian education, there are biblical, theological, and practical basics that every Christian should have opportunities to explore – freely, openly, and communally.

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3 Areas of Exploration

As I begin/continue my long term continuing pastoral education, I am focusing on three interrelated areas: the Bible/biblical theology, theology/Christian worldview, and ecclesiology/church life. I will move between these three areas of study freely. All of them have a practical focus for upbuilding Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd as a Christian community. Here is how I envision the perichoretic quest today.

First, the Bible and biblical theology is the foundation of Christian life and reflection. Scripture rightly understood and embodied is an essential element of this ongoing project of exploring a biblical worldview for praying, preaching, teaching, and leading. I now have a couple good current study Bibles, which are a pleasure and privilege to read. There are also some good recent books on biblical theology which I plan to read and reflect on as I read Scripture. For the summer and perhaps into the fall I am tentatively planning on preaching some of the primal stories of the Old Testament, plus I have focused more time and energy on the New Testament for several years; so an exploration of Old Testament theology is a good place to start. (Starting in Advent – December – I may begin a Year of John for Year B of the lectionary, so New Testament theology and Johannine studies will be good to pursue in the fall). There is no better guide to the Old Testament than Walter Brueggemann. I just finished Brueggemann’s Journey to the Common Good, so I’ll start with that book. Another of his more recent books is Old Testament Theology: An Introduction. Although I will refer to his earlier magisterial Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, I will focus on the later and more general work.

Second, theology and the continual (re)formation of a Christian worldview is an essential movement of the quest. Theology steps back from the Bible and more intentionally relates Scripture and our contemporary world. The goal is for one’s imagination and conversation to be shaped by God’s word and a relatively adequate perspective on the world. This movement encompasses philosophy, history, economics, sociology, and politics, just to begin. But the goal is not to be overwhelmed by too much information, but to glean the best in theological thinking in conversation with other areas of inquiry.

Third (but neither least nor last), the life of the local Christian community in the intersection between the Bible and the world is my special focus. A common name for the followers of Jesus in the book of Acts is not Christianity but The Way. More than a body of intellectual beliefs, the Christian faith is a way of being in the world, a way of life, a following after our Rabbi and Lord Jesus, a mission. This is the movement upon which I will especially focus, since as someone has said, it is more effective to act our way into a new way of thinking than to think our way into a new way of acting. In this movement of growing our life together as the body of Christ, I will focus on the Christian faith practices in our congregation for the love of God and our neighbors.

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Toward a Biblical Worldview for Preaching

Well, I have finished my D.Min. in Biblical Preaching thesis – it is online at As I was writing it, I realized that biblical preaching is a never ending challenge, a goal one never accomplishes once and for all. Biblical preaching is a lifelong vocation, living at the intersection of the local church, the world, and Scripture, moving from the congregation’s context to Scripture and back again in a continuous cycle.
A particular challenge for the working preacher is to stay connected to the world of biblical and theological scholarship after seminary. Certainly, no one can stay abreast of every current in scholarship, much less a full time pastor. And yet, we are not thereby absolved of responsibility to continue to be formed and re-formed as biblical preachers, reading not just our same old study Bibles and same old commentaries (and falling back on our same old Internet resources), but continuing to learn and grow by staying connected with the great cloud of witnesses, past and present. How can we stand on the shoulders of giants in our preaching if we don’t even know the giants? How can we have a fresh perspective on Scripture if we don’t look refresh our view?
Lately, I’ve been doing more reading of biblical and theological works. However, I have a tendency to read and then move on, without much reflection. So, as old fashioned as it may seem, I am going to blog again: blog about forming and reforming a biblical worldview for preaching and faith formation. It’s nothing earth shattering or unique, of course: a preacher’s public journal. Beyond that, I am not going to give any specifics, but simply try to write regularly as I read and reflect. It’s the reflection that’s a challenge.

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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.

God’s Work, Our Hands,

Pastor Eric Lemonholm

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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 (, 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!

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Note from the Pastor

Dear Good Shepherd Church Family,

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, through the love of the Holy Spirit! I have been called to be the new pastor of Good Shepherd, and have accepted this call with great joy and excitement for the adventure of faith that we will share in the years ahead. Mindy, our children, and I thank God for the warm welcome we have received in this community of faith.

Here is part of my letter of acceptance of the call to Good Shepherd:

After prayerful consideration and discernment, it is with great joy that I accept the call as pastor to the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. I “hereby promise to fulfill this pastoral ministry in accord with the standards and policies for ordained ministers of the Evangelical Church in America,” and to be “diligent in the study of Holy Scripture, in use of the means of grace, in prayer, in faithful service, and in holy living” (quoted from the Letter of Call).
My family and I have been called by God to the next chapter of our life journey in your urban, diverse community, in which both Mindy’s gifts and my own will be utilized, and in which our children will have ample opportunities for growth. I am excited for the opportunity to serve as pastor of Good Shepherd. I look forward to walking with you as we live out God’s mission as brothers and sisters in Christ, reaching out to people in west Rockford and beyond with the love of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I begin my second week at Good Shepherd, I have already experienced so much hospitality in this church community and the community of Rockford, including the potluck my first Sunday, Bible study groups at church, the Rockford Partners for Excellence at West Middle School, local clergy groups, and more.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once summed up Christian faith in a world come of age as prayer and righteous action, action for others. Good Shepherd’s mission statement is another way of saying the same thing: Living and Sharing Jesus. It is my hope and prayer that we will together grow closer to Jesus Christ in prayer, worship, and reading Scripture, and share Jesus through serving others and building relationships with them.

God’s Work, Our Hands,

Pastor Eric Lemonholm

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