Pastor's Page
Welcome Home to Messiah
August 2 thru August 9 - AD 2020
 
Covid19 has not been here a full year, yet. Though it seems like an eternity. Anyway, we are still experiencing what it feels like to not celebrate events we’ve grown accustomed to celebrating. So, there was no Easter breakfast or Easter Sunday service at Messiah. We did not do Memorial Day geraniums. We did not gather for Red Brook Vespers or Theology on Tap. There was no VBS. Now, in August, we’ll get used to not gathering for a church picnic. The saying is true, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or, isolation from an event makes us realize how important that event was. 
 
The absence of events that congregations are accommodating is happening in our culture. I’m thinking of the County Fair. That was always an event to anticipate. Parking out in a field and getting a ride in on a tractor drawn trailer. Demolition Derby. The honey exhibit. Animal exhibits. Junk food.  This year the Board of Directions has announced cancellation of the “traditional fair”. In its place will be a Junior Fair. I’m impressed the board recognized the danger presented by Covid19. At the same time, they are arranging for an alternate, fair-like experience. Humans adapt. We accommodate. It is when we are rigid or extreme that we get ourselves into trouble. 
 
Property Committee meets tonight. It’s as if the building is on sabbatical these pandemic days. I’m accustomed to hearing the entrance doors constantly beeping as they are opened for people entering for some kind of activity. For the most part, the doors are silent. The building is more or less shut down for typical uses. Even food bank clients do not come into the building. Some day God’s house here will resume being an open, come-on-in house. 
 
Finance Committee meets tonight. So far, your offerings have been consistent and generous. I hear that from other pastors on the NE Ohio Synod stewardship team. Lutherans understand this time is different. But we’re maintaining the infrastructures of our congregations and synods and denomination. We’re still celebrating Word and Sacrament. The day will come when we’ll resume more serving, hospitality, fellowship.
 
Cathy Carle retired in May after eleven years of faithful service as church secretary. Isabelle Fleming has filled really well this summer. But end of August, Isabelle returns to Kent State. That means Messiah is looking for a secretary. This job is perfect for someone out there. It is only 12-hours per week. It involves interacting with a lot of really nice people. It directly supports God’s ministry of Word and Sacrament and Service in this good place. If you are aware of anyone, young or old, who you feel would do a good job here in the office, put them in contact with me. Or let me know and I’ll contact them. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah 
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah
July 26 thru August 2 in AD 2020
 
There are three new signs of life on Main Ave. The Puerto Rican restaurant, across from South Park, brings a unique menu. Main Avenue Bakery seems well established. I noticed it was open Sunday afternoon. It’s nice to see downtown activity on a Sunday afternoon. I recently learned a new restaurant will open. It’s called Meet Me on Main. A vital downtown community is heart and soul for American culture. It’s been agonizingly slow, but Ashtabula’s downtown seems to be progressing, no longer receding. 
 
Social media is harmful in so many ways. But there are those times when social media is a blessing. When social media brings people together and fosters connections, it’s a good thing. This recently happened. Messiah Sunday “services” are posted on You Tube. From You Tube they get shared to Facebook. Last Sunday’s service showed the Mary Geenawalt portrait of Pastor Pettersen. Pastor Pettersen’s daughter, now living in Sheridan, WY, saw it and left a comment. Her comment invited other comments. People who had not heard from each other in years had an opportunity to re-connect. The word “religion” comes from two Latin words that mean to re-link or re-connect. Messiah’s Facebook and You Tube pages enable folk to connect with each other, that’s a huge blessing. Especially in light of Covid19 that seeks to keep us separate. 
 
Northeast Ohio Synod Assembly will be September 11 and 12. Last week I erroneously said the assembly will be in December. September is correct. I’m looking forward to attending an assembly on line. I’ll home brew French Roast and track assembly events with a lot less distraction. The assembly will elect a new bishop. We will not be able to get a “live” / in-person take on the personalities of the candidates. But I trust the Holy Spirit will lead us thru to good election. 
 
My heart is with students these pandemic days. Most of us recall looking forward to the resumption of school activities when September arrived. We’d see friends. We’d get to like teachers we thought we’d never like. Extra-curricular activities returned for us to join in or watch. As our class progressed thru the years, we grew closer together. Things got easier the older we got. That was normal. But Covid19 Generation does not have that normal. 
Today’s students are still not sure what days they will be in their school buildings. Student Athletes are not sure what games will be scheduled. The things prior generations of students counted on are, for this generation, a big question mark. I believe this generation of students, the Covid19 Generation, may emerge as the next “greatest generation”.
 
We appreciate so much what Tom Brokaw described as the previous “greatest generation.” They survived the Great Depression. They dealt with the scourge of Polio Virus. They defeated the Empire of Japan and the scourge of Nazism. They raised families and built an economy the likes of which the world had never seen. 
 
This current young generation, living under the threat of Covid19, may emerge as the next “greatest generation.” They saw the changing of our culture after Nine Eleven. Their families endured the great economic crash of 2008. Now they are adjusted to the brave new world of pandemic. We must reach out to them. Support them. Affirm them in whatever way possible. If they have a fundamental confidence in themselves, and what evil they may overcome, they may become a tremendous gift to civilization. This current crucible of uncertainty may be forming the next “greatest generation”. Whatever stability we may share with them may actually help to save the world. 
 
Your consistent offerings during this pandemic are inspiring. You give electronically or by mail or in the collection plate on Sunday. Prayers and worship and study and Lend-A-Hand continue to be generated from this good place. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah 
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah
July 19 A.D thru July 26 AD 2020
 
There were two funerals last week. One was for a person. The other was for a program.
 
Charles Labry was the person. He’s the brother of Rebecca Ollikainen. He died December 2019 in Dallas, TX. But he was from Ashtabula and wanted to be buried in Ashtabula. That happens a lot. Folk move a way for better jobs or better weather. But when they die away from here they want to be back home in Bula for burial. The liturgy was short, the summer weather was beautiful. We got to reflect on another life story. Another child of God, brought to baptism, affirming faith in confirmation, discovered his vocational gifts. He expressed those gifts thru work and relationships. He experienced the joy of love and family along life’s way. We were pleased to welcome him home. He rests in peace. 
 
Messiah’s clothing bank was the program that was “laid to rest” last week. The clothing bank project began around 2007. Those who started it and participated in it are too numerous to name. For over a decade, Messiah members and friends of Messiah donated used clothing. Workers sorted and displayed the clothing. Anyone who had need for clothing came in on distribution days and left with free clothing. For over a decade this ministry gathered and formed a lot of community. It remained a stellar outreach of Messiah. It linked us every more deeply to this community. Then Covid19 hit us. We could no longer welcome people into this building the way we used to. Also, a leak from the court yard brought water into the clothing bank display room. It was not smelling very fresh in there. So, intelligent decision makers at Messiah contacted G.O. Ministries and Catholic Charities and gave to them the boxes and boxes of clothing that had been here. The clothing will still be given away for free. But we will miss the laughter and comradery of the clothing bank activity here. 
 
So, we observed two deaths last week: a person (Charles Labry) and a ministry (Messiah’ clothing bank). For people of faith, death is never the last word. We know Charles will be raised on the last day. We know he rests in God even as we speak. Messiah’s clothing has already seen a new life. It’s being integrated into the storage at Catholic Charities and G.O. Ministries. It will soon be seen walking about in Ashtabula. I’m sure after Covid19 runs its course that a new ministry will emerge in those two large rooms in Messiah’s lower level. 
 
The July council meeting at Messiah speculated briefly if there was some way we could safely gather for our annual church picnic in August. It was hard to imagine gathering to share food while maintaining safe, physical distancing. For the first time in many, many years, it looks as though Messiah will not gather for summer picnic. Events evolve thru the years. People have memories when the picnic was an all-day event. There were organized games and activities for children. Adults stayed and played board games or cards. Born in the image of God, as we are, creativity is part of our personality profile. I’m sure we’ll use this picnic sabbatical year to create something new and inviting for next year. 
 
Our Synod will hold an assembly this year but it will be virtual. For that reason, registration fees will be considerably less expensive. The dates are December 11 & 12. Though we will not be face to face with each other, I know the Holy Spirit will guide our election of our next bishop. 
 
Your consistent offerings during this pandemic are inspiring. You give electronically or by mail or in the collection plate on Sunday. Prayers and worship and study and Lend-A-Hand continue to be generated from this good place. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah 
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah
July 12 – July 19 A.D. 2020
 
We’re halfway thru Summer of 2020. Still we wait for our unwelcome guest, Covid 19, to depart. I recall assuming the virus would have spiked and tapered off by now. My assumption was we would be preparing ourselves for the second wave of the disease to land this fall. But it appears the first wave is still gaining. This weekend there were no Covid19 deaths in NYC, that’s a really good sign. But cases in Florida and other places have exploded. So, we wait. We wash our hands and maintain distance and wear masks and we wait. 
 
Speaking of wearing masks, I see more of them being worn around Ashtabula. A few months ago, those of us who wore masks in public were the exception. Now it seems those who do not have a mask are the exception. Humans do well when we follow protocol and keep within boundaries. I slipped into Aldi’s yesterday for gluten free granola. Everyone I saw, from produce to ice cream sections, wore masks. Everyone carefully followed the blue arrows in the aisles. We all acknowledged the need for physical distance from the other. I’m not suggesting we all become lemmings and jump off a cliff on que. I am observing it feels right to be part of a herd. That’s how mammals have survived the eons. We group together. We follow the way of the pack. We survive. Perhaps there is good reason that a “herd” of lions is referred to as a pride. There is pride in belonging. There is pride in conforming to healthy ways. There is pride in keeping rational rules. There is potential that this hideous Corona Virus, when it’s over, may bring us closer together as a culture. We have to strive for that possibility. 
 
Thru the decades I have come to appreciate more and more the fact that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). We all have faithfully departed family members whose influence on us will continue until the day we die. The church of any generation stands on the shoulders of women and men from previous generations. We would not be who we are without those who were before us. July 12thcommemorated a Swedish bishop, Nathan Soderblom. I learned more about him at the 2012 Augustana Heritage Conference. Soderblom died in 1931. Before his death he led Swedish Lutherans thru liturgical renewal, deepened ecumenical commitments, promoted modern methods of biblical scholarship, and won the Pulitzer Peace Prize. In 1917 Soderblom visited Swedish Lutheran congregations in America. I’m always amazed at those personalities who accomplish so much in this lifetime. 
 
Property Committee met last week. To help contain the spread of Covid 19, Messiah’s building remains closed to outside groups. This is unusual for us because Messiah is historically so open, welcoming, and hospitable. Property Committee’s current project is to finish installation of the fire door at the top of the back stairway. Next project is to repair the framework that holds the Pettersen window in the entranceway off the parking lot. The courtyard leak that let rain into the clothing bank room has been stopped. Lend A Hand continues weekly operations safely and effectively. 
 
Council will meet tonight, July 13th. One of the agenda items is to purchase the inexpensive equipment that will enable us to continue “filming” weekly church services. Currently, Isabelle Fleming does that on her I-Phone. When she returns to Kent State this Fall, we’ll lose our videographer. So, the proposal is to purchase a camera, microphone, and tri-pod that will enable us to continue recording worship events and putting them on You-tube and Facebook. We started this practice Palm Sunday. The “services” are very popular and have literally a national audience – people from Oregon to Connecticut view them. 
 
We got our first taste of icky summer last week. Temps were in the 90’s, the heat index was 105, there was an air quality alert. But a storm system blew in, cleansed the air, lowered the temperature, and gave us some relief. Weather systems are above us. Pandemic disease is all around us. Yet, we press on. We move forward. We trust God. We help others as we are able. We show love. We share forgiveness. We live our place in this Body of Christ. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah
July 5 thru July 12 – A.D. 2020
 
How was your 4th of July? My neighborhood had several household gatherings. I assume they wore masks and practiced social distance. I heard a lot of laughter at outdoor games. Then I really heard a lot of fireworks as it grew dusk. My street was hazy with drifting smoke. I’ve mixed feelings on the fireworks. On the one hand, it’s nice that people get together to celebrate something. One the other hand, the explosions must terrorize many neighborhood pets. And, I thought I saw that Americans spent one billion dollars on fireworks this year. Most of that went to China. I hope that is not where our stimulus checks went. Anyway, I get the joy of running around with sparklers. And, small fire crackers are sort of fun to ignite once per year. But the bangs and booms from what I heard in my neighborhood seemed a little over the top. They sure were impressive, though. 
 
I saw a great 4th of July post on Facebook. There was a photo of the Declaration of Independence. The caption read, “World’s greatest break up letter.” Something that continues to give me great pause is to consider the 4thof July was only the beginning of a long series of events. It was not the case that as soon as the colonial delegates signed that we were free. The Declaration invited retaliation. It started the Revolutionary War that carried on for years. It took until 1789 for us to become an actual nation. That is when the continental congress approved the Constitution of the United States. 1776 to 1789 is a long time. Much was sacrificed those thirteen years. Much was thought and re-thought, written then re-written, negotiated then negotiated again. Civilization takes time. 
 
How is your summer going? 4th of July was always a sort of half marker thru summer for me. The beginning of summer that started on Memorial Day made summer feel long and slow moving. Daylight kept increasing. Then 4th of July arrives. That’s when heat intensifies and it does not feel quite so good to be outdoors for prolonged periods of time. The days seem to go faster now as daylight minutes decrease. Soon back to school ads will appear on TV. Soon plans will be underway for Labor Day. Then summer will be over. Summer arrives slowly and starts slowly. Then summer has a way of speeding up. Soon it’s in our rearview mirror. Another season is behind us. 
 
We observed in church this recent Sunday that Covid 19 has significantly altered how we celebrate major events. The events did not disappear. But our celebration of those events did change drastically. Congregations never finished Lenten midweek events. Holy Week came and we were ordered to stay at home. Easter Sunday came and we were still at home. Mothers’ Day came and went as we were physically distanced. Memorial Day events did not happen. Father’s Day was celebrated in social isolation. 4th of July happened in private yards, not public parks. 
 
Exterior, historical, cultural events change all the time. The bible tells us Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is a constancy which orients us in these inconsistencies. There’s a permeance against which our impermanence is measured. God was with us when we began this pandemic. God is with us in the middle of this pandemic. God will draw us thru to the other side when this pandemic comes to an end.  
 
Finance Committee and Property Committee meet July 6th. I’m sure property committee will adjust any measures that may be necessary to continue safe celebration of Holy Communion Saturday 10:00 a.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. Finance Committee will continue their transparent management of all of our offerings. We are grateful because there are friends of Messiah who also contribute to Messiah as a way of supporting Word and Sacrament ministry in this place and time. 
 
Thank you, Messiah, for faithfully tuning into You Tube and Facebook to worship using the means of the media. The success of those services has been one of the many hidden blessings God has for us in this crisis.
 
Welcome Home to Messiah, 
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah – June 28, 2020 thru July 5, 2020
 
There is an important date in Lutheran history this week. It’s June 29th. On this date, in the year 1970, the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) changed its constitution in such a way that it would include and welcome the ordination of women. Messiah was a member of that LCA group in 1970. Our current denomination is the ELCA. Our presiding bishop, Elizabeth A. Eaton, encourages us in the ELCA to contact or write a note expressing thanks to women pastors who have impacted our lives. 
 
For some groups, the decision to ordination women involved a lot of fear and drama. Some denominations refused. Some denominations did so rather timidly. I think of the Anglican church; for a long-time they would ordain women as priests but not as bishops. When the LCA embraced ordination of women it came without a lot of trauma. It was the right thing to do; it was the natural thing to do. 
 
The ordination of women was an important initial step to honor diversity among the clergy. Sexual orientation and color of skin have become less of a barrier to ordination. Enrolling non-typical seminarians has had an opening up effect on seminaries. Seminaries have curriculums that accommodate the need for students to not move so much. Courses are offered in distance-learning modules and utilize adjunct faculty with specific skill sets. There has been a lot of growth and positive change in how we do church since June 29, 1970. The ordination of women has had a positive ripple effect that extends far beyond initial imaginings. 
 
I forgot last week to include another significant commemoration. June 25th was the 490th Anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. This document, referenced as AC or referred to as The Augustana, is the primary document that summarizes the theology of Lutheranism. I like a phrase from Michael Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Church. He refers to his denomination as, “The Episcopal wing of the Jesus movement.” We could say something similar for ourselves. We are the Lutheran wing of the Jesus movement. The Augsburg Confession succinctly describes who we are and what we believe our calling is as children of God. 
 
Covid 19 continues. As of this writing there are 9.8 million active cases of the virus world-wide. Cases in the USA comprise about 25% of the world’s total. I’ve heard different assessments. One is we were getting ahead of the first wave, but irresponsible behaviors in re-opening prevented us from concluding the first phase of the disease. Another point of view suggested this is already the second wave but a bit early. Yet another point of view is the second wave will hit mercilessly late summer or early fall. We just don’t know. And when human behavior is so irresponsible, we can be sure of even less. 
 
We do know deep down at the bottom of this seemingly bottomless well of uncertainty that God is present. And in God’s own way, God is love. If I had my druthers, God’s love would sweep away this virus. But God has not asked my opinion. I do know God’s love is visible and felt in all the powerful exchanges of care I see between people. When we reach out, show hospitality, show humor, show patient endurance, that is God’s love at work among us. We do not have to wait for the end of this pandemic to understand God’s love at work. God’s love is at work here and now. Whether this is the end of the beginning or the beginning of the middle, God’s love works here and now.
 
Thank you, Messiah, for gathering safely and responsibly for Holy Communion Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. (except for 4th of July) and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Thank you for tuning into the worship services on You Tube and for sharing them on Facebook. Thank you for your regular offerings. Thank you for being you. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah, 
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah – June 21, 2020 thru June 29, 2020
 
Virtual Blessing the Fleet went really well last week. We started at Mother of Sorrows Church where this tradition began seventy years ago. City Manager Timonere wrote a really nice speech on Ashtabula heritage and vitality. Civic Leader Chris Seuffert gave an enthusiastic welcome to summer. Sea Scouts pledged the allegiance and cast the memorial wreath. Sarah Oberstar played taps. Isabelle Fleming filmed and edited. We said prayers from Pointe Park. We drove down and then drove up Bridge Street. You may see it by accessing Facebook Page Messiah Lutheran Church Ashtabula. It’s on our website – MessiahAshtabula.com. 
 
Living virtually during Covid 19 continues. Ashtabula Ministerial Association held our monthly meeting virtually. We shared our positive experiences of the peace and justice rally in North Park. On June 24th the Cleveland East ELCA pastors will hold a virtual meeting with Bishop Allende. The synod assembly is scheduled for September 11th and 12th but we may have to observe that virtually if it is not safe to gather in large numbers. 
 
Messiah has enjoyed two weekends now with worshiping together in our church building. Service times are set for 10:00 a.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The Saturday service time draws people from Sunday and so brings down the number of people meeting in the same room in the same time. Spaces in the pews are marked so people are kept physically distant from each other. Holy Communion is creatively served. We are not close together, there is no contact between persons, ministers do not speak directly over people. Sanitizers are abundant. Custodians sterilize the building. Whenever you are confident and comfortable, you are welcome home to Messiah any time. The decision is yours. 
 
I just learned from Hospitality Committee Chair Ruth Hlinovsky that the picnic table area of Saybrook Park is closed thru the summer. That means Messiah will NOT gather there in August for our annual worship service / picnic overlooking the lake. We will explore options for us to safely gather at Messiah, but only if we are confident that we can put something together that is safe.
 
We’ll attempt a Wednesday bible study this summer. Meet in the Luther Room on Wednesdays at 10:00. Tables and chairs are arranged to keep people distant. We’ll study the Book of Romans.

If anyone is interested, I say Morning Prayer in the church at 10:00 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s “from the book”, the ELW, so involves a lot of page turning. Please email me or message me any prayer requests you would like for me to include. 
 
A daily devotional page is on Messiah’s web site. It’s called daily readings and prayers. The schedule of bible readings is that suggested for us in the ELW. I type out the chapter and verse reference for those daily readings then provide a brief commentary on the reading. Two reading are suggested for each day. If two is too much, you may only read one reading a day. Either way, there is commentary from me to introduce the reading and explain it a bit. 
 
Thank you again for your regular weekly offerings that you mail in, drop off, or send electronically. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah,
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah – June 14, 2020 thru June 21, 2020
 
We are still aglow after the rally for peace and justice in Cornelius Park on June 6th. We knelt together grieving violence and we lit candles together as sign of hope for justice and reconciliation in our land. The event was without disruptive incident. Ashtabula should be proud of itself. 
 
Another event that only a pandemic could inspire is set for June 16th. This will be a virtual blessing of the fleet. Isabelle Fleming will “film” community leader Chris Sueffert, City Manager Jim Timonere, Sea Scout Master Tom Chubb, Taps trumpeter Sarah Oberstar, and prayer leader Pr. Meranda. Bella will splice those sections together then put it on Facebook. Knowing the power of social media, this will go virtual very quickly. In that respect it is rather nice. Many will have opportunity to see how Ashtabula blesses its fleet and water ways. It’s always a meaningful event, given our proximity and reliance on the Great Lakes. 
 
The June 8th council meeting approved our return to this building for worship services. This whole process, thanks to property committee and council, has been so intelligently handled. The building is sanitized. No bulletins are handed out, nor hymnals touched. Communion is shared safely, only the recipient directly touches the elements and ministers are at a safe distance. Doors are open so we do not have to touch handles. We register names who attend. We wear masks and do not socialize closely. Sanitizers are throughout the building. We are physically separated but we are still united as body of Christ. 
 
This week began with a commemoration day on the Lutheran calendar. June 14th recalls three early bishops in the Cappadocia region of what is now known as Turkey. (1) Gregory of Nyssa was one of many who paved the way for mystical, or contemplative prayer. In other words, God sometimes prefers to come to us in our silence and openness rather than thru our words and thoughts. Gregory of Nyssa wrote a series of lectures we would now describe as a catechism. One of the may legacies of Luther is his Small Catechsim. (2) Basil is remembered for his role in asserting the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Trinity. Luther’s writing is SO balanced as he describes how Father, Son, Holy Spirit work simultaneously in our salvation. (3) Gregory of Nazianzus is also known as Gregory the Theologian. He compiled sources from other authors before him to form a book on prayer. He gave to the Virgin Mary the title “God-bearer”, a title affirmed by our Lutheran Confessions. There is a vast and ancient range of theological schools that are part of Christianity. Desert monks were among the earliest. Countless schools of thought emerged and morphed thru the centuries. Several good Methodist pastors I know in Ashtabula have been influenced by Wesleyan Theology. Since seminary days I’ve been drawn to Swedish Lutheran Lundensian theology. More recent schools of thought include Liberation Theology and Feminist Theology. Theology’s attempt is to make clear the mystery of God. More often than not, theology’s method and vocabulary obscure God. This is where Luther is so helpful. His catechism is so “down to earth”. He writes about God gracefully at work in our family, our work place, our home, in our soul. God is grace, so we are always loved and forgiven. God is calling us, so we always are on the look out for ways to serve our neighbor. 

If anyone is interested, I say Morning Prayer in the church at 10:00 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s “from the book”, the ELW, so involves a lot of page turning. Please email me or message me any prayer requests you would like for me to include. 
 
Here is an invitation for bible study. Every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. I teach a course on the Book of Romans. I start June 17th. It’s good to just take a bible book and go thru it. The bible reading schedule in ELW bounces around from brief section to brief section following a central theme. But to just start a book at chapter one verse one and then to continue thru until the final verse is like taking a long, slow journey. We see so many vistas along the way. We form new friendships. We gain new insight about the world and ourselves. We grow more deeply into the love God has for us.  
 
Filming “services” and putting them on You tube will continue thru the remainder of summer. Messiah members and friends have a wide range of choices to help us worship. We may watch on You tube the service that we film on Thursday. We may attend in person Saturday at 10:00 a.m. We may attend in person Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
 
Thank you again for your regular weekly offerings that you mail in, drop off, or send electronically. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah,
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah – June 7, 2020 thru June 14, 2020
 

The rally for justice and peace held at Cornelius Park on June 6th was simply astonishing. Before the event, many had been concerned about the possibility of violence. The atmosphere at the event was so mellow. I had invited pastors in the ministerial association to congregate together, which we did. The speakers were very articulate on the ongoing reality of racism and white privilege. The crowd was attentive and polite. Two police officers took a knee with the crowd for nine minutes as we recalled the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The candle light at the end underscored the event as something beyond another protest. It was a rally for unity. Ashtabula should be very proud how we gathered and conducted ourselves.  
 
Our congregational council meets June 8th.  A major item on the agenda will be when to resume church services at Messiah. The Property Committee met June 1stand affirmed procedures and protocols to ensure safety when we do resume services. Those recommendations will be shared with the council. The council will determine when we resume services.  As soon as that is official, we’ll get the word out via Gmail,  social media and our website
 
In recent years the month of June has brought two major events to my calendar. They are Blessing of the Fleet in Ashtabula’s Harbor and Summer Solstice Vespers at Red Brook. Because of Covid19 restrictions, both those events are cancelled. We are working on a possible virtual blessing of the fleet. Perhaps an outdoor, socially distanced vespers event could be arranged – but we would sure miss being on the lake. 
 
If you have not thanked Cathy Carle yet you may still do so. She recently retired after having served as our secretary for eleven years. Cathy brought amazing proof-reading skills. Also, as a life long resident of Ashtabula, she knew family connections in our congregation and outside of our congregation. Cathy’s final job here was to train our summer secretary, Isabelle Fleming. When Isabelle returns to Kent State in September, we’ll renew our search for a church secretary. 
 
The church services put on You Tube and Facebook are very well received. Messiah’s building is so photo-genic. One reason for that is the residual spirit of all the people that saturates this place. This building has hosted so much laughter and service and good spiritedness thru the decades. That sort of gets absorbed in the walls and wood.  One of the projects I have most appreciated in my tenure here is the opportunity to welcome people home to Messiah on social media. The Word of God is paramount in Lutheranism. It’s such a joy to share the Word this winsome way.
 
Your regular weekly offerings are inspiring. Thank you for all the gifts you mail in, drop off, or send electronically. You are part of a One Hundred Year tradition of people of God at Messiah making a difference. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah,
Pastor M 


Welcome Home to Messiah – May 31 – June 8, 2020
 
Good people circulate thru Messiah pretty much every day. Friday, May 19th, we welcomed another special guest. Tracy Leonardson was passing thru Ashtabula. She is the granddaughter of our second pastor to serve Messiah, Oscar Leonardson. Pastor Leonardson served here from 1932-1938 before taking a call to Illinois. He died when Tracy was only five years old. But he left such a positive impression on her life that she wanted to see the place here where he served. Lanny Anderson was on hand to record the story for “The Messenger”. Cathy Carl and Isabelle Fleming did a really nice job of pulling up items from the archives for Tracy to view and photograph. 
 
Thursday, May 28th, brought a sad event to Messiah. Long time member Peter Laveck had died on May 24th. In this Covid 19 era no funeral service was planned. Funeral Director Kathleen Shaffer was kind enough to arrange for me to say some commendation prayers over Peter prior to his cremation on May 28th. It’s always an honor for pastors to be involved with people in their last stages of this life. We know, by grace and gift from God, there is more life to come. Peter’s exceptional voice could out-sing the whole congregation. He drove a 1990’s Buick station wagon that I just loved.
 
The heroes in our town these days are families with graduating seniors. It’s hard to believe that these unprecedented times have taken from us a basic tradition we always assumed would be there – graduation ceremonies. I’m impressed with schools & households arranging socially distanced events and drive throughs. This generation of young people have endured a lot. They were toddlers when our culture adjusted to life after Nine Eleven. They were youngsters during the economic collapse in 2008. They are high schoolers during the pandemic of 2020. Three times in their young lives they’ve had to negotiate a brave new world. They have much to teach us and the generations that will follow them. 
 
We’re dealing with two epidemics these days, which makes this such a stressful time. Jim Wallis, well known pastor and activist, articulated that idea of twin epidemic time. The one epidemic is medical, it is Covid19. The other epidemic is spiritual/social, it is racism and white supremacy. It’s a challenge for any culture to deal with one epidemic. It’s overwhelming to deal with two. But deal we must. What happened in Minneapolis has generated a storm of protest. We can’t just sweep up the broken glass and go on as usual. We have to talk and talk and fix and fix this four-century old problem in America. I think some of the examples we’ve seen from law enforcement will show us how to do this. Police officers across the land stood down in the face of demonstrators. The police lowered batons, removed helmets, and took a knee. They talked with demonstrators and shared handshakes. We need to arrange similar encounters here and all across this land. 
 
When you phone Messiah a new voice will answer the telephone. Isabelle Fleming is our new 12-hour per week secretary. Cathy Carle retired from that position after serving ably over eleven years. Our council honored Cathy with flowers, a card, and a special gift. Messiah members and friends are encouraged to reach out to Cathy and thank her for a job well done this past decade. 
 
The church services put on You Tube and Facebook are very well received. Messiah’s building is so photo-genic. One reason for that is the residual spirit of all the people that saturates this place. This building has hosted so much laughter and service and good spiritedness thru the decades. That sort of gets absorbed in the walls and wood.  One of the projects I have most appreciated in my tenure here is the opportunity to welcome people home to Messiah on social media. The Word of God is paramount in Lutheranism. It’s such a joy to share the Word this winsome way.
 
Property Committee will discuss protocols for safely opening a building during Covid19. They meet June 1st. Council meets on June 8th. Council will receive and consider recommendations from Property Committee for possible re-opening. There is no official word yet when we may return to public worship at Messiah. When that decision is made, we’ll joyfully get the word out. 
 
Your regular weekly offerings are inspiring. Thank you for all the gifts you mail in, drop off, or send electronically. You are part of a one hundred year tradition at Messiah of people of God making a difference. 
 
Welcome Home to Messiah,
Pastor M 
 

Welcome Home to Messiah – May 24 – 31, 2020
 
This week began with the celebration of the 7th Sunday of Easter. This week ends with the Festival of Pentecost. But that is typically not how America keeps time. In our culture Memorial Day is how we prepare for and mark this week on the calendar. 
 
I always especially appreciated Memorial Day weekend. It signaled the end of the school year. It announced the beginning of summer. Weather in late May is typically beautiful. If it is unusually cool it is not too cold. If it is unusually warm it is not too hot. I always welcomed Memorial Day as the transition from the busier school year linked calendar to the more leisurely summer activities linked calendar. 
 
But, it is good when culture slows down and takes in the true meaning of Memorial Day. We would not have this holiday if others had not given their lives for freedom’s sake. The best use of our time on Memorial Day is not padding the calendar with a longer list of “to do” items. The best use of our time this day is to pause as we display the flag, remember those we may know of who have died in the line of duty, say a prayer memorializing those who have died in the service, reach out to someone we know who may have lost a loved one who died while serving, plant something outdoors in memory of those who have died, etc. 
 
Messiah had a great Memorial Day weekend tradition. Messiah members and friends submitted orders for geraniums. The altar guild purchased geraniums and displayed them in the church. The secretary produced a sheet naming the military persons for whom the geraniums had been purchased. Covid19 interrupted this good tradition. I expect it will resume Memorial Day weekend in 2021. 
 
May 24th brought a minor festival day to the Lutheran calendar. We remembered Nicolaus Copernicus who died in 1543. We also remembered Leonhard Euler who died in 1783. Both were scientists. Copernicus demonstrated the sun, not the earth, is center of our solar system. Euler is known for contributions to three dynamics that sustain modern culture: hydrodynamics, acoustics, and optics. It is appropriate that scientists are remembered on the Lutheran calendar. Creation is gift from God and matrix for this gift of life. Math and Science explore mysteries of this universe and catalogue the grandeur of this creation.  Math and science are ways of understanding and explaining this infinite reality of energy and matter that began when God said, “Let there be.”
 
Covid19’s impact on our culture continues. Many venues are beginning to re-open. Often, I hear people say, “I’m not going out!” Often, I see people out there without masks or social distance! Most of us wonder, deep down, what we could do to be of help. All signs seem to point to support local business. I hear there is a new bakery open on Ashtabula’s Main Ave. I think this will be a good week for cinnamon rolls. I’m happy to say that with the $1,200 stimulus check I received I spent $400 of it at a nearby nursery and bought a really nice tree. The remainder may go towards a kayak.
 
Tuesday this week Messiah secretary Cathy Carle will train new secretary Isabelle Fleming. We know Isabelle most recently from the wonderful work she does filming the Sunday “services” that are posted on You Tube channel Messiah Lutheran Ashtabula. Eleven years ago, outgoing secretary Dee Dee Maenpa had trained new secretary Cathy Carle. I’m not sure who trained Dee Dee before that. The point is Messiah is fortunate for all the good people who have occupied the secretary’s desk in Messiah’s office.
 
There is no official announcement as to when Messiah will reopen. We received a helpful letter from Ashtabula County Health Department. The letter specifies the protocol that is to be followed before local congregations may reopen safely. Messiah will conform to those guidelines. So, when we do regather for Word and Sacrament in this building, we’ll do so safely and joyfully.
 
Again, your dedication to regular offerings is inspiring. You mail them in, drop them off, or send them electronically. I wonder what offerings were like during the Great Depression, during World War II, during the polio epidemic, during the turbulent 1960’s, et cetera?  Messiah members have weathered a lot of storms thru the years. This community of faith has withstood them all. We’ve done so because Christ leads us and, “Christ is risen, risen indeed, alleluia!”
 
Welcome Home to Messiah,
Pastor M 
 

Welcome Home to Messiah – May 17 – 24, 2020
 
There is a principal festival on the church’s calendar this week. The Ascension of our Lord is Thursday, May 21st. Forty Days after his resurrection, Jesus takes disciples to a hilltop. He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of sight. (Acts 1:1-11). This is where speculation as to the nature of God enters in.  In classical Cristian thinking, Jesus is two natures, human and divine. At his Ascension he does not jettison the human nature. Therefore, when Jesus, true God and true human, resumes place at God the Father’s right hand, the divine nature of the trinity subsumes the divine AND human nature of Jesus. 
 
Luther did not care for philosophical speculations about God. Luther wanted us to surrender to and follow God. The angels in the story direct our focus where our focus needs to be. The angels told the disciples, “Why do you stand up, looking toward heaven? He will come to you in the same way as you saw him go.” In other words, living without focus, with our head in the clouds, is not our calling. Before the ascension Jesus told disciples to look outward, not upward. He told them, “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” In other words, look around you. Look here and now. The world around us needs our witness. This place and this time need to hear our lives speak forgiveness, hope, and community.
 
Covid19’s impact on our culture continues. Mt Carmel has cancelled their annual summer festival. That is huge in Ashtabula culture. I know families who plan their summer vacations around that festival. At the same time, discussions are underway in the Blessing the Fleet committee to make that a virtual event. We will not gather people under a tent in the harbor. Instead, we’ll video tape aspects of that event, similar to the way Isabelle Fleming and I video tape Sunday “services” for Messiah. 
 
Speaking of Isabelle Fleming, I’m pleased to announce that, with church council approval, she will be the next office secretary at Messiah. Dee Dee Maenpa served us faithfully for years. Cathy Carle has served faithfully for over a decade. Now we are pleased that Isabelle (Bella) will fill that role. Bella has great computer skills. She’s good at multi-tasking, organizing, and has good public relations skills. Moreover, she was raised up at Messiah. In the hiring process council members spoke their preference to have a Messiah member take that job, one who knows us and one who we know. I’m looking forward to Cathy training Bella and Bella continuing to bring stability to that role. It’s a limited position, only 12 hours per week.
 
There is no time table yet for re-opening Messiah. Our bishop wants NE Ohio Synod congregations to stay closed thru May. There are some speculations as to how we may re-open for church services sometime after May. Multiple service times have been suggested that minimize the number of people who may gather the same place in the same time. There are options for Holy Communion that minimize human contact, including the “snack packs” that non liturgical churches use. In my May 17th sermon, I said that suffering prompts creativity. When the time is right, I know Messiah will create a safe way for us to come home here together. 
 
Again, your dedication to regular offerings is inspiring. You mail them in, drop them off, or send them electronically. I wonder what offerings were like during the Great Depression, during World War II, during the polio epidemic, during the turbulent 1960’s, et cetera?  Messiah members have weathered a lot of storms thru the years. This community of faith has withstood them all. We’ve done so because Christ leads us and, “Christ is risen, risen indeed, alleluia!”
 
Welcome Home to Messiah,
Pastor M