My Dearest CtK Readers...
Usually when I write this blog, I write about ways God's love has come to life at CtK in recent weeks, however this week is a little bit different. This week I'm going to flip it around a bit and ask you to help bring God's love to life yet again.
Recently I found myself in conversation with a few parents of young children in our congregation. We were talking about the joys and struggles of having our small children at home, and...the lament we feel. Just like all of you, not only are we missing connecting with our church community in person, but our littles are as well. We grieve the fact that for the past 9 months, our little humans who have so much to learn about the world, and long for community and familiar faces and connections just as much as adults do, haven't been able to connect with their church community. From a Faith Formation perspective, we know that faith is formed through personal, trusted relationships, and right now small children (think 5 and under) don't really have an opportunity to form those relationships with their church family.
I know one of the fears that we parents have is that whenever we do return to worshipping in person, coming to church might be a scary thing because there will be SO many people, most of which will seem like new faces. In our family, Miriam was just freshly 1 year old the last time we worshipped together in person with all of you. In that time she has changed SO much, and she is much more aware of the people around her. Coming to church might be scary for her at first.
SO....this is where we parents of young children could use your help!
Children learn absorb a TON of information through books. Because of that, we'd like to create a picture book called, "We Are Your Church." The feature of this book: ALL OF YOU! It will be a simple picture book that features informal photos of all of you, along with your first names.
Here's how you can help:
That's it! That's all we need you to do. From there, I'll work on putting the photos and your names into a simple photo book that will be available for families to purchase for a small fee.
One of the things that I LOVE about you, Christ the King, is that you are all about supporting and walking with the kiddos of our congregation. I give thanks for how you will make God's love come to life through the "We Are Your Church" book project!
Peace be the journey,
Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Although we may not be making the huge preparations, traveling, and gathering with many relatives and friends this holiday, we are perpetually reminded that thanksgiving is a time to remember our blessings and give our thanks to God. Rev David Lose, one of the ELCA’s leading pastors, has written many times that saying, “Thank you,” is one of the secrets of true happiness. In fact, one of our spiritual disciplines at mealtime is to say a prayer of thankfulness for the food that is before us. If a person eats three meals a day, then that is three times a day we get to express our thanksgiving to God.
This year our Thanksgiving Eve worship service and dessert time will look different. Since we are not gathering in person at church, how will we share our thankfulness and praise of God’s blessings? This year, 10 Churches are coming together to remember and to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received from God and from one another. Working together in the midst of the pandemic is a lesson we are learning about unity. Lord knows there are enough things that are trying to divide us. It is awe-some to think that when you combine the ELCA congregations in the Fox Valley, we are one of the largest churches!
Unity and working together for community at Thanksgiving, reminds us we are not alone, and we have much to give thanks to God for. Join us for the service that brings us together – 10 churches, 14 clergy, 5 musicians or musical groups and a host of congregational people and guests who will participate in giving thanks to God’s for the blessing we receive daily and throughout the year. I hope you will take time to worship and to thank God for the many blessings, including the people, that surround us. Not because God needs our expressions of thanks, but because in recognizing that we are blessed and giving thanks for those blessings, we are blessed yet again.
Happy Thanksgiving, Be Well & Be Safe – God Bless,
I love October! The flourish of changing colors, the harvesting of corn and the celebration of Halloween. However, I seemed to have missed Halloween! The pandemic can really seem to erase the events that help mark time and the seasons. As a kid (and as an adult), I love Halloween for the candy, seeing how people decorated their yards and experiencing the joy people share by handing out treats!
Instead of passing out candy for Trunk or Treat at CtK – we decided to share candy treats with hospital workers. Thank you to the people of CtK who donated candy! We were able to share 24 pumpkin buckets of treats for each hospital breakroom at ThedaCare – Appleton and St E’s Hospital. Each bucket was accompanied with a notecard of appreciation. Our volunteer who arranged to drop off the treats met nurses who expressed their gratitude, with tears in their eyes, for being remembered during the toughest days of the pandemic, “You just don’t know the stress we’re under and how hard we have been working.” Another person submitted a Facebook message, “When I came into work on Friday evening, there was a bucket of candy in the break room from CtK church. It put a smile on all our faces. Thank you (followed by emojis of praying hands and a smiley face).
The truth is, we don’t know the intense work and hours hospital employees are putting in, unless we live with one or have been cared for by one during the pandemic. However, the simple gift of remembering and sharing a small sweet token of appreciation can bring tears and emotions of thankfulness. That simply is how God’s love is coming to life through you, the church, the people of CtK!
Christ’s Blessings & Peace,
I write this week as a follow-up to Pastor Nate's piece last week about affirmation of baptism. Honestly, going into it all, I didn't really know what to expect. Like...we had a plan and everything, so that part was all good. But still, I couldn't help but wonder: will the Holy Spirit still show up today? Will the Holy Spirit still be able to enliven the faith of our young people even if it happens through an on-screen gathering?
I wasn't sure, but still we prepped. And we prepped. And we prepped. Special shout out this week goes to Kayla, our Director of Faith Formation for Confirmation and High School. When I say we prepped, what I really mean is that SHE prepped! Getting 43 busy families all on the same page is no small task, but she did it!
So with a brief gathering of the confirmation students on Wednesday night, then a few emails after that, and a bunch of video editing as well, Sunday came. There was an intensity to production this week -- a burning need to get things "right" so that our students could be celebrated. Pastor confession: We have a saying in my home for Sunday mornings. That saying is: "I'm sorry for whatever I say while we're livestreaming." Sometimes when things get intense with production, we (okay, it's me...so, I) don't always say things to one another in the kindest way. Going into it, worship had that "I'm sorry for whatever I say" feel to it. It needed to be perfect.
It's funny sometimes...how we strive for perfection, when really we just need something to be HOLY. And the HOLY part isn't up to us, it's up to the Holy Spirit.
Anyway...as to be expected, worship didn't end up being perfect, but it DID end up being Holy.
This year, there was no gathering in person, there were no red carnations, and the confirmation students professed their faith with the apostles creed in a zoom call. But even without all of the normal stuff, I still found myself getting goosebumps as I watched the monitors in our basement flash with slides of the students (by the way, shout out to Sue Wendler for that!), and as I heard their proud teachers and mentors read their names.
And the Zoom after-party. WOAH. It was certainly one of the biggest Zoom calls I've been on in awhile, AND it was certainly the the most holy. Some families were gathered physically in their homes. Other families were present on the call. There were grandparents, baptismal sponsors, aunts, uncles, siblings. It was like the kingdom of God showed up on our screens! One by one, these families laid hands on their students and blessed them using the same words that were read at their baptisms:
Stir up in name the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever.
Was it all perfect? No. Was it holy? YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES!!!! The Holy Spirit showed up in the most surprising of ways. As these young people affirmed their faith, and their families passed the baptismal candle to them to tend on their own, the Holy Spirit was there saying YES to them once again, as she shows up and does every. single. day. of. their. lives.
It was all so different, but nonetheless, it was all still holy. Thanks be to God!
Peace be the journey,
Speaking of not being perfect...this is the part where I intended to include some screen shots of all our students on Zoom, figuring that's the best we could do for a class photo. Turns out those didn't save the way I thought they would. So...here's a composite I threw together of all their individual photos. Sadly, this is missing a couple students.
“Celebrate!” “Praise God!” “Hallelujah!” These words might be spoken when a youth is about to reach their “confirmation day.” A lot has gone into reaching this milestone – Sunday school, Christmas pageants, confirmation classes, service hours, confirmation camp, worship notes – all of which are designed to teach and pass the faith on in meaningful ways. Faith begins in the home and Lord knows there have been many prayers spoken and challenging conversations shared by parents to explain “why” faith and worship are important.
Life is not exempt from painful and mountain top experiences. We all are works in progress. Youth are especially watching and developing their responses to the decisions they will face along life’s journey. Continue to surround youth with positive experiences, spiritually mature adults because faith development does not end on confirmation day. This is just the beginning!
The day of confirmation in the Lutheran Church is called “Affirmation of Faith.” Our young people will affirm their faith. The promises shared on the day of their baptism will be “affirmed” or shared again publicly, this time, by the youth. They are declaring that they want to take on the baptismal promises that began, for many of them, when they were infants. They are making faith their own. Please don’t let it stop there. They still need guidance from parents, Godparents and many other trusted adults. High School Youth Group, mission trips and volunteering at church and in the community are all ways we continue to exercise our faith.
I am sad this year is not going to look or feel as it usually does for our confirmands. With the pandemic in full swing and our area of Wisconsin being in a state of emergency – being gathered in person is just not safe for families, volunteers and pastors. I wish it could be different. However, we don’t want to continue to postpone this important day another time, so we are making the best of it. Sunday worship (10.25.20) will be live streamed at 9:15am as normal and confirmation youth will be involved in the worship service. The actual Rite of Confirmation or the Affirmation of Faith will happen in a separate Zoom call with families gathered safely in their homes, lighting candles, laying on hands and celebrating in their home spaces. Collectively we will be brought together by the Holy Spirit and the technology of Zoom to affirm faith. Our 9th grade class has 42 students in it!
Sunday will truly be a day when God’s love comes to life and not even a pandemic can stop it! I hope everyone of CtK congregation will join along with parents, Godparents and many relatives to give thanks to God for the milestone that will keep giving throughout a lifetime!
Christ’s Blessings & Peace, Pastor Nate
Yahoo, a new year of faith formation has begun! Last week, our Confirmation classes, had a very interesting conversation with a panel of church people. A great big THANK YOU to the adults who shared their faith stories about their life experiences with our 7-9 grade students, table guides and teachers. It was a lively conversation that shared a lot of laughter as well as some very real and difficult life lessons. We went from high to lows and back to highs learning how God is present and an important force in our lives. God’s love was revealed and came to life through the sharing of our adult panel. More importantly it came through our 7th grade class who demonstrated good listening from their weekly faith question answers. Here are some of their responses:
Good listening is “active” listening. Active listening is important, and our youth are learning that skill. Especially listening about how God loves them. Thank you, parents, table guides, teachers and everyone who continues to support our young people in making faith their own.
Christ’s Blessings & Peace,
If you would have asked me back in March if I thought I'd still be writing about things related to the covid-19 pandemic in October, I don't think I would have believed you. But...here we are.
Last week we had yet another state of the church webinar. A time when we gather together online to share information and updates on all that's been happening both in front of and behind the scenes at Christ the King. These webinars have become an important way for us to communicate all the things we have going on at Christ the King.
Each webinar includes a question and answer time. A time when those who are watching the webinar can type in any questions they have on their mind in the moment, and those of us who are on screen respond to those questions the best we can. Honestly, this month was the first time the tech part of the question and answer session worked as it was supposed to -- sometimes it's a real adventure to get technology to do what you want it to. Let me tell you though...I was SO glad it all worked, because through the Q&A time, we got to hear about how God is working through one of our members to bring love into the world.
During the Q&A time, someone submitted not a question, but a story. She shared how during this time of social distancing, one of the things she has done to stay connected to her neighbors is to write chalk messages on the walkway in front of her home. She noted how the neighbors seem to appreciate the messages. It was a heart-warming moment in the webinar, but it became so much more warm to me the more I thought about it.
Here's the thing my dear siblings in Christ: WORDS MATTER. The words that we hear and see and say throughout most of our days, are not always the most positive or uplifting words. Honestly, when is the last time you can remember someone saying something positive or encouraging to you? We live in a world where that just doesn't happen as often as it should. So...writing encouraging words in chalk is actually a Christ-filled, revolutionary action that is centered on love for our LITERAL neighbors.
So I'm challenging you this week -- the next time you place a curbside pick-up order from Target or the grocery store (which I hope you're doing to stay safe and keep others safe), do a revolutionary thing and include some sidewalk chalk in your order. From there, think about what your neighbors might need to hear from you. Let them know they are loved, let them know they are spectacular the way God made them, and let the know they MATTER.
Your words on a walkway could indeed go a LONG way that day.
Peace be the journey,
On Saturday, September 26, 2020 our East Central Synod of Wisconsin hosted its first virtual synod assembly. The main focus of our business was to have the election of bishop. Not to be overshadowed, it is also the year that we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women. The 40th anniversary for the ordination of women of color. It’s hard to believe it took ten more years for this to happen. And the 10th Anniversary of the ordination of LGBT people was permitted. Signs of gender justice does not all happen at the same time. This is a year of reckoning. A year of coming to grips. And a year of realizing just how people (men or patriarchy in this case) seek power and how we use language, labels and isms to retain our place in this world. It all comes at the expense of another.
There is a great deal of excitement to share about the election and about how the Holy Spirit works through the process of voting and hearing from our candidates. On this 50-40-10 year, this is the year our synod has elected our first female bishop. I am happy to announce God’s love coming to life in the election of Anne Edison-Albight will be our next bishop, beginning Dec 1.
Here is the bio of our Bishop-Elect
As we welcome Bishop-Elect Anne, we also must say farewell and Godspeed to Bishop Gerald Mansholt. Bishop Mansholt has served us for the past six years. He began as our interim bishop and was then elected as our local Bishop for the last 4 and half years. His love of God and love of the church has been seen in many ways, but most specifically through his work of listening deeply to God and to the other. Bishop Mansholt has been working on the Arise campaign to raise money to help support the synod send leaders to seminary and bolster ministry opportunities of our laity. We wish him Godspeed as the Spirit directs his next steps to serve the church.
I celebrate with my female colleagues and with the women of the church who revel with great joy and relief this milestone. God can use anyone to spread the good news message and I look forward to what God has in store for our synod in the days ahead.
Christ's Blessings & Peace,
We've said it a few times, but we're going to say it again: THANK YOU!
Thank you for being part of the ministry of Mission:Mask.
Last week Pastor Nate and I had the privilege of delivering masks to each of the Kaukauna schools for them to distribute to their staff. It seems like a simple thing, doesn't it? Like, I thought when we showed up at each of the schools we'd be greeted by someone at the door who would just receive the package and move on.
But let me tell you...it was so much more than that.
The timing ended up being perfect, you see. The person I'd been coordinating with at the school district office had just sent an email out that morning saying that masks would be coming sometime soon from Christ the King. So...rather than just showing up at doors, we were greeted by district staff members who were...ELATED! They were joyous, they were thankful, they asked if hugging was acceptable to us, they felt AFFIRMED.
I'm not sure what it is, but I've learned through my years of ministry that there's something SUPER POWERFUL and SACRED about being affirmed in ones vocation. And this year, we as the body of Christ can do some powerful ministry by continuing to affirm teachers for who they are, and for what they do. God created them with incredible gifts -- super powers if you as me-- to love and serve our youngest members. And this year in particular, I know they are working SO HARD at creating a safe and nurturing environment for learning to happen.
In the week since delivering masks, we have received three notes of thanks. Here they are for you:
Hello! My name is Jacob, and I teach at the Kaukauna High School. I want to thank you for your donation of masks. As I saw mine this morning, it made me think about how grateful I am to be a part of such a wonderful and supportive community. Thank you!
To Whom It May Apply,
On behalf of the River View staff I want to share our deep appreciation for the generous donation of masks to our school. What a fantastic way to honor staff for their efforts during this very unique school year. Your prayers and thoughtfulness will encourage us to forge ahead in the best interest of our students and community.
With Deep Gratitude,
To the Community of Christ the King,
A very special thank you to you and your church community for the masks! As a school community, we greatly appreciate this gift and the kindness! Kindness does matter-- thank you for sharing some :)
We wish you all well!
Holly Magness (Principal) & Victor Haen Staff
So that's that, Christ the King. That's how you have been part of bringing God's love to life in our community! It was fun wasn't it?? Let's keep going!
Peace be the journey,
We're thrilled this week to be able to share this post from our Choir Director, Joy Paffenroth. Joy is a choir teacher at Kaukauna High School who has been wading through the challenges of launching school for the 2020 school year. Here is a post she shared to her Facebook page a couple days after school started. We are sharing this here with her permission.
It’s been a LONG week. Although I am THRILLED to see my students again, the new reality of teaching is something like I’ve never experienced before. There are so many layers...so. many. I’m not going to lie...I’ve been letting my mind wander to other career paths. Legit. Seriously.
Today was our first “real” day of the year. No special schedules. Cohort B in person and some virtual students google meeting in while other virtual students did an asynchronous activity. (It’s a lot to manage...) 70 minutes in each class period. 4 classes. 1 prep time.
The in person activity today was a deep dive into the story that’s posted below at the end of this post. I did the same activity in all 4 classes...each with different tangents that emerged from the story thanks to open ended questions to the students. The crux of the activity was for students to reflect on 3 main ideas...what is your song? Who knows your song? Whose song do you know and how do you gently care for and safe guard that responsibility? The conversations were INCREDIBLE in every class...honestly, they were. A theme that emerged was that your song centers you and reminds you of who you really are when you need to remember it most.
"What is your song? Who knows your song? Whose song do you know and how do you gently care for and safe guard that responsibility?"
Between classes, I let my mind wander again to the difficult task at hand of teaching in this environment...is it sustainable for me mentally and emotionally? Am I really able to “be me” when teaching like this? Etc etc...
Then, after school a sophomore stopped in to chat and left me with a letter she wrote to me last night. I opened it after she left and the tears simply flowed. She so openly and honestly shared the impact I’ve had on her life...it was A LOT and I honestly had no idea. Not a single clue. I was just doing my job last year, being her choir teacher.
And then I realized, on the day I was sharing this story and discussion with my class, she was actually reminding me of my song...reminding me of my center and reminding of who I am and what I’m meant to do. Well played, universe, well played.
To all the teachers out there...you’re doing a good job. You are needed exactly where you are...even when you don’t feel like it.
Here’s the story I shared with my classes today for discussion-
When a woman in certain African tribes knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child's song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child's song. When the child passes through the initiation into adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.
Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person's bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn't. You may feel a little warble at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you'll find your way home.