In my effort to blog about my own experiences as well as other churches, here is my next story. I have always known that church relationships matter. For 20 years, I have been in ministry on 3 different continents speaking 3 to 4 languages. But it didn’t really hit me until I made my last church move.
I used to work for Bethlehem Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis as the Director of Children’s Ministries. I loved my time with this generous and loving congregation. But after 7 years, I felt the call to move. This time – still in south Minneapolis, 2 miles apart – to Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Children’s Ministries and now as Intern Pastor. It’s been a good fit to be with this equally generous and loving congregation.
But I will never forget the day when I told my kids that we were moving congregations. Jacob being 9 years old at the time burst into tears in the backyard. He began to rattle off a list of names – Lottie, Gabby, Anna – peers from his Sunday School class. His list was long! He feared that he would forget them.
Noah, who was on the verge of 7th grade, would not talk to me. Instead, he texted. He said, “I love Bethlehem.” In my reply, I affirmed his feelings about Bethlehem but reassured him that he would love Good Shepherd as well. Noah then responded in another text with just 4 names: Jensen, Henry, Fritz, and Marshall. The first two didn’t surprise me. They were his peers. But Fritz and Marshall were 4 year olds. Noah had been their assistant teacher for Sunday School. He valued their relationship just as much as he did his peers! (Sidebar: My kids loved both churches and have made lasting relationships at each congregation.)
At the heart of the church’s identity is relationship. The essence of God manifests in relationship—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Christ, God emptied God’s self, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Philippians 2). Through Christ we are restored to God. In Christ, we find strength to forgive and love the other.
Relationships matter. With church, we have the gift and the richness of multiple generations in one place. Of course, this gift is not without its challenges. One challenge is the significant difference between how 20th and 21st century people live, learn and process. We’ve changed from linear to multi-sensory, physical to virtual, local to global. “Why change?” is now “Why not change?” (Next week’s blog!)
But for now, it’s a tale of two churches. Two congregations that have loved my children and have held onto them tightly. And what I have figured out during this past 10 years between the 2 churches is how to be a “connector”. In a time when faith and daily life seem far from one another, my role is to help people connect the dots of faith through their relationship with God and each other. It’s a time when relationships matter.
As an intern, I don’t know where I will land next whether it is a call to a church, to be a missionary, or a clerk at Barnes and Nobles. But I do know how I will proceed with my work – in relationship with God and God’s people.