Church #13. Meet Aimee Frye Appell. She is the solo pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Washington, Missouri. Peace is located about one hour west of St. Louis with an average worshiping attendance of 70 people.
Peace was a mission start congregation in the 1980’s with Appell serving as their 3rd pastor. Like many congregations, Peace has had their share of struggles. Times when ideas failed, people left, and anxiety ran high. But that has all changed now with Appell at the helm. Building on work that the congregation began in the interim period, she realized that to move this congregation forward, they would need to heal. Here is what she did:
Step 1 – A Fresh Start: Appell’s first step was to bring everyone on the same page with a renewed mission statement. Peace states that they are “Bound by Christ to Break Boundaries.” This statement gives Peace focus and purpose to what happens inside or outside the walls of the church.
Step 2 – (Re)Learning Invitation: Appell says, “Learning how to be a welcoming congregation takes practice!” Hospitality is not necessarily part of the DNA of any church. It’s something that must sometimes be (re)learned. Appell invited her congregation to dream about hospitality. She focused on the people who were present and helping them learn the mission statement. It’s easy to welcome and invite friends and neighbors to church if people know what they are inviting them into. As a result, Peace is growing! The congregation has moved from 3 children to 12, people who had once been members are returning, and grandchildren of members are finding their way to the pews.
Step 3 – Honest Conversations: There are many big issues facing congregations. Appell sees these issues as opportunities to move people into the work of reconciliation. Here is an example: when the marriage equality law was passed, Peace entered “a discernment process not a decision one.” It was a time of listening and asking questions, yet ended with no clear consensus. But it became a moot point after they welcomed a same gender couple into the life of the church. Honest conversations and focus on relationship can help unravel the issues and bring people together.
Why is the healing process important? It is important because of what Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. The ministry of reconciliation is the church’s process of healing. Appell says, “Healing takes place in new beginnings, in the practice of hospitality, and in willingness to live in the gray areas.” It’s by living in this tension that reconciliation opens the door of dialogue and allows for God’s people to discover the joys of one another.
To learn more about this story, please contact Aimee Frye Appell at 636-239-1878 or firstname.lastname@example.org.