State of the Church Report, 2020
St. Luke Church, Bryn Mawr
Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Before I talk about the resilience and powerful community at St. Luke, I have to acknowledge that 2020 has been a brutal year for us, as it has been for so many. We have been blessed and privileged to comfortably survive through it all, but closing the church for 7, going on 8 months, has been difficult. The students who became active last year are not here anymore; remote worship is an inadequate substitute for hugs and sharing of bagels; not being able to welcome visitors through our doors stunts our outreach efforts. Simply put, it is a wearing and difficult time.
All that said, St. Luke continues to minister to each other and to our neighborhood in dynamic ways. Our Sunday morning services on line each Sunday have continued to be a touchstone for each of us, a place where we get support and encouragement, connecting us to our spiritual Source and strength. We have had worship series to address difficult issues of racism, the pandemic, and polarization, as well as celebrating God’s creation, and learning what we can from the extraordinary circumstances of this year.
Terri Leone, a member for just a few years, has agreed to step up to be new co- layleader of the church in 2021. She did a wonderful sermon on domestic violence for Laity Sunday in October and her enthusiasm for the work of the church has already made a big difference for our ministries.
We have adapted worship almost weekly to be able to reach people at home online. Pastor Joanne Miles, Bill Reim, and Matthew English have all worked hard to make sure that we do the best we can at being heard, even when the internet connection is spotty, and creating stronger worship experiences. A highlight was the outside worship service we had this fall which was a kind of mini-reunion. We have invited back into the sanctuary people who do not have computers and internet connections, since they are the ones who most need the live experience.
We have installed a new camera system which promises to make our online service better so we can continue to minister to home bound people, to people who don’t live nearby and to visitors who want to check out the church without coming in person. We are working to get that system working well for the holidays.
Kiara Jewette Hernandez has stepped into leading the Children’s Celebration. She is leading a Freedom Sunday School at 11:30 each Sunday collaborating with Cookman Beloved Community Baptist Church to teach children about the Beatitudes and about the civil rights movement. We are planning to expand this freedom school in the new year to include young people from the Muslim Masjid that had been praying at our church before the pandemic.
Interfaith connections have been a growing opportunity for us in the last year. We want to continue those connections and develop them even while the pandemic continues, but it will be a lot easier if we figure out how to worship in person with each other.
We have continued strong support for Grace Cafe and Mary Jane Enrichment Center - mostly financially, since it has been hard to be there in person. Rev. Tom Lank has moved his office out of our church, but we will continue to work with him when it becomes possible to do mission work in Puerto Rico again.
Last Sunday, November 1st, All Saints Day, we celebrated the lives of members of this church who died in the last year. Donna Boswell and Raymond Sargent had been members for decades and we will miss them.
The church has continued this year to be a center for anti-racism work and a center with POWER Main Line’s regional efforts. Pastor David has helped to organize folks from Lower Merion township for racial justice vigils, for voter turnout, and for work to end cash bail. I have continued to support work in our conference community on challenging racism in the church, with support from a dynamic group of pastors involved in Whites Confronting Racism.
In June, we celebrated our fifth anniversary as a Reconciling Congregation. We have been praying for the Way Forward as a church and making connections with other churches. We purchased a new rainbow flag with plans and hung it in front of the church, but wind has not been our friend, so we are working to find other ways to display the flag, along with banners representing our commitment to racial justice.
The Men’s LIFE group led by Jon Cumming, Parents’ LIFE group led by Adrienne Lucas and the Exercise Your Faith LIFE group led by Marilyn Arnott continue to meet regularly. These leaders have been caring for their groups many years - some for a few and some for a dozen and more years. The leaders meet once a month with the pastor for Bible study and encouragement and support.
Pastor Joanne and I have also led other Bible studies and worship times for the congregation during the pandemic that have been new sources of spiritual strength and sustenance.
When people come to visit St. Luke, they often comment on the warm welcome they receive, the beauty of the sanctuary, and the authentic commitment of the people they meet. I can’t wait for the time when we can again provide that welcome to people in the neighborhood. I am proud of our little congregation and pleased with the progress we have made to have a broader representation of generations and ethnic backgrounds in our midst. I feel enormously blessed to serve this vibrant and grace-filled community of people.