State of the Church Report, 2021
St. Luke Church, Bryn Mawr
Pastor David Tatgenhorst
This Sunday, St. Luke will celebrate 144 years of God’s faithfulness to our congregation in Bryn Mawr. This church has carried out ministry to our community for these many years through good times and bad. The year and a half since the pandemic began have been particularly difficult times, but times like these are the most important times for a church to hang together and to be there for the community.
St. Luke has found powerful ways to be there for each other and to continue to minister during these difficult times. Early in the pandemic St. Luke took strong steps to make sure we would be able to broadcast our services to our congregation and to reach beyond geographical limitations to anyone around the country - or the world - who wants to tune in.
We have tried many things. In the beginning, Pastor Joanne Miles took the lead in making sure that we would be able to broadcast our Sunday morning services. Later, she and Bill Reim, and Matthew English all played parts in making sure that we reached out with beautiful Sunday and holiday services, most broadcast live and a few beautifully pre-recorded.
This summer as the virus loosened its grip on our community, we began to slowly and safely invite people to come back to worship. The hybrid method of worship was sometimes disconcerting as people in the sanctuary only saw a few people or people online only saw a few people. We wondered if we were all still there.
So we began to find other ways to reconnect. Terri Leone, who became co-layleader with Fred Vivino last year, stepped up and organized a number of outdoor events. We had Saturday hot chocolate and collection of food bank items. We organized Friday Ministry walks in a variety of parks where people could enjoy the beauty of God’s creation and have a chance to talk and pray about their spiritual journey.
We had some beautiful worship experiences outdoors in the playground, and provided people with communion and worship aids for the holidays. Pastor Joanne put together a beautiful Pentecost altar for the outdoor service in May, and nearly monthly worship bags, with Advent devotionals, an Easter beach glass cross, and other gifts that helped all of our congregation feel connected.
Meanwhile, Kiara Hernandez kept a small Children’s Celebration online community going. This fall she decided to meet separately online with two age groups to be able to pay closer attention to the needs of each age group. After a promising first series, our plans for a Freedom School with Cookman Beloved Community Baptist Church and with the Main Line Muslim Society has stalled, but our relationship with both groups is strong and the Freedom School may yet come together.
At the end of October in our All Saints Day celebration, we celebrated the lives of beloved members and family members, and friends who died in the last year. There has been a lot of heartbreak in the past year. We particularly remember Margaret Dot Hull who was a faithful member of St. Luke. And in the last few weeks, we have only begun to mourn the deaths of Mark Silverie who was a member of Radnor UMC, and this week, we lost our beloved Connie Borum. We are planning a funeral for Mark on Saturday, and a memorial service for Connie on Friday, December 3rd at 11 am.
The Exercise Your Faith LIFE group, led by Marilyn Arnott, has continued to meet online throughout the pandemic and has become a key support base for its members. The Men’s LIFE group led by Jon Cumming and the Parents’ LIFE group le by Adrienne Lucas have not been able to meet as often, but they continue to be present to each other, providing important support for people’s spiritual lives.
At the end of June, St. Luke held an amazing party and worship service to celebrate the 25th anniversary of my ministry at the church. It was a touching service and ceremony which I will never forget. Beginning in July, I began a year of 3/4 time ministry. I took the month of August off and a Sunday in October and November, and that has been a blessing.
In preparation for Charge Conference, I decided that this arrangement probably isn’t the best for St. Luke for another year. Earlier this month, I announced that I would be retiring at the end of June, and Pastor Joanne announced that she would be leaving as well, at the end of this month. These transitions are, naturally, creating a fair amount of anxiety in our small congregation. We are thankful to District Superintendent Evelyn Kent Clark for meeting with us for our own charge conference this evening to help us deal with that anxiety a bit, to answer our questions and help us prepare for this transition. We want to talk with you in particular about moving to an alternate board structure, and folks have other questions about the process of getting a new pastor. I am confident that this congregation will pull together as it has in the past and support each other and welcome a new pastor. I acknowledge that the transition is not easy. Pastor Joanne has been a gift to this congregation for close to 5 years and her talents are irreplaceable. We will honor her ministry with us as part of the anniversary celebration this Sunday. We will also be awarding the Jim McDermott award to Terri Leone, an honor she richly deserves. I will use the next six months of ministry at St. Luke to make as smooth a transition as possible to a new pastor. I will work to solidify our relationships with the Main Line Muslim Society and the Narberth Havurah, so that our interfaith ministries can grow and continue into the future. I will also be working to develop new leadership in POWER Main Line during this time. I can already tell that some of the things I really wanted for this ministry will not be completed by the time I retire. This congregation has developed a resilience and tenacity that has been tested during the pandemic and will likely continue to be tested during the coming year. I know though how much you love each other and I know you are committed to this ministry together. We have had a really good run. I expect you to be there for each other and continue in faithfulness for many years to come.