God's Pothole Brigade
Spring Ministerium 2023 St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church Philippians 1:1-11 Grace and peace[...]
Date posted: Thursday 22 August 2019
Recently, Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Vadnais Heights received a grant from the Vadnais Lake Area Watershed Management Organization to participate in a community, service-learning project with two other local congregations. The project included multi-generational learning experiences about water quality, climate science, scripture, and problem-solving strategies through the organization Growing Green Hearts. As a congregation in mission redevelopment, participating in this grant program has been a practical way for Christ the Servant to meet its goal of intentionally listening and responding to God, one another, and the surrounding community.
In February, the three participating churches hosted a fun community event to raise awareness about water stewardship called “We All Drink the Same Water.” Relationships between community members and ecumenical partnerships were strengthened. In the final phase of the program, each church chose a project for putting what they learned into practice. One small group took a neighborhood walk along a stretch of the watershed to pray and to pick up trash. The mission and service team chose to adopt nearby storm drains and a rain garden at the elementary school across the street as ways to be involved in stewarding the watershed. Cleaning storm drains on the street near the church building has already provided opportunities for new conversations with neighbors.
As a way to include the entire congregation in the learning, worship and preaching over the summer months centered on the theme of biblical water stories. On one special Sunday, the story of Jesus’ baptism was the scripture theme and an excursion to a nearby lake for a renewal of baptism was planned.
It happened to be the same Sunday that a group of youth and young adults returned from a mission trip to North Carolina, where they had served in hurricane relief efforts.
At the end of their mission trip, everyone in the group decided to participate in an informal renewal of baptism by being immersed in the Atlantic Ocean. During worship, they shared how they understand themselves to be called into ministry within daily life because of their baptism. After seeing a video of the baptism renewals in the ocean, a group of people headed out to the lake. Beginning in ankle deep water, they marked the sign of the cross on one another’s foreheads and shared these words of promise, “(Name) Child of God, you are loved, you are forgiven, you are called.”
Some ventured out into deeper water to receive individual prayer and an immersion renewal. To preach that we receive God’s promises through baptism is one thing. It’s something else entirely to feel cleansing and healing water wash over you as words of promise from the scriptures are spoken to you personally. That day 12 people participated in a baptism renewal. Three of them hadn’t planned on coming and had no change of clothes yet decided to go all in any way! Two elementary age children, newcomers to the congregation who hadn’t been baptized, decided to be baptized in the lake that day and were received as new members to the congregation with the rest of their family the following Sunday. In ordinary and extraordinary but often surprising ways, redevelopment and renewal is happening at Christ the Servant.
Since 2017, Christ the Servant Lutheran Church has been participating in a mission redevelopment partnership with the ELCA and Saint Paul Area Synod. After nearly closing several years ago, the congregation is now undertaking a transformation process to develop spiritual, relational, and organizational vitality.
About the Author - Chris Steubing has served as pastor and mission redeveloper at Christ the Servant since 2017. The congregation is currently working on a process to establish new mission and vision language that will be celebrated as part of a formal commitment to long-range redevelopment at their 54th anniversary this coming January.