Minnesota Bishops: Chaplains Provide Critical Care
Written by the six Minnesota bishops of the Evangelical Church in America. Published in the Opinion Ex[...]
Although Fish Lake Lutheran church is part of the Saint Paul Synod, it’s not a typical St. Paul church. First, it’s situated in the township of Stark about an hour’s drive north of “the Cities.” Secondly, it’s surrounded by a pioneer cemetery, horse farms and dirt roads. But the remoteness of this sacred space is also the source of its beauty. Fish Lake’s steeple peaks high above the maple trees. And the rolling hills that lead up to the church are carpeted with fields that get harvested twice each summer, leaving round bales of hay across the pasture. Bruegel himself couldn’t paint a more bucolic landscape.
So, when the people of Fish Lake think of evangelism, it’s not through a food pantry or flashy sign along the street. It’s softball.
Fish Lake was blessed to receive a generous Gleaning From the Harvest grant from the Saint Paul Area Synod to support “Six Innings and a Prayer,” a weekly pick-up softball game for adults. Each Wednesday we met on our softball field for an hour of play. We ended in prayer and then headed down the road to our local bar and grill for fellowship. The grant paid for advertising, equipment, t-shirts, childcare and soda pop. Anyone who showed up could play.
The inspiration behind this outreach event came because we have a softball field. And after two long years of COVID where folks lived in isolation and where parents were forced to juggle work and online schooling, it was time for a little self-care. Fish Lake’s post-shutdown attendance has stagnated, reflecting a trend as reported in a recent Star Tribune article. Nationwide, in-person church attendance among those who say they typically worship has been stuck at 27%.
And let’s be honest. It’s easier to invite folks to join in a game of softball than to join in a worship service. Yet, once relationships are made, an invitation to worship is much more natural. Our games attracted neighbors, relatives and curious onlookers. It was a time to sow seeds, have fun and discover that we are all athletes.
The people of Fish Lake Lutheran extend our gratitude to the synod for their support in this ministry. Aside from gaining new members and new volunteers, we deepened friendships and started a new tradition as a community of God where everyone belongs and no one keeps score.
As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Hebrews 12:1 Good News Translation
Pastor Teleen Saunders