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Pastoral Letter: January 2022

Jan. 20, 2022

Dear Friends of St. Philip the Deacon:

In worship recently, the dismissal—the words spoken at the end of the service to send us back out into the world—changed from “Go in peace, serve the Lord,” to “Go with Christ into a weary world. Share the good news.”

I’m not sure exactly who wrote those words, or when they were written. Perhaps they were written with an eye to the fact that this time of year always feels a bit weary. We’re a bit tired after the holidays. It’s cold outside. And the evenings still get dark too early. It is, in any year, a weary time.

But this year, of course, we’re weary for another reason. It’s approaching two years since the start of the Covid pandemic, and we’re all tired of it. And so, I thought I would share a few thoughts during this weary January.

I’d like to begin with some words of hope.

As we look back over these last two years at St. Philip the Deacon, there is actually much to be grateful for. Some examples:

Combined worship attendance—both in-person and on-line—has not only remained strong, but has grown.
• We have increased our ability to reach people with the Gospel through our expanding digital campus.
• Thanks to the generosity of our members, we ended the past year in excellent financial shape.
• Our current three-year capital appeal—Being Made Whole—is off to a wonderful start, and will allow us to be a blessing to people in our community suffering from mental health issues, seeking affordable housing, and looking to access affordable childcare.
• We are expanding our already excellent music ministry through the addition of a handbell choir.
• Registration for our summer youth trips to the Boundary Waters and Camp Wapo filled up on the day they opened last week, forcing us to figure out how to add spots for people now on the waiting list—a good problem!

I could go on, but the point is that—in spite of the challenges and disruptions of the last two years—there is much to celebrate. With you, I give thanks to God for all of these blessings, and look forward to discussing them in more depth at our upcoming annual meeting on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 12 noon.

Until then, of course, we are still living through what we all hope and pray are the final chapters of this pandemic. And—nearly two years after my first communication about Covid-19—I am reminded of what I referenced then: a letter from Martin Luther, who himself lived through a time of plague.

In that letter, he reminded his readers that the overriding priority guiding us during a time like this should be our Christian love of neighbor. He further emphasized that we should have a particular concern for the weakest and most vulnerable in our community; follow the best medical advice available; and take no unnecessary risks.

I pray that our actions and decisions over the last two years have reflected this wise counsel from Luther, and would encourage us all to “stay the course” as we live through a weary winter and look ahead to a spring of warmer days and brighter nights. So:

• If you are sick or not feeling well, please stay home.
• If you are feeling isolated or alone, please let us know so we can reach out to you.
• If you are uncomfortable being in groups, please take advantage of our virtual options for worship and other activities.
• If you would like to worship in person, but are not comfortable in larger groups, consider worshiping with us on Saturday night at 5:30 p.m., or Sunday morning at 8:30 or 11 a.m. These services tend to have fewer numbers than our 9:45 a.m. service, and allow attendees to spread out more.

Through the end of January, we have also suspended our choir programs to avoid having individuals in these groups spend multiple hours every week singing together. We also continue to follow the Wayzata School District’s mask protocols for our children and youth programming.

A final word: The people whose names appear at the bottom of this and similar communications—your Church Council, Executive Team and Pastors—deserve a word of thanks and gratitude. They have been—and continue to be—instrumental in guiding and leading this wonderful congregation through the challenges of the last couple of years, and I give thanks to them here for doing so with such grace. They are a gift to me, and to St. Philip the Deacon.

I also am grateful to you—the members of St. Philip the Deacon—for your ongoing prayers, encouragement, and support. We are indeed a healthy and vital congregation, and I thank you for all of the ways each of you contribute to that continuing health and vitality.

Friends, I do believe that brighter and warmer days are ahead—not only meteorologically, and not only in terms of Covid—but in terms of where God is calling us and leading us. I know that God has big plans for St. Philip the Deacon’s future, and with you, I look forward to following where God leads as we continue to Reach Out, Proclaim, and Inspire.

Grace and Peace,

Tim Westermeyer, Senior Pastor
On behalf of the Pastoral Team, the Church Council and Executive Team
Pastors: Pastor Mark Schmid, Pastor Cheryl Mathison, Pastor Valerie Strand Patterson
Church Council: Beth Jacob (President), Bjorn Berg, Ben Bienert, Debbie McIntyre, Heidi Hukriede, Sarah Johansen, Greg Lindberg, Alyssa Porubcan, Jason Scherschligt
Executive Team: Tom Abrahamson, Mike Braun, Lana Jones, Bob Paulson, John Schultz, Beth Jacob (ex officio)

 

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— CHRISTIAN WISDOM —

“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.”

William Penn