Worship practices Late Fall 2021

Beginning October 31 (for Reformation Sunday!) we will go to one 10:00am worship service, which you can participate in on zoom or indoors, in-person.  Please read on for the details:

In person, indoors: 

  • All participants (over the age of 2 – see health order) aside from some worship leaders will be required to wear masks except when receiving communion.    
  • We’ll sit six feet from those not in our family, unless they give us permission to sit closer.  This is actually a safety advantage over worship outside, where there wasn’t as much room to spread out – or a sound system so you could hear from far away.
  • We’ll keep the space ventilated.  We are fortunate to actually have windows and doors we can open in the sanctuary.  It will be chilly on some mornings, so bring a jacket.
  • We’ll try to keep the service at about 50 minutes, somewhere between what 8:30 and 10:30 worshippers were used to the last time we were indoors. It’s safer to spend less time in an environment with singing, and long services can be difficult for those on zoom.
  • Besides the presider, we’ll ask readers, singers and other worship leaders to be in person.  You won’t be on camera if you’re sitting in the pews.

On zoom:

  • You’ll join using the same link as before.  There will be slides with lyrics and art, just as you’re used to. The difference will be that the readings, sermon, music will all come from the sanctuary (rather than different locations).   
  • People appreciated that zoom allowed us not just to watch a service, but to chime in and experience some sense of community.  We have two pastors!  So the one who isn’t presiding will be in the parlor and serve as “zoom host” during the service, greeting people at the beginning and end, including children.  The presider will be able to see and include prayer requests submitted on “chat.”  
  • Zoom participants are invited to meet with pastors later on in the day or week to receive communion.

Other important information, considerations:

Adult forum will continue to be on zoom at 8:30 at this point, but in a few weeks will probably move to 9 and be both in-person and on zoom. 

After worship there will be a reception – which we’ll try to do outside (masks optional) when we can, and in-person Sunday School.

We’ll need to be a bit legalistic for Lutherans.  We are promising to those who come in-person that there will be certain safety measures in place.  It can be disappointing when what happens isn’t what was promised.  We’ll all work together to make the experience safe for everyone.

Shabbat: Joys and Challenges

(words from a local Jewish studies teacher who plans to join our adult forum for a session … excerpt from a reply to Pastor Bernt’s questions about Sabbath)

Bernt, your astute question about the joys and challenges of practicing Shabbat brought much to the surface for me as I reflected on your email. Just about one week ago I heard a GREAT story from a Jewish studies teacher at [a Jewish day school] that is definitely apropos. She described the way Shabbat would commence for her family when she was a little girl. In the couple of weekdays leading up to each Shabbat her mother already would have begun a flurry of preparations shopping, cleaning, and cooking. By Friday afternoon her mother’s pace reached a frenzy as she hurried and scurried, working so hard to get things in order for the beginning of Shabbat.  The teacher and her siblings knew that they had better do what mother barked at them to do, (“Clean your room! Don’t get crumbs on the floor! Take your showers! Help in the kitchen!), and they knew not to challenge her or ask her for ANYTHING when she was in that mode, like an angry, irritable commander in the army.  Then, just before nightfall, mother would kindle the Sabbath lights, covering her eyes, as is customary, as she recited the blessing. “Magically”, as soon as her blessing left her lips, her hands would open from her face, and a soft, sweet, smiling, gentle voice would emit the most inviting, comforting wish to her children of a “Shabbat Shalom”, (a peaceful Shabbat).  As a little girl, this teacher could not comprehend how her mother could transform almost instantly from a wild, raving, commanding, demanding, tornado force to a peaceful, present, glowing, embracing source of love.  She decided that there had to be something like a little angel that crawled up her mother’s arm, underneath her two hands covering her mother’s face, who did some magic to transform her mother, pushing her mother’s frown into a smile.  As a little girl, she would try so hard to pry her mother’s hands away from her face during the blessing in order to witness the angel doing its magical work! 

I was recently reflecting on how not peaceful my family’s Friday night Shabbat dinners at home were for so many years when our kids were younger.  The start of our blessings and dinners were fraught with the cries and needs of toddlers, the rush to cook dinner, the scowls of pre-teens/teens, the exhaustion from the week of work, and I remember thinking “who were these Rabbis who thought Shabbat is meant to be peaceful??? Were they with their families???” And then, our kids grew up a bit more, and became a part of the preparations, and also started to really value that family together time. Finally, we got to a place where the commencement of the “time of rest” felt real.  Our Friday Shabbat blessings and dinners have truly become a time of peace, togetherness, and distinction from the craze of the rest of the week. So, for sure, there are joys and challenges, even in the effort to initiate this sacred time.  

Then, the challenge of actually experiencing Shabbat for 24 hours, not just the ushering in of the day of rest, is also something many Jews wrestle with. Could I, should I, turn off my cell phone and skip a day of email? If I’m doing something enjoyable on a screen or taking a drive to the beach are those considered work or rest? Should I run my errands that I have no time for during the work week? Is there a way I can actually drop my worries and petty thoughts and focus on joy, gratitude, humility, family, and community? What counts as experiencing the Shabbat?

Outdoor Rally Day and worship photos

About the Kyrie Hymn

by Pastor Bernt

On many Sundays in the church year, especially during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, we open with the singing of Kyrie eleison, Greek for “Lord have mercy.” We alternate “Lord” and “Christ” and sometimes also prayers for peace.  We sing it repeatedly, even nine “have mercies” total (I read in one of my various sources that it’s supposed to correspond with nine choirs of angels in Heaven).  Then, during the prayers of intercession later in the service, the refrain often comes up again, over and over: “Lord in your mercy … hear our prayer.”

Why all the repetition?  Maybe because it’s such a basic, bedrock sort of prayer.  When a pilgrim from West, Egeria, first heard it used in the Christian East, it was led by children.  And its use predates Christianity.  People would hail the Emperor with it: “Kyrie eleison!”  I think of how a simple prayer used in repetition becomes a mantra.  When you’ve just opened up that really big utility bill, it’s “Lord, have mercy!”  When you’re tossing and turning in bed, stressed out, you might pray: “Lord, have mercy on me!”  The Eastern Orthodox church has a whole tradition of meditation based on a version they call the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  When the singing of Kyrie Eleison was first used in the worship (4th century?), it may have been during both indoor and outdoor processions.  It’s not just a prayer for Sunday morning, but for each step we take through life.

But why is “mercy” what we need?  I think of how this prayer invites us into a certain posture: that of a beggar.  Imagine that?  Maybe that’s not how others see you.  They might think of you as a mover and shaker, someone who’s got it all together.  You can and should be the one to take care of yourself, you’re capable, a bread-winner.  What you have, you achieved and you’re entitled to.  But then you sing “Lord have mercy?” Aren’t you saying, “what I have – I’m not entitled to?  It’s not owed; it’s given.  It’s all grace.  I’m not the master of my fate.  I’m a creature depending on a Creator.  God (not me) is the one holding it together – holding us together.  The prayer “Lord have mercy” equalizes us: ultimately, I’m no different from the other beggars.  The failures and sins in this world run through my heart, too.

But about this word: there’s more to it than “dog-eat-dog, to each her own.”  The thing is: the Lord really IS merciful.  When people cried to the Emperor for mercy, they probably didn’t expect much.  But when the foreign woman (Matthew 15:22) and the blind man (Mark 10:46) cried to Jesus for mercy, he heard and he responded.  Even now, says Paul, the Spirit of Jesus keeps a mercy prayer alive in our hearts: inward groaning and sighs to deep for words (Romans 8).  When we say it on our lips, repeat the prayer for mercy like a mantra, we’re being constantly redirected toward the ever-flowing source of life and hope.  What we sing and pray in worship can in this way shape our walk, how we see ourselves and what we believe.

Generous backpack donations

We recently collected school supplies and donations for kids at St Elizabeth Seton School.

Due to the generous donations from FLCPA members we had a record year for this project. Twelve backpacks, a large box of supplies and $1,405 checks totaling $3,125 were donated to families who could not afford to purchase them. One can only imagine the joy of the children and the appreciation of the parents when they get to select their own backpack.

Thank you to all who contributed to this project. You have made a positive difference in the lives of these kids!  – The Women’s Group

September Sunday Schedule 2021

We look forward to Sundays together this Fall!  The planned schedule, beginning September 12, will be:

Occasional Sunday School outdoor children’s activities will also be planned, such as a Rally Day meal and art project September 12 at 11:30am.  Mostly, these will be right after outdoor worship.

Outdoor worship has been lovely and it’s improving, with more shade and guitar accompaniment.   Please note: As we move into fire season (or if it rains), it’s possible we’d need to cancel outdoor worship at times.  This would be posted on the website by 8:30am Sunday morning.

You might notice that there’s been a change of plans.  Earlier, we’d hoped to be indoors worshiping in our sanctuary by September 12.  But we’re not ready.  We recently discovered that a key component of safe, socially distanced worship – our sound system – isn’t working.  There’s new concern about the Delta variant.  So like many churches in our area, we’ll be staying outdoors and online through September.  The Council can revisit the plan when we meet.

We have been and will continue to work on a plan for being indoors, including getting the sound system fixed.  We’re also looking at the possibility of having one pastor presiding in the sanctuary while the other pastor hosts zoom from the Parlor.  And, we’re trying to navigate through a music staff transition!

It may be possible for a few masked people to sit in the sanctuary to hear the organ played during the zoom service (it may be hard to hear any readings or sermon).  If you’d like to do this, please arrange in advance.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember reflecting on the longing for God’s temple as expressed in Psalm 42: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and behold the face of God?” But there’s also consolation, that we are never far from God’s presence: “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”  Thanks be to God! – Pastor Bernt (with Pastor Kate)

Outdoor event photos, June 2021

Photos taken at Family Summer Kick-Off on Saturday June 5 and outdoor worship June 6,

thanks to Jill and Pastor Kate.


About the Gloria hymn

The hymn “Glory to God in the highest” is familiar to (and maybe memorized by) anyone used to Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal or other so-called “liturgical churches.”  But do we really ponder what we’re singing?

First, a little history: this “Gloria” is one part of the western, medieval (and later) mass, which classical music lovers know goes from the Kyrie (Lord have mercy) to Gloria, Credo (I believe), Sanctus (Holy Holy) and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).  Traditionally, these were sung in place of what we now usually think of as hymns (like Amazing Grace or Be Thou My Vision).  During the earliest centuries and outside the West, different music or texts were used.  The Gloria originated as a hymn for morning prayer and when it was first used at Mass, only the Pope or bishops could sing it (priests could sing it only on Easter).

To sing those words – “Glory to God” – is to take a break from cynicism.  So often during the week we feel let down by people.  Our role models and leaders and neighbors turn out to be not so glorious.  Indeed, we have issues with and complaints against God.  “Glory” may not be what I’m feeling, but a song I overhear and join in.  The Gloria is also known as the “Hymn of Angels,” because the first verse is what the Shepherds hear the Angels singing on Christmas: “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to his people on earth.”  And the Angels, we imagine, they see clearly God’s full majesty, beyond the struggles that cloud us.  By taking up their song, we want to open ourselves to see and feel that glory and beauty more clearly.  It’s doing what Paul says: “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (from Philippians 4)

Notice also how the Gloria is full of political language, king, lord, high places, and the throne of God in each of the three parts (Father, Son and Trinity):

  • FATHER Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
  • SON Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
  • GODHEAD/TRINITY For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Updates of the Gloria remove this language, I think because we don’t want to associate God with what’s oppressive and authoritarian.  But with any metaphor, there’s an “is” and an “isn’t.”  Jesus is a lamb in that he’s gentle but he’s not fluffy and four-legged.  God isn’t an oppressive patriarch; but in some ways, I think we still need to say God is Lord.

A key line is “you alone are Lord.”  We’re not just cynical, we’re afraid: of the people at the top, with powerful weapons and unimaginable wealth, of white supremacy, seductive violence or hatred, depression, disease and death and whatever we’re addicted to.  Sing “you alone are Lord.”  None of those so-called lords can stand against the only true Lord!  In a world under the foot of demonic and Roman oppression, Jesus came announcing the kingdom of God.  The Gloria is a pledge of allegiance to this kingdom and a song not just of hope but of victory, to give us courage no matter what.

Our king is an anti-king; he’s the Lamb sent not to beat back his foes by superior military might and lift up the privileged few; he’s the self-giving One who wants nothing more than to take the wrongs and sin away from the villains and the heroes, the whole world, bringing us together in peace and awe and worship.  Thanks be to God!