Beautiful Pentecost Service
We weren’t the usual Ambassadors but three Ambassadors from Redeemer spent this Pentecost at St. Andrew’s, Audubon.
St. Andrew’s pastor, the Rev. William Mueller, writes a blog. He is the first pastor of now more than sixty we have encountered to make any attempt to reach out regularly on the internet. Kudos. Here’s a link.
This is the first church website (excepting Redeemer, East Falls) to use blogging as the focal point of a web presence. It looks like they have tried both Twitter and Facebook with less frequency, but at least they are trying. Both Twitter and Facebook are harder to maintain and require a lot of babysitting. That’s why we favor blogging as a starting point for churches wanting to use social media.
It looks like St. Andrew’s started blogging in March and kept at it pretty regularly through April with activity dropping a bit in May. We hope they keep it up! We’ve been at it for more than two years. Our experience is that it takes at least six months to begin to see results. Things move remarkably quickly when you start blogging more than three times per week. (We now, after some 750 posts, have as many as 4000 readers each month.)
Pastor Mueller’s sign-off is reminiscent of one of Redeemer’s former pastors. He often ended his pre-internet sermons with “See you at the Acme.” Pastor Mueller signs off with “See you at church.”
A friendly man greeted us as we came through the door and told us about their ministry to the homeless in Pottstown. He was the only member to speak to us. He told us about their group of guitar enthusiasts who center a ministry around music.
Music and the arts are key elements in worship at St. Andrew’s. They recently produced The Wizard of Oz. They are justly proud of their modern stained glass windows and their altar cross.
Musical offerings were varied and rich from a solo (“Day by Day”) to a bell choir prelude of a hymn which had been running through my head all week, prior to today’s worship, (“Oh, How I Love Jesus”) to still another prelude or introit (“This Little Light of Mine”). The choir anthem brought a smile, the tune was borrowed from Les Miserables. Much of the music was modern but the final hymn was by Hildegard of Bingen, dating back a thousand years. Great breadth of church tradition. This was the first church we’ve encountered in a long time that sang the psalm. (Redeemer always sang the psalm.)
The opening hymn was one Redeemer often sang in Swahili. I was surprised that four years after all of us were locked out of our multicultural church that I still remember the Swahili words. I sang them. The organ was so loud no one could notice and it felt good. Besides, it’s Pentecost, a day for many languages.
St. Andrew’s confirmed ten young people today in a nice ceremony. Even though our visits are totally random, we’ve encountered several confirmations and this was the largest group of youth.
The church was well-attended with families of the young people filling several pews.
The ceremony featured family members participating in the laying on of hands. Two of our Ambassadors, both pastors, compared that to how they conducted confirmation. They liked the custom, although one commented that he considered confirmation to be the young people standing on tbeir own in their faith—as they may have to some day.
How well we know!
The sanctuary is wide with two rows of long pews. For the first time in many visits, the ushers actually passed the plate. It seems like many churches are afraid to let go of the plate, requiring worshipers to reach across several people. This is always a bit awkward and kind of insulting. It felt good to be trusted to pass the plate. (We didn’t take anything of yours!)
There were about a dozen children present for a children’s sermon delivered by the Christian Education director. This is the first we’ve seen children at worship in a while! I doubt the children understood that the balloon represented the Holy Spirit. Object lessons appeal more to adults. They seemed to still be interested in last Sunday’s sermon which apparently focused on their Ascension stained glass window. One child commented, “We were going to say goodbye but we never did.” That seemed to stick with them!
Pastor Mueller gave a sermon that was interesting to us. He spoke about church persecution and mentioned this also in the prayers.
Once again, we see a disconnect. Why is it that SEPA clergy do not see what is happening at the hands of their leaders in East Falls as bullying and persecution?
82 men, women and children are locked out of their church home—built and paid for with their offerings and the sacrifices of their families. Allegations are made but never documented or discussed with the congregation. Although court accusations reference ”church discipline,” no matters of church discipline were ever raised with our congregation. We were paying our own way and had a very active and innovative ministry, with which no fault was ever found. SEPA claimed every available asset with no discussion whatsoever. They used our assets to pursue us in court. They are still looking for more. They stripped Redeemer members of all rights within the Lutheran Church, also with no discussion and no constitutional basis. They vilified our people when we dared to stand up for our faith — as our church taught us to do when we studied for confirmation. Our clergy were intimidated and left. This was designed to leave the laity lost and vulnerable. Instead, Redeemer’s lay leaders (which included two retired clergy) picked up the pieces and successfully grew our church community with no expectation of pay. SEPA personally attacked individual church members in court for five years, putting us in a position where we couldn’t just submit; we had to stand up for what we thought was right. Court accusations of fraud never held up. The latest judge repeated with exasperation, “Where’s the fraud? They were doing what they thought was right. Where’s the fraud?”
The Church persecutes its own.
Well, at least St. Andrew’s prayed for the persecuted, even if they don’t recognize us in their midst.
The Holy Spirit at Work in East Falls this Week?
In other Redeemer news, two leaders of Redeemer’s community music programs chanced to meet three times this week.
SEPA is not the only religious authority raping East Falls Christians of the use of their sacred property! Hierarchical need and greed are running rampant. St. James the Less was locked to members about eight years ago. SEPA locked Redeemer in 2009. St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic School just down the street was locked in 2012. Their leaders thought this fairly healthy school should bolster a struggling church a couple miles away. Both ended up closing.
We discussed how to restore Christian music education for the children of East Falls. Hard to do without property, but we hope not impossible. Redeemer had hosted a community children’s choir and summer music camp and St. Bridget’s School had a strong musical tradition. Our worship leaders had worked together before.
Three chance meetings in three days! Perhaps the Holy Spirit is at work this Pentecost!