From Pastor Simmons…
As I write this monthly letter, we are now exactly sixteen days into the season of Lent, not quite halfway to the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Church historians tell us that the Lenten season developed shortly after the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. In those early years, the focus was on new converts as they fasted, repented, and prepared for baptism on Easter Sunday. Before long, the practice was expanded to all members of the church and remained essentially unchanged for centuries.
By the 800s, though, the rules around fasting began to relax and the practice of giving up some luxury or need as a personal sacrifice became more popular. “Giving something up” became a common practice.
During the Reformation, many of the Protestant movements that emerged (the Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist and Puritans, to name a few) moved away from Lenten practices because they couldn’t find a scriptural basis for it. Lutherans, on the other hand, continued to observe the season and its various pieties.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Lent across the church in America, particularly among our Protestant and Evangelical brothers and sisters. And there have emerged new Lenten practices, such as intentionally “taking something up for Lent” — like daily contemplative prayer or volunteering once a week for a needy cause — instead of “giving something up.” Perhaps in coming years, we could consider such a practice of intention as we prepare our hearts and minds for the joy of Easter.
In the meantime, Cross Lutheran is both “giving up” and “taking on” during this Lenten season. Our long-time Church Secretary, Carol Hastings, is stepping back from the administrative duties of her position due to a welcome and exciting change to her work as a school bus driver. Carol has moved to a full-time role with Saint Paul Public Schools, where she serves children with special needs. She will continue serving Cross as our financial secretary, and of course, as one of our many gifted lay leaders.
To fill the void, we are delighted to welcome Sarah Malm as our new part-time administrative secretary. Sarah is a graduate of Luther Seminary, a former ELCA pastor, and has extensive experience working with churches around the Synod in church administration. She also works with two other ELCA congregations in our Synod (part-time), and brings many gifts and connections to the role. You will hear more about Sarah as time goes on and she is able to establish regular office hours and a weekly routine.
We are also excited to announce that yet a third Latino congregation, Ebenezer Elim, will be worshiping at Cross beginning the end of March. Ebenezer had worshipped for several years at Hope Lutheran on the East Side, but with the recent sale of Hope’s building, were left without a regular worship space. We are hopeful that they will find their new home here at Cross.
In the past month, the ELCA National Youth Gathering, which was supposed to be held in Minneapolis, was cancelled due to Covid and other logistical challenges. Fortunately, I have been able to work with leaders of several other ELCA churches in the area to plan a similar summer gathering at Camp Onomia. It might not feature 30,000 other ELCA youth from around the country, but will feature some of the same musical acts and speakers who were scheduled for the large event. What’s more, this event is open to students who have completed 6th to 12th grade this summer and the overall cost is very reasonable. Dates are July 17-21 and Diana Swanson will be in touch with all of our students soon.
Lenten Wednesday evening worship at Cross continues through April 6 with Holden Evening Prayer at 3:00 pm and 6:45 pm. If you have not experienced this lovely worship, I encourage you to do so.
As we continue together this coming month, and through the rest of Lent, I hope we can keep our focus on the things that God is bringing into our lives together as church, and how we are being prepared every day, every season, every year, to participate in God’s preferred future.