November 14, 2018

By: Chris Steele

RENEWING GOD’S HOUSE TOGETHER THROUGH WORSHIP:  2Thessalonians 1:3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  

In the summer of 1980 I went church shopping.  I had struggled for several years as a divorced single parent with two young children to find a place for us in another Lutheran congregation.  My children’s Christian education was very important to me. I taught Sunday school there, in part to learn the curriculum my children would be taught.  I joined a circle, washed glass cups every Sunday in the kitchen after coffee hour, sang in the choir and offered solos. Over several years and after a number of embarrassing and painful encounters with members of the congregation, I realized there would be no place for us there.  On our last Sunday there, my younger daughter came to me in tears, saying another little girl told her she could not play with her because she came from a broken home. This was not the church in which my children would receive their Christian education, grow, and thrive. I went church shopping.

I made a list of all the Lutheran churches in the area.  I decided I would do a quick “in and out” at each of them and then make up my mind.  Children in tow I hoped they would behave well enough so as not to draw attention to us.  Salem was our first stop.

The next Sunday, with a firm grip on each child, I looked for a pew in Salem’s sanctuary where I could see, but where we might not be noticed.  At the beginning of the service, to my surprise, the lessons were not read by the pastor. Instead a woman stepped forward to read. She looked about my age and did not wear a robe.  With a jaded attitude, based on past experience, I thought she (a) must be married to the pastor, (b) had a lot of money, or (c) was a Big Wig in the church. How else could she be reading the lessons?  She finished, and I returned to monitoring my children.

After the service, as I was moving towards the front door to leave, the same woman came up to me, looked at me and my children and said, “Welcome to worship at Salem!”  I noticed right away she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, so that meant (a) she was not married to the pastor. She was dressed like me so that meant that (b) she probably didn’t have a lot of money.  No one else was paying much attention to her so that meant that she (c) was not some Big Wig in the church. So, who or what was she?

Immediately, a girl not much older than my older daughter came up to her.  The woman put her arm around the girl and said, “This is my daughter.” Then I had a God Moment.  Was it possible the woman who had read the lessons was a divorced, single parent as I had been?

She offered to show us the Confirmation Resource Center.  We followed her upstairs. There we met Norma, the real wife of the pastor.  Everyone was friendly. Star charts were on the wall for lessons learned. The surroundings were bright and colorful, like a school classroom.  Learning goals were posted. This church deserved a second visit.

On the way home, I asked my children what they thought.  They wanted to go back. We did, and we stayed. My children learned, made close friends, and in 1981 we formally transferred our membership to Salem.  I am so grateful to the Sunday school teachers who taught and loved my children. Thank you, Nadine Willems, for reading those lessons, and for taking us upstairs to the Confirmation Resource Center.  

Dear Lord, Thank you for our Sunday school teachers, Faith for Life teachers, adult Bible/book study leaders, and our rostered staff, as well as for all others who provide a loving church environment in which we may all safely grow and learn.  Amen.

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Salem Lutheran Church affiliated with the E.L.C.A. Salem is a vibrant welcoming Lutheran community that, through the grace of Jesus Christ, is connected within by love and reaching out in hope to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with one another, the community and the world.

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