What if First Lutheran no longer had a mortgage payment? What if we had a Foundation (endowment) that is able to generate $50,000 per year rather than $12,000 to $15,000? What if we gathered enough financial resources to address all the deferred maintenance issues that have accumulated in the last ten years?
In the past month I have had conversations with area church leaders about addressing the needs of the homeless in our area. They don’t just need financial support. They need an address and a phone number as they make applications for work. How could we partner with area organizations who seek to provide temporary housing?
In September, First Lutheran will host our first pastoral intern in a long time: Tara Shilts. Tara and her family are already members here at First Lutheran, and she already serves as a deacon at Gundersen Lutheran in their Clinical Pastoral Education Department. Having completed the vast majority of her coursework in preparation for ordination, her seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago has provided a simplified path for her as she works toward the completion of her degree. Tara will preach one Sunday a month and serve First ten hours a week for the next year, which will give our congregation a taste of what it’s like to be a teaching congregation. How could First partner with seminaries who seek healthy places for their seminarians to do their internships in the future?
First Lutheran already supports Lutheran Social Services, our area Campus Ministry, Sugar Creek Bible Camp and our La Crosse Area Synod quite well. But each of these organizations is always at the mercy of institutions like First, many of whom are in steep decline. A few months ago, the synod asked for help in collecting money for a new car, as their staff (our Bishop and Assistant to the Bishop) put a lot of miles on every year traveling around the synod. What if we could have given a substantial gift? Campus Ministry is asking for help to pay off their own mortgage? How fun would it be to offer the gift that puts them over the top? I was at Sugar Creek for family camp in August. Their pool house had simply been painted and received small repairs and it looked like new! A little can go a long way at camp. Just think what a lot could do!
As we enter a new program year at First in September, I am thrilled with our new staff members, excited about the prospect of an all-member visit this fall and very curious to see what fruits the efforts of our leadership bear. Freed from mortgage payments, maybe we could join other area ELCA congregations and buy a house for those who need that temporary address. Maybe Tara Shilts will be the first of a long line of interns as we embrace a new identity as a teaching congregation. Maybe we can help the most dynamic ministries in our area do their work with fewer concerns about funding.
In September, we’ll be asking many ‘what-if’s?’ and listening to your dreams as well so that we can keep becoming the church to which you want to belong. Don’t miss your chance(s) to listen and speak out at a focus group meeting. Those will definitely happen Sundays, Sept. 3, 10, 17 after each and every worship service as well as Wednesdays after worship Sept. 6 and 13. These focus group meetings will happen at other times, too—keep an eye out—but the after-worship times are certain. Please make every effort to attend a focus group meeting and bring your Faith Alive! dreams!