By most measures, it was a typical Wednesday morning commute. Coffee in the cupholder, slow traffic, radio tuned to NPR, brain wandering and wondering if it is ready for the day. But this day was not a normal day. Local government officials were beginning to encourage us to practice social distancing, diligent hand-washing, and no face-touching. It was the third Wednesday of Lent and I was rehearsing my sermon for that evening in my head. My colleague and I had been invited to preach a 5-week Lenten sermon series on the Public Church at a local church. I was in the middle of a thought – reminding myself NOT to crack any inappropriate jokes about the pandemic during the sermon – when I noticed a crowd gathered on the overpass.
The Saint Paul Federation of Educators (St. Paul Public School’s teachers’ union) had just begun their strike and they were demonstrating on every overpass that crossed Interstate 35E and Interstate 94 in Saint Paul. I honked to show my support as I drove under the bridge. Then it hit me. These teachers are beginning their necessary strike which will require public demonstrations.
How will they do this while honoring the call to social distancing? We will be preaching tonight, encouraging a congregation to move into their neighborhood as a public church. How will they do this while honoring the call to social distancing? It has been two months since that not-at-all-normal morning commute, and I think I have some things to say about how we live as a Public Church in a pandemic.
This summer, three 2010 Augsburg College alumni have been ordained to ministry and began their first calls as pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. These Auggies (who also graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul in May of 2014) are: Michael Buller, Emily Wiles, and Peter Weston Miller.
We asked them to tell us about the congregation(s) where they serve, and what they are most energized about with their call. We are proud to celebrate their accomplishments, and we wish them well in their new vocations as pastors!
Michael Buller, Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Abercrombie, ND and Galchutt (pronounce Gal-Shoot) Lutheran Church in Galchutt, ND
My role is solo pastor of a two point parish. I am very excited about this parish because they are in desperate need of new life. They are “mission re-development sites” which essentially means that they are on the verge of closing. I received mission re-development certification in the ELCA, so we could very well be a good fit for each other.
Since arriving I have discovered that there is a great deal of life in both Abercrombie and Galchutt proper and a great deal of life in the surrounding areas. For instance we have an educational farmstead near by called Crooked Lane Farms which is only 4 miles outside of Abercrombie. They have concerts during the summer, gardening classes, crafting classes, any many other activities; super cool stuff, and wonderful people.
In November of 2015 Emmanuel Lutheran will be celebrating 125 years of faithful ministry and we will be making it into a very big event. Finally the two churches tend the grounds of a third church building. St. John’s Lutheran church is located between Emmanuel and Galchutt and is the oldest Lutheran Church building in the Eastern North Dakota synod. We have a joint worship service there each year.