Pastor’s Annual Report 2020

Aloha Dear Friends of CLC,

“Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 1:2)

My father used to say those words at the beginning of every sermon he preached. Since I have been reflecting on them these last few months, I think it is a good way for me to begin writing this my most unusual Pastor’s Annual Report ever. Because we could all use a good dose of grace, mercy, and peace right now.

Usually, I review the past year and write about aspirations, intentions, and plans for the coming year.

This time, however, it is different.

The coronavirus pandemic and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has turned everything upside down and inside out.  Probabilities, metrics, and risk assessments are out the window and radical uncertainty prevails everywhere.  Including with our faith and family, our work and play.  “Anxiety” is the word of the day, every day.  What’s coming next? We just don’t know.

Before I speculate on 2021, however, I do think I should give a recap of what has happened this year with CLC.  In consultation with other experts – pastors, bishops, and  government and public health officials –  as the pandemic approached, we took tentative steps to be more hygienic, safer.  Asking for masks, washing hands, keeping our distance.  Adjusting our communion practices – no grape juice, no intinction, finally no common cup. 

And then, with a sudden, quick lockdown in mid-March no in-person worship, no communion, no in-person singing. Service of the Word became the liturgy of the day.  The chancel changed shape with the table pushed back and the lectern front and center. Sound Cloud came in February, then, we Zoomed – we tried.  We got better at it.  Facebook livestreaming came along. The Jans and Sikkinks leaned into refining the audio-visual production. Chieko sanitized everything in sight.  Paul and Eli rolled back the walls for outdoor ventilation. Emily played piano from home.

YouTube uploads. Sound levels, visual acuity and waiting rooms became the concerns of the day.  The classrooms were zapped and misted. The sanctuary was professionally scrubbed from top to bottom – some thought for the first time ever.

Emergency funding arrived.  High-definition cameras, directional mics, processors, and a laptop that idled at two hundred miles an hour appeared. Everything we did by rote had to be remembered and reconsidered – was it safe to still “do it this way”? Learning curves abounded. 

The holidays, holy days – Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday – without anyone but me and the Jans running Zoom and FB Livestream in the sanctuary was a first.  It felt surreal.

Then, in July back to limited in-person worship with Service of the Word while we pondered how we might celebrate communion. A few persons returned carefully, cautiously to the sanctuary with its rolled-back walls, sparse, spaced seating, and hand-sanitizers beside every offering plate. Most still Zoomed, FB’d, YT’d, or SC’d. Rightly, so.

In August we resumed in-person communion. At the same time because it appeared that we were in a long, drawn out marathon with the virus and that we weren’t fully coming back together in-person anytime soon, we decided to offer communion online to those worshiping from home.  Chalices and “real” bread went on hiatus.  Wafers and individual, disposable plastic cups made a return appearance. (There’s a reason we keep our individualistic Lutheran Pietism on the backburner and at the ready!)

Because we live joyfully ever after, even, and especially, in the midst of tragedy and sorrow, we decided to belatedly celebrate our Fortieth Anniversary in September.  Every former pastor (a first!) and our current bishop, Andy Taylor, joined us in person or online to celebrate, pray and give thanks.  Twenty-two worshipers (another record!) came in person and many more joined us online.  We YouTubed a talk story with earliest of members.

Christmas Eve we had forty in-person and forty-four online worshipers.  There we learned that forty is about the capacity of safe seating in the sanctuary. We didn’t celebrate communion that evening because we didn’t want people moving around much. So, we focused on the carols and the candles. Christmas Day, we had a communion service with more carols for those not wanting to go out at night. And that way we could have communion at Christmas.

We are most blessed, encouraged, and resurrected by your ongoing care of each other and commitment to CLC. With Zooming, worshiping, dropping food and cookies by for IHS, online church council meetings, lawn-mowing and upkeep, and continued financial offerings you have remained faithful.  We have only had a small, four percent drop in giving, which was more than made up for with outside, emergency funding and increased volunteer work.

At the end of May, our longtime Office Manager, Collette Wiedemann, retired. Carolyn Koehler, recently retired from another parish, came on as what I call our “Permanent Interim Office Manager.” Mahalo nui loa to both for their service and making a smooth transition in difficult times.

I also worked closely with the Kidney Foundation regarding its donation pod, one of the busiest on island, and with the Rainbow Schools before, during, and after the lockdown.  We had to carefully rethink everything in terms of public health and safety for the sake of the staff, the KF donors, the pre-school students and in-person worshipers.

That’s the gist of it. Amidst chaos and uncertainty, tragedy and sorrow we are still here.  God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is still here in Word and sacrament, amongst the communion of saints, encouraging us, grieving with us, waiting with us, resurrecting us.

We know circumstances for any and all of us may change in an instant.  So, no big changes are planned for this year of 2021.  Worship, both in-person and online, will continue as-is for the foreseeable future.  Maybe we could explore ways to incorporate singing back into the in-person liturgy – but safely so!

I grieve not being able to do more for keiki and youth.  Twelve months ago, some of us were gearing up to have at ministering more to keiki and youth.  That was totally derailed by the coronavirus. I feel sad about that and remain open to suggestions.

In 2018 we addressed issues of Women and Social Justice and then, in 2019 after some discussion voted to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation officially welcoming LGBTQIA+ persons of faith into our congregation.  I had been thinking that in 2020 we might talk story about racism and white privilege.  I would like to attempt that conversation in 2021, especially in the light of what the coronavirus has revealed about health, wealth, state violence, and race.  Maybe begin with an online book group? Or open talk story session?

Finally, one exciting project that is under way as I write – the CLC Community Garden is coming! In January, as part of his Eagle Scout Project, Hunter Spangler and troop will be constructing multiple four by eight foot garden beds in the space between the parsonage and the parking lot.  This is his and CLC’s response to the massive hunger insecurity Oahu is facing. Stay tuned for more as the project unfolds!

Mahalo nui loa, again, for your care and commitment.  Your faithfulness has not been in vain.  We – you and I together – have received grace, mercy, and peace from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus in these uncertain times. Now, while still encouraging each other, let us bring grace, mercy, and peace to our neighbors in need.

Blessings in Christ,        

Rev Keith R Wolter

All Hallows Eve

And a Blessed All Hallows Eve to one and all! Yes, it’s commonly known as Halloween and I’ve no need or desire to change or challenge that. It’s one of my fav holidays. But it’s a few more “Eves”, as well.

Happy Reformation Day! This is the day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Church Door … 95 academic propositions that he wished to debate regarding indulgences, grace, faith and forgiveness … among other things.

Finally, A Blessed All Hallows Eve to you, too! The eve of All Saints Days, when we remember the blessed saints (the hallowed) who have died, especially but not exclusively in this past year.

Since Trick or Treat is looking a little on the shaky side this year and since many of us are in some sort of lockdown, shutdown, or just plain fearful of venturing out door to door – and rightly so – I thought we might try a short liturgy, or prayer service, of remembrance. A way to get in touch with each other, fondly remember those who have died in the Lord, and take comfort, courage, and hope from each other in these difficult times.

So, as mentioned elsewhere, here is the liturgy for All Hallows Eve, this evening, the 31st of October, in the year of our Lord 2020.

I look forward to seeing you on our FaceBook page: Christ Lutheran Church of Mililani @ 7:30pm this evening.

Pr Keith

Service for All Hallows’ Eve

This service may be used on the evening of October 31, known as All Hallows’ Eve.

The church is dark, or partially so, when the service is to begin.

The Officiant greets the people with these words.

 Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
PeopleThanks be to God.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light
around me turn to night,” darkness is not dark to you, O
Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to
you are both alike.    Psalm 139:10-11

The Officiant then says the Prayer for Light, using the
following prayer:

Let us pray.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy
great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this
night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Prayer for Festivals of Saints

Lord Christ, your saints have been the lights of the world
in every generation: Grant that we who follow in their
footsteps may be made worthy to enter with them into that
heavenly country where you live and reign for ever and ever.
Amen.

The candles are now lighted, as are other candles and lamps
as may be convenient.

The following hymn, or a metrical version of it, or some other hymn,
is then sung

O Gracious Light    (Phos hilaron)

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

 The Vision of Eliphaz the Temanite

Job 4:12-21

Psalm 13

Let us pray. (Silence)

 You, O Lord, have made us from the dust of the earth and to dust our bodies shall return; yet you have also breathed your Spirit upon us and called us to new life in you: Have mercy upon us, now and at the hour of our death; through Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate. Amen.

The War in Heaven

Revelation 12:(1-6)7-12

Psalm 103:17-22,

Let us pray. (Silence)

O most merciful and mighty God, your son Jesus Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary to bring us salvation and to establish your kingdom on earth: Grant that Michael and all your angels may defend your people against Satan and every evil foe, and that at the last we may come to that heavenly country where your saints for ever sing your praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A homily, sermon, or instruction may follow the Readings.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those

who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

forever and ever. Amen.

The Collect of All Saints’ Day

Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one
communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son
Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those
ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love
you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy
Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Blessing

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy.

The Lord look upon you with favor and ☩ give you peace.

Amen.

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