The year 2010 was the 154th year that our Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit gathered to His heavenly Father a community of Evangelical Lutheran Christians here in New Gehlenbeck. It was in many ways an uneventful year in the parish, and yet the Lord’s quiet joys continued to gladden and comfort the hearts of His people as we journeyed with Him through this passing world toward the age that is to come.
January found us celebrating the joys of a very brief Epiphany – the Lord’s manifestation of His glory in human and flesh and blood – it was only two Sundays and the off to Transfiguration and preLent. On the 10th – the Feast of our Lord’s Baptism - our joy overflowed as Melony Biver and Geoffrey Kleiboeker confessed their faith in Christ and received from their Savior His washing in the waters of Holy Baptism. Marked as Christ’s own, their sins covered in the holy blood, they joined this family of faith and the Holy Christian Church. Later in the same month, we were all shocked to discover our beloved Dorothy Behrhorst had completed her baptism in the quiet of one night: she went to bed on earth and woke up in heaven, opening her eyes to behold to the things which eye has no seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man – the glorious things which God has prepared for those who love him. I can still hear her sisters, Laverne and Eileen, shaking their heads and saying: “Oh, you know Dorothy!” Always so filled to the brim with the joy of our Lord, Dorothy’s approach to life was a shining light to all who knew her – a rebuke to everyone of us who spend an inordinate amount of time grumbling about things. Dorothy would say: “Why not pray?”
By the middle of February the Lenten fast had arrived. St. Paul’s hosted the funeral for one time member Harry Schlechte. John and Lauri Cunningham renewed their marriage vows before the Lord’s altar, and we had joy of Quenton and Mariya Bartony’s wedding a week later on February 20th. I spent much of the month writing and writing – finishing up two assignments for CPH: devotions for the book A Year in the New Testament and study notes for the upcoming edition of The Apocrpypha.
March brought us the conclusion of Lent and we entered into Holy Week. New scarlet paraments and vestments in loving memory of Alfred Wehrend were blessed and graced our worship for the first time on Palm Sunday, That day we had the great joy of confirming four young people in the holy faith: Cody Hellmann, Sean Micnheimer, Hannah Stroh and Brooke Webb. They were examined at the early Matins service and then confessed their Savior and received His blessing and our prayer for their faithfulness throughout their lives and were welcomed to the Lord’s Altar, their baptismal birthright, at the late Divine Service.
April arrived on Maundy Thursday as we gathered to celebrate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. Good Fridays services were as hauntingly beautiful as ever, calling us to stand in awe and wonder before the love of a God who would embrace the suffering and death of the cross to wipe out our sin and set us free from death’s power. Holy Saturday the joys began to brim over. Four adults were confirmed: Melony Biver, Geoffrey Kleiboeker, Mark Massey, and David Openheimer. We remembered our Baptism and celebrated the Eucharist, bringing the fast to its end. Bright and early on April 4th, with nature celebrating along with us, we gathered for Easter Matins and the Divine Service. Our beloved Carlo’s comment on his first Easter experience with us was that he’d not experienced such an Easter playing anywhere else. Truly, it is the overflowing fountain of our joy in Christ: from the trumpets and timpani, to the singing bringing down the rafters, from the lilies gracing the sanctuary to the triumphal strains of “Joy to the Heart” and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” New gold paraments and vestments given in loving memory of Carl Steinmann graced the sanctuary and proclaimed in art the triumph of our King.
As Easter joys rolled on into April and May, the church’s first Financial Peace University wrapped up and was a huge blessing to all who participated – thanks a bundle to Brent Buckner and Gary Mueth for leading the sessions. TSP wrapped up another year and graduation was held at Trinity, Worden. Ascension was celebrated on May 13th and after Pentecost on the 23rd, summer was well on its wa.
June came in and things quieted down a bit. Stacey and Geoffrey made their vows before the Lord’s altar and received His blessing upon their marriage on the fifth of the month. They chose a good day to get married: Cindi and I were married that self same down some 28 years before!
July brought a trip for youth group to Nashville Tennessee to attend the Higher Things conference, GIVEN. I no sooner returned from that than Cindi and I were flying down to Houston for the Synodical Convention with much fear and trepidation. The moment of Pr. Harrison’s election will remain one of the most vivid memories of the year and I suspect of my life, and especially his kind and gracious and healing words that he brought us. He opened his mouth and Scripture came tumbling out. We were blessed indeed. Somewhere between Higher Things and the Convention, our sister Debbie Renken completed her earthly sojourn after a long and wearying battle with cancer, which never seemed to sap her spirit – even when tired and worn, she was still cheerful and, well, just like Debbie always was. Her body was laid to rest in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life, Pastor Gleason kindly officiating in my absence. Vacation Bible School once again offered a chance to bring the good news of Jesus to the children of our community. At the end of the month, Drayvin Lee Michael Bartony had his sins wiped out and was united to his Savior’s death and resurrection at Anderson hospital.
August found TSP gearing up again, but before school started we were saddened to lose Marlene Brunnworth; her funeral was celebrated the same day as opening chapel. Of course, we thought we had lost her years before, but the Lord gave her to us for a bit longer and we are grateful for each of those years. Her quick smile and laugh, her words of encouragement, her cheer – they are sorely missed. The little angel that greets you as you walk into the basement of the church was given by a number of her dear friends as memorial. “With the angels and archangels and all the host of heaven…” As the years go on, we realize that we know more and more of that host. I also spent a bit of time in August working up north with a Peace in the Parish project for Zion Litchfield.
September brought joys abounding as so many, many pastors and laity gathered for the installation of the new Synodical President. His grace, Archbishop Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya preached, the Eucharist was celebrated, and the Chapel of Sts. Timothy and Titus was packed to the gills – and St. Paul’s had a decent sized delegation there. Our own John Klinger provided Carillon music for the occasion. At our September Voters assembly we removed a number of folks from the rolls that we’ve lost track of or that have joined other churches. On the 17th of the month, I provided a grave side service for Carol Jeannie Blase. The end of the month found me running up to Concordia University—Chicago, having been elected at the Synodical Convention to the University’s Board of Regents. And as the Cunningham family was enlarged so graciously this year, it was with joy abounding that September 26th not only found the TSP family gathered at St. Paul’s for worship, but having the added joy of seeing Carter and Callie Cunningham cleansed and claimed in Holy Baptism by their loving Lord.
October was wonderfully beautiful – perfect fall weather on the warm side. Amid the changing leaves and the bright blue sky, Jesus our beautiful Savior, reached out and marked Luke Thomas Bright as His very own little brother, making him an heir of all His own inheritance. We closed the month with a triumphant Reformation Service, thanking the Lord for preserving to His Church the gospel of the sinner’s free justification.
As November arrived we celebrated All Saints and remembered our newly departed brother and sisters. Truly did old Urbanus Rhegius capture it when he wrote: “They are not gone; but gone ahead.” So as we sang: “We feebly struggle; they in glory shine; yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine!” Sausage Supper arrived on the second Sunday, and Jesus was again busy in building His Church. He took the lovely Jamie Rose Schkade under His wing, named His own holy name upon her, and filled her with His Spirit. Thanksgiving brought a full church and loud singing of Matins. And then Advent was upon us, and the baptismal waters flowed yet again. On Saturday, November 27th, Austin Leonard and Joseph Leonard were snatched from the evil one, marked as Christ’s own, filled with His divine life in Holy Baptism. Sometime in November, Vice-President Mueller called to ask me to lead a series of Catechetical services at our Synod’s International Center each Wednesday from January to June of 2011. The kicker was the catechization had to be completed in all of about 10 minutes each week!
December was definitely winter. Snow and more snow – and seemingly always on a Sunday. Yet our joy in the Lord’s Advent and Nativity waxed great. The Christmas committee worked their usual magic and transformed the inside of St. Paul’s. December 11th saw the final baptism of the year: Allison Rose Haarmann, washed in the Triune name, anointed by the Spirit, aglow with the light of Christ. The ladies gathered for their annual Christmas party despite the horrid weather; but the Daycare/Preschool’s Christmas program had to be postponed till later in that week. But when it did finally happen, the nave was filled to the brim, and the children did a wonderful job presenting the message: Love came down at Christmas. In the week before Christmas, the beautiful image of St. Paul was placed in the sanctuary on the south wall in loving memory of Glenn Schumacher. St. Paul holds a pen and a scroll upon which his Apostolic symbol is attached: the sword and the book – “Spiritus gladius” – the sword of the Spirit, from Ephesians 6, which is the Word of God. Christmas Eve and more snow of course. It was perfect. Just enough. Not too much. The children of the Sunday School presented us with the story of Christmas at the evening service; the first Divine Service of Christmas Day began at 11 and wrapped up after midnight; and we gathered yet again in the morning for the joyous Christ-Mass, the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity in the flesh, with bells, choir, organ: our joy be all with music crowned; our voices gladly blending!
And so the civil year came to its conclusion a month after the Church’s year had wrapped up. Through all the changes, all the joys and all the sorrows, our faithful Lord continued to serve us His mercy, His forgiveness, His love both lavishly and freely. He truly shepherds His people with tenderness from this passing age into the bright light and shining joys of that Age to come where with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He ever reigns in majesty and glory. To the blessed Trinity be all the glory forever and ever! Amen.
At the end of 2010, the baptized membership of St. Paul’s stood at 718. The communicant membership at 570. The average attendance was 311 per week (thank you, Louis Hellmann for calculating that for me!) which means that approximately 43% of our members are in attendance in Divine Service a given week
William C. Weedon, the 14th Pastor of St. Paul’s, in the 19th year of the current pastorate