Peace Lutheran Church Sussex, Wisconsin

June 2015

God Does Not Desert Those Who Trust in Him

We know that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope. – Romans 5:3-4

“When God wants to strengthen a man’s faith He first weakens it by feigning to break faith with him. He thrusts him into many tribulations and makes him so weary that he is driven to despair, and yet He gives him strength to be still and persevere. Such quietness is patience and patience produces experience, so that when God returns to him and lets His sun rise and shine again, and when the storm is over he opens his eyes in amazement and says: ‘The Lord shall be praised, that I have been delivered from evil. God dwells here. I did not think that all would end so well’.

“Within a day or two, within a week or a year, or even within the next hour, sin brings another cross to us: the loss of honor or possessions, bodily injury or some mishap which brings such trouble. Then it all begins again and the storm breaks out once more. But now we glory in our afflictions because we remember that on the former occasion God was gracious to us, and we know that it is His good will to chastise us, that we may have reason to run to Him and to cry, ‘He who has helped me so often will help me now’. And that selfsame longing in your heart (which makes you cry, Oh that I were free! Oh that God would come! Oh that I might receive help!) is hope, which putteth not to shame, for God must help such a person.

“In this way God hides life under death, heaven under hell, wisdom under folly, and grace under sin.”

– Martin Luther

Deacon Gatchell—Farewell and Godspeed

Martin Luther said, “There ought to be deacons, not for the reading of the Gospel, but to tend to the temporal affairs of the congregation.”  In 1994 Peace Lutheran Church extended a Solemn Appointment to Matthew Gatchell, a graduate of the Lay Ministry program at Concordia University, Mequon, to be the Deacon of Peace Lutheran Church. At the time that Deacon Gatchell began his service among us there was no “Peace Lutheran Academy” (the preschool was beginning its second year), and the CCA had just been formed at the same Voters’ meeting at which Deacon was called. Since 1994 we have seen the creation of Peace Lutheran Academy, the growth of the Academy’s financial development program (the single greatest source of income for the Academy), the explosion of the use of the CCA materials in our own country and throughout the world, and many improvements to our physical plant (the construction of the Academy addition; the storage garage; new roofs, air-conditioning, and organ; and the beautification of our grounds through the garden and patio expansion). In all of these things, Deacon Gatchell’s leadership and help were immeasurable.

Throughout the history of the Church, Acts 6 was used to encourage the appointment of qualified men to serve in the Office of Deacon, so that the ministers of God’s Word could “give [themselves] continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (verse 4). Without Deacon Gatchell’s help over the past 21 years, I simply could not have done my job as pastor. But the Office of Deacon is more than a “temporal affairs office.”  It is an office which also assists the Office of the Holy Ministry. Over the years, Deacon has made hospital calls, visited shut-ins, substitute taught in catechesis classes, and led Bible studies. Along with the development of the CCA’s outreach, this is the area of work he has enjoyed most.

Over the past ten years, Deacon’s health began to compromise his ability to serve. A precancerous blood disorder resulted in the removal of his spleen seven years ago. This, in turn, compromised his immune system and exacerbated his allergies, contributing to chronic sinus infections and several sinus surgeries. Knee and shoulder replacements have also been a hindrance.

When Deacon discussed his retirement with me last fall, he was most aggrieved that his chronic health issues over the past seven years had prevented him from serving his pastor and assisting in the ministry of the Gospel in the way that he would have liked. For my part, I am very grateful to God for the gift that Deacon Gatchell has been to me and Peace Lutheran Church, the CCA, and Academy over the past 21 years. He has been a good friend and confidant. The existence and growth of the CCA would not have been possible without him. And all the little intuitive insights and understandings that he and I share as Pastor and Deacon are difficult to articulate and impossible to replace. On the occasion of Deacon’s retirement, I can think of no more appropriate passage than the words of St. Paul to the Philippian Christians: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6). None of us knows what the future holds, but we are confident in the Lord’s sustaining and all-sufficient grace.

In Christ, Pastor Bender

Dear Friends at Peace . . . From Deacon Gatchell

Dear friends at Peace,

I have had the privilege to serve at Peace for the past 21 years. I am grateful to our Lord that He allowed me to serve in a congregation committed to the historic liturgy, the Lutheran Confessions, and the passing on of the faith. It has been wonderful to work with like-minded people. I am thankful for having Pastor Bender as my shepherd and friend all of these years.

Because of our mutual commitment, many things have happened in the congregation that I am proud to have been a part of. First and foremost in my mind is the work of the CCA. Through the work of the CCA, the commitment that our congregation has to being Lutheran has been passed on to others throughout the world. Through my involvement with the CCA, I have learned several new skills including page design, page layout, preparing materials for publication, and a whole new publishing vocabulary. Through the marketing of the materials at various conferences throughout the U.S., I have had the opportunity to speak about the CCA materials and about our congregation to pastors and presidents/presiding bishops of Lutheran church bodies from around the world. For example, at a convention in Illinois, I had a two hour conversation with the presiding bishop of the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa. In Fort Wayne, I had my picture taken presenting the CCA materials to the bishop of Kenya. Many are surprised to find out how small our congregation is, given the impact we have had on Lutheranism. They are even more surprised to find out how many members assist in collating the materials (my thanks to all of you who participated in the many collating parties throughout the years). If the congregation had not been supportive of my traveling to various conferences, sometimes for weeks at a time, I would not have had these opportunities. For that I am grateful to God.

Through my work with the CCA, I had opportunities to explain what I do as a deacon. Because of that, other pastors and congregations are beginning to explore the use of a deacon in their parish situations. I recently had a pastor from Texas tell me that, having watched me for over 20 years, he is convinced that there should be a male diaconate in the synod. Also, I was told that I am now the model for the Lutheran Lay Ministry program at CUW of what a lay minister/deacon should be doing in a congregation. Without the opportunity to serve in this supportive congregation, that would not have been possible. I am thankful to the congregation for being supportive in this way.

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as pastoral assistant of the congregation. To assist Pastor Bender in the Divine Service, lead daily chapels, lead Sunday Matins, and teach occasional Bible classes are things I will always cherish. One of the great joys that I have had over the past 21 years was to share the Word of God and pray with our members who were in the hospital, in a care facility, or confined at home.

I am thankful for the friendships I have developed over the years with various members of the congregation. Also, I am grateful for the support the members have given to me and my family over the years, especially when I have had to deal with various health issues. I thank the Lord for each and every one of you.

I am also proud to have been a part of the development of Peace Lutheran Academy. Verla and I were part of the ad hoc committee that proposed the establishment of the academy to the congregation. Pastor Bender and I walked through Sussex speaking with business owners about the academy and inviting them to our first open house. I helped develop the three-pronged approach to financing the academy (tuition, congregational support, and financial development). In the area of financial development, I proposed implementing the scrip program, goods and services auction, and craft fair. I have had the opportunity to assist with curriculum development of the history program and to have taught in the academy. I am proud to have been part of the Hornblower dinners and “master of the grog bowl”. I am grateful for all of the volunteers who have assisted with the various activities and fundraisers throughout the years.

I am grateful for all the members with various talents who have assisted in building and maintaining the physical structures of the congregation. The remodeling of the chancel, the building of the garage, the patio and landscaping, the remodeling of the offices, the many coats of paint through the building, the re-roofing of the sanctuary, the sound system, and the building out of the school building would not have been possible without the loving labor of our members. Thanks to each of you, my job has been easier to do.

Finally, I am grateful to the Lord that He has allowed me to learn, lead, and share His love with all of you in our various vocations for the last third of my life. What a blessing this has been for me! May the grace of our Lord and Savior continue to be with each and every one of you!

In Christ, Deacon Gatchell

Handling the Congregation’s Temporal Affairs

The Parish Council has approved an Interim Administrative Plan to handle the temporal affairs of the parish after Deacon Gatchell’s retirement. The plan divides administrative responsibilities among five sub-committees: finance, financial development, web site, CCA, and administration. These sub-committees have been meeting with me and Deacon Gatchell leading up to Deacon’s retirement to facilitate a smooth transition to Deacon’s retirement toward a more permanent staffing solution in the future. Jim Frerking will function as “Acting Administrator” of the parish to serve as a “point man” to field questions and concerns that members of the congregation may have and which they have typically taken to Deacon Gatchell in the past.

It is the judgment of the Parish Council that we do not want to rush into more permanent staffing solutions to Deacon’s retirement until we have a more thorough assessment of the parish’s administrative needs.

Open Congregational Forum Sunday, July 26 at 9:15 am To Discuss Possibilities for Future Staffing

The Office of Deacon is not only concerned with temporal affairs of the parish, but it is also intended to be both a pastoral assistant and a help to the laity in fulfilling their callings. Deacon Gatchell, himself, has long been frustrated that some of his chronic health issues have prevented him from assisting in these last two areas as much as he would have liked. At an Open Forum on July 26, we would like to discuss a number of options, including the possibility of extending a call to Pastor Gary Gehlbach to serve in the Office of Deacon. Pastor Gehlbach, or someone like him in the office of Deacon, could be a big help in achieving some of the ministerial goals I have for the congregation:

•  Regular every family visits of the congregation for the purpose of pastoral care

•  Missionary work in the community

•  Follow-up on visitors, prospective members, and contacts

•  Developing a catechumenate (adult sponsors and support of catechumens)

•  Help with youth catechumens in preparing personal prayer books

•  Attention to the membership files

•  More regular congregational newsletters

•  Coordination and assistance of members in volunteer and mercy work

•  Public administrative presence in the office that coordinates and directs temporal affairs

•  Developing more of the Lutheran Catechesis Series

•  Sunday School Curriculum that is coordinated with the Congregation at Prayer

•  Catechumenate materials

•  Lutheran Catechesis Compendium

•  Catechetical Modules on Important Topics

•  Small Catechism for Daily Prayer

My biggest areas of concern are having adequate time to study and prepare for preaching and teaching, individual pastoral care for families, coordinating the mission and evangelism activities of the congregation, follow-up with prospective members, the withering and delinquent. Pastor Gehlbach could be of immense help to me in these areas.

In our discussions, the Parish Council identified priorities: first, we want the leadership to have a firm grasp of the temporal and administrative needs that we have (this would be aided by our 5 administrative groups); second, we want to make certain that we can afford the personnel decisions we make. We also discussed my long standing desire to have a sabbatical for spiritual refreshment and to complete various Lutheran Catechesis projects; and we discussed the possibility of entering into the vicarage program at some point in the future. We certainly encourage conversation about these ideas over the weeks ahead, even before the July 26 Open Forum. The bottom line is that we want to be fiscally prudent and responsible before we move forward with a long term replacement for Deacon. We would like to build consensus within the congregation and not rush into a decision.

Sincerely in Christ, Pastor Bender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on June 29, 2015 at 6:39 am

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