In 1883, 135 yrs ago, enterprising immigrants from Germany, seeking a better life and opportunity for their family gathered outside of Bartlett, TX and officially began St. John Lutheran Church. The community had been worshipping in house churches for almost 3 years at that time but finally had the numbers and financial resources to call a pastor and begin a church in earnest.
Today we gathered, along with confirmation students from the 1950s, to celebrate 135 years of faithful ministry and dedicate ourselves to continuing this work. Trusting that God’s future is the future for ourselves and our congregations. I was grateful for the ministry of interim pastor Becky Sogge and the welcome I received. This was my second visit to St. John since being elected bishop and the community was visibly grateful for the presence and appreciation I show for their ministry. I was heartened to see my annual Christmas card posted prominently on their bulletin board along with pictures from my previous visit. Also the last time ice and freezing rain accompanied my trip so I was grateful for warmer weather as well.
Unfortunately, when I agreed to come for this event a year ago I miscalculated when the children’s Advent program would be at my family’s congregation in Fort Worth. This was a special year as our 6 year old had a speaking part for the first time. Thankfully some of the members of Trinity, Fort Worth recorded the event and posted them online so I could see and participate that way. Was inspiring to hear the children read the nativity story as well as hear them sing. Music is such a critical part of our Lutheran heritage and I am grateful for the leadership at Trinity for teaching my children to sing the faith. I also enjoyed seeing the photos from so many other congregations around our synod having celebrations and involving children in worship today.
Due to the weather last weekend the procession of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration at Iglesia Luterana San Gabriel was rescheduled to this weekend. This community, many of whom are 1st and 2nd generation immigrants continue to celebrate this vital feast day in the Mexican-American tradition. Like the Germans who came over a century ago these sisters and brothers are seeking life and hope for their families while also seeking to continue traditions of their ethnic heritage. I had the privilege of riding along with them last December, I was disappointed not to be able to be with them this year but thankful social media allowed us to see the festivities.
As Lutherans we are constantly being reminded by our traditions that we are an immigrant church. A church that confesses the gift of God’s “yes” for humanity in Christ. That we “brood of vipers” are given hope and life because God chooses to come and be a part of of our story. #NTNL #StJohnBartlett #TLCFW #IglesiaSanGabriel #InMissionTogether #EnMisionJuntos