Our church celebrates its 135th anniversary this month!
Thursday evening, October 24th at 7 pm, we’ll give thanks and praise to God and celebrate our church’s 135th anniversary at an evening worship service—I encourage you to attend. We have lots to be thankful for, namely the fact that God has raised leaders in this church for over a century, ensuring God’s Word has been rightly preached and the Sacraments faithfully administered by pastors going all the way back to August Kentner in 1878. Pastor Kentner is an interesting fellow in our church’s history. It seems he was something of a “house mission” type pastor, which is consistent with the history of Lutherans in North America during the end of the nineteenth century. According to the local history of St. Paul prepared by pastor Schuldheisz et. al., August Kentner left the old Minnesota Synod, moved out west and farmed, started a school or two, and preached at homes. It was pastor Kentner who, sometime in late September or early October 1878, recommended to the Hellman, Mohrmann, Pape, and Borchers families that they should organize into a congregation. And here we are.
A lot happened between 1878 and 2013. I find it interesting in our history that St. Paul did not join the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod (LCMS) until 1887—almost ten years after organizing as a congregation. During that time, Lutheran expansion in the Pacific Northwest was rapid, and consisted of German and Scandinavian Lutherans from all different kinds of synods and conferences. Their major draw towards each other had to do more with common language and where one emigrated from rather than doctrine and theology. I wonder what our church would look or feel like now if we had joined the Pacific Synod in 1901 or one of the Puget Sound groups? Well, I’m thankful we are part of the LCMS, a strong body of believers world-wide who, according to president Matthew Harrison is, “the best thing going.”
Speaking of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, you may have noticed over the last four years I don’t preach or teach about our denomination’s warts and blemishes when it comes to leadership and church politics. There’s a couple reasons for this: one is, compared to some of my colleagues, I’ve not been “home grown” in the LCMS from birth. I’ve come into this family late, as if in a marriage. I was not part of this family during the turbulent times such as the break from fellowship with the Wisconsin Synod, the seminary split in St. Louis, and the joint hymnal debacle with the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church. I appreciate the history of these events and how they’ve shaped us, but they don’t rankle my feathers or cause me to get emotional. Second, I find the arguments and bickering in the larger church body to be somewhat childish at times, and sapping of energy that could be used for more productive efforts. It amazes me sometimes to see pastors and church leaders write copious amounts of books, letters, articles, and blogs criticizing other clergy, and the way the synod does business. I know they have a flock to feed somewhere, so where do they find time for all that? I don’t know. The way I see things, coming into this game (as Luther might put it) late in my life, God is giving me my portion of time and energy to accomplish His work—and so far it doesn’t include getting on soapboxes about the state of the LCMS.
None of this is to say I don’t care about our synod. I do, and I follow what’s going on with us by reading the various publications which are mailed out such as The Lutheran Witness, The Reporter, and the synod’s website. You should too because we are part of a much bigger body than just our congregation. Some of the issues at hand my not seem very interesting, or even relevant to our context here in Sherwood Oregon; but we should all have our finger on the pulse of our denomination so we can track where we’ve come, and where we’re going. I know, I know, it takes time to read that kind of stuff, and we’re all so busy with other things. I would at least encourage you to read pastor Harrison’s follow up to the national convention held in St. Louis this summer. You can find it in an article called “Unifying Solutions” on the homepage of the LCMS. If you don’t have a computer and would like to read it, ask me, and I’ll print it out for you. It’s a good little snapshot of the convention, and the state of our synod. Of course, it’s only one viewpoint, so if you’re interested in other reports, you can read our Northwest District president Paul Linneman’s reflections on the convention on the district website, or ask me and I’ll print you a copy.
LCMS wide, we may not all agree on everything; but here in Sherwood, in light of our 135th anniversary, I believe, and I hope you do too, that our church is indeed, the best thing going.
The peace of the Lord be with you,