To the Children of God:
Members of the Covenant Lutheran Oklahoma City Churches,
The Covenant’s Futures Task Force asked me to review the ways our three Covenant Lutheran Oklahoma City Churches have worked together in the past, and ways we can better work together as we move forward, to becoming A Church Together. My intention was to publish this on April 20, my two-year anniversary date as the pastor to the Covenant Lutheran Oklahoma City Churches. I thought this would be a good place from where to look back and a place to begin looking forward.
Even before I arrived, you had cooperated as a group to set a worship schedule, including special services during Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter. We have worked together to get these to fit into people’s schedules and to meet the needs of the churches.
One of my goals has been to improve the communication and cooperation between the three churches and their members. Under the CLOKCdotChurch banner, we have created an umbrella website to provide an easily accessible location for parishioners and the general public. This allows us to tell others what we are all about, as well as giving us a social media presence. Most importantly, we publish weekly announcements for all three churches, and allow all three churches to participate in common activities.
The Covenant churches have been exemplary at being a blessing by sharing their blessings. In the first year of the BEDLAM Food Drive, we were able to donate 680 pounds of food and almost $500 to the food pantries we support. Last year, the Covenant churches led other Oklahoma City ELCA churches to donate over ONE TON of food and an additional $440 dollars to feed our neighbors in need. The dates for this year’s BEDLAM Food Drive are on the calendars of many churches.
An idea came from last year’s Synod Assembly to provide bedding for all students at the Oaks Indian Mission, and the Covenant Churches took the lead to get it done. Ascension’s quilters provided most of the quilts, and the Women of the ELCA from St. Mark provided the pillows. Redeemer’s ladies were examples at how to fill in the rest of the needs of the other churches in the conference.
These examples show the possibilities of what we can do as we work at becoming A Church Together. Individually, each church is working well in a two-dimensional cruciform way. I believe the three Covenant Churches becoming A Church Together will allow us to fulfill our mission in three dimensions. I’ll explain what I mean.
The three roles of a church can best be explained in imagining a structure in three dimensions.
First, we must have a vertical relationship between God and us. We receive God’s love, God’s grace, God’s mercy and God’s blessings as a downward arrow coming to us. In response, we give God thanks and praise for the blessings we have received, and our cares and concerns, in the form of prayers, asking God to intercede and act in our lives and the lives of the ones we care about and love. This is an upward arrow, and reflects our interaction and relationship with God. Our relationship with others in the church form horizontal arrows as we take care and help one another, and work together to build and sustain the church. These two arrows reflect the cruciform, or cross-shaped, nature of the church’s relationship.
But where the Church is called is to be Christ’s body in the world, we need to be an arrow, emanating from the heart of the cross, bursting out into the world. We need to move out of our two-dimensional form, and take the Good News of God’s love into the world. We need to take the love shown on the Cross and go into the world.
My thought on how the Covenant Lutheran Churches can best do this is for us to declare ourselves to be: A Feeding Church.
Food and feeding people is a strength of each of the three Covenant Churches. Feeding people is an act of caring and providing for them. Inviting people to your table, or bringing your table to them is an act of hospitality. They are all acts that Jesus did during his ministry, often caring for those whom society had cast out or shoved away.
I’m not exactly sure what form our call to feed may take.
We may continue what we are doing. We may establish a food pantry as Ascension has. We may provide food for those in need in open pantries as St. Mark and Ascension are doing. We may make meals for ourselves and our community as Redeemer has done. We might host meals as St. Mark did last Thanksgiving.
We might try ideas from other churches. We may use the idea that MealsDoMatter.org has done and make prepared dishes that can be taken to people who are in need. We may become a location that supplements family food needs by providing weekly backpacks full of food for children to take home for weekends as FeedMore.org does. We may help other churches with their Meals on Wheels programs. We can make meals to provide for the young people at the SISU homeless shelter and other organizations in need.
You may have an idea or suggestion that fills a need in our community.
Feeding is not limited to only food.
We feed our soul when we study and discuss Scripture and how we can be God’s hands in a hurting world. We feed ourselves and others in worship when we share of our gifts and talents. We feed others when we make our worship services available without having to physically come to us.
We provide hospitality with the quilts we make. We provide hospitality with the clothes and other items we donate. We provide hospitality by allowing organizations use our facilities, and by being good neighbors by participating in activities in our communities.
Feeding is thinking outside of the box to get our church outside of its walls and into the lives of those who need to know that God loves them just as they are. Feeding includes teaching people they don’t have to change to earn God’s love, but to understand that they will be changed by embracing God’s love.
I have been honored to be your pastor for the past two years, and I look forward to being with you as we walk into an incredibly uncertain future.
May you always know God’s love in your life and the lives of those you love,
Pastor Brian R. Campbell, Covenant Lutheran Oklahoma City Churches