For 40 years Good Shepherd has been having an impact on people’s lives. I love to hear the stories of the founding members who tell me that “when others wouldn’t baptize them, we would; when others wouldn’t marry them, we would; when others wouldn’t bury them we would.” I love seeing the excitement of our young people who attended Vacation Bible School or Camp or the high school mission trip to the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston. They have had experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I am always touched to hear from those who have gone through tough times and share the difference it has made to have the support, care and prayers of Good Shepherd. There are so many stories out there! 40 years worth of stories!
One of the most recent stories of Good Shepherd impacting people’s lives is our participation in the seminary internship program. Two years ago, out of the blue we received a call from Luther Seminary. The supervising pastor at Vicar Nicole’s original internship congregation, unexpectedly died of a brain aneurism. While we weren’t planning on having an intern (we had never even talked about the possibility), we were asked if God might be leading us to participate in this ministry. As we think about Vicar Nicole’s time with us, we may think of all the many ways she has touched our lives with her ministry. In addition, we have provided a ministry to her and to the larger church. This has been a time of growth and learning for Vicar Nicole (and hasn’t it been fun to see that progress and development take place!). We were asked to be an internship congregation (out of the blue) because of our reputation for being a good and healthy place focused on doing ministry. We have provided that encouragement and support and those learning opportunities for Vicar Nicole. Also, by participating in this ministry of internship and preparing a pastor to serve the church at large, we have an impact on making sure that another congregation has a pastor. In our Southeastern MN Synod of the ELCA there will be 35 pastors retiring in the next 3 years and we only receive an average of 2 new pastor candidates per year. Across the ELCA it is predicted that we could be short about 1000 pastors in the next 3-5 years because on average 400 pastors retire each year and only about 200 are coming out of seminary to serve as pastors. Participating in the ministry of internship we have helped lift up another pastor for the church at large.
When we come together in Christ, loving God and loving our neighbor lives are changes. We may not see the impact at first glance but God is at work in and through our ministry. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for the larger church, for Vicar Nicole or for Good Shepherd, but I do know God is at work here in this place and in all of us and God will continue that work into the future God has prepared for us.
Join me on Sunday, September 9th as we gather in worship to celebrate 40 years of God’s work here at Good Shepherd. And join me on Sunday, September 30th as Vicar Nicole concludes her internship with us and we send her off with our prayers and God’s blessings.