Peace Lutheran Church Natoma, Kansas
As many of you know, starting January 1st, I will be covering the vacancy at First Lutheran, Plainville. After many years of faithful service to the Church, Pastor McDermott has decided to retire. We give thanks to God for his service both to First Lutheran, Plainville and to Peace Lutheran, Natoma.
Every vacancy is different, but in rural areas in particular, a vacancy brings about many questions, especially as to the future viability of the congregations involved. I am sure that some of those questions have been asked and will be asked in the future about both congregations.
But as I said, every vacancy is different. To say that we are entering into an arrangement, from which we will not exit, would be improper. First and foremost, the future is to some extent an unknown entity as to what will happen in our communities. But more importantly is the fact that our work is not done, not by a long shot.
Both the Natoma and the Plainville communities are not what they once were. Many of you have told me that at one point basically everyone went to church on Sunday morning. Today, that is not true. Many people in our communities may have their names connected to a church, but it would be a far cry to consider them active, participating members. The reality is that the ground we stand on is a fertile mission field that is ready to be harvested.
There are enough Lutherans, both actual and potential, in Natoma and Plainville to sustain both congregations, each with full time pastors.
Now that sentence has probably caused some of you to roll your eyes, and others of you may be chuckling at the naïve pastor. But the facts are there. The community may not look like it once did, but the community is still there. Census statistics show that the USD #399 area has just short of 900 people living in it; statistics show that the USD #270 area has just under 2200 people living in it. And let me tell you something, if you combine the attendance of all the congregations, Lutheran and non-Lutheran, in those areas, you will find that nowhere near that many people attend church at least once a month.
Now you may look at these numbers and statistics and say so what. And let me assure you, presenting this information, and the effort to maintain two congregations 17 miles apart is not simply for the sake of pride or historical purposes. As Lutheran congregations, we have something to offer that all of the other congregations do not. We have a pivotal role in the future of these communities, that would be sorely lacking if one or both churches disappeared.
We have the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified; we have the hope of sins forgiven, not the worry of forgetting to confess one and being punished; we paint a picture of hope and anticipation on the Last Day, not one of angst and dread; we have the confidence that baptism saves, not the uncertainty of our keeping the Law; we have Jesus coming to us in the Lord’s Supper, not some massive effort of trying to get ourselves to Jesus; we have the certainty of heaven, not the uncertainty of the afterlife.
Over the next few months, things will start to feel normal, they will begin to take on a sort of routine; that is both good and bad. It is good because it means things are going smoothly, and that the Voters assemblies at both congregations are being patient and bearing with one another. But the bad is that it will cause both to lose focus; if this works, then why not just keep it going. Make no mistake about it, our goal is to spread the Gospel and have viable congregations in both communities, and the more effective we are at doing that, the more people we can reach with the Gospel and bring to salvation.
Please pray for both Peace Lutheran and First Lutheran, that both congregations would be places where the Gospel is preached and the sacraments rightly administered to the people of God, until the day when Christ returns and says ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’
God Bless! Pastor Schmidt