Dear Members of First Lutheran,

This week was an encouraging one for me to experience as a pastor in a new congregation. I was able to experience being church together in a new way, that has sometimes been hidden due to the circumstances of the last months. On Wednesday, our congregational council met and for the first time some of us gathered, masked and distant, but in person, under the new lights of our tent. We were able to work through many issues efficiently and purposefully, though maybe not perfectly yet, but we are improving our practices and transparency with the congregation. [See summary]. Some of the news is that after six-months, you are officially calling me to First Lutheran as my letter of call was signed and now we can look forward to an Installation Service in the near future. That means so much to me. The desire for that vocational affirmation has grown during this pandemic and the recognition of this not being seen primarily as a job, but a call to specific ministry is very important to me.

This weekend, I experienced a beautiful snapshot as a pastor of a church with dynamic ministry. Children gathered to chalk in front of our church (if you haven’t seen their creations, please feel free to come by the church and take a look) some seeing each other for the first time in months, hopefully giving some safe relational reassurance from their church community before they embark on a new and unique school year. A young adult from our neighborhood came by to pick up a second load of food and supplies from our food pantry to support the people of his home city of Cedar Falls, IA as they rebuild after the disastrous wind storm earlier this August. Dave dropped off flooring panels for my office and the Kocans were there to install them so that I am a little closer to having my own workspace in the church. And then as a final encouragement, as we gathered for church on Sunday, people kept coming! We had enough people show up and several visitors to make our tent feel a little more like a revival!

It’s been a tough slough to work through for all of us these last few months, and yes we have more challenges ahead. As an election approaches and a community near us has found itself on the news as a victim and example of our current national dysfunction, the world around us can seem very divided and the future may seem frightening at times. But there is much hope and goodwill in this world, in our communities and in this church. I hope we all can lean into the light and witness to it, by treating others with kindness even if they are different from us and remembering the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ feeding us the grace we need as “Sinner/saints” following Jesus in a world of sin and beauty, a world that God loves and calls us to care for and love too!

As I closed my sermon with these words from Romans may the disciples of First continue to meditate on what it means to walk in the Spirit with Christ in the lead!

Romans 12:9-21
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Pastor Josh

August 26, 2020 Church Council Meeting Highlights

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Executive and Church Council met on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 outside under the lighted tents to discuss current issues and plans for the upcoming months as we all continue with COVID. To keep the congregation informed, I will publish the bullet point items. The Council encourages the congregation to review, offer input/feedback and forward items for the Council’s review for the monthly meetings. Please forward your agenda items to Barb before the 3rd Wednesday of the given month.

The following are the key items discussed:

  • The Pastor’s office remodeling is almost complete.  The call paperwork is completed and Heidi will deliver it to the Greater Milwaukee Synod office.
  • Installation of the Pastor and Council to be planned for the 2nd or 3rd Sunday in September as a Rally Sunday/Tent Revival for all.
  • Worship and music:  For Sunday worship this September, we will be scheduling recorded organ music from Gary twice and live music and recorded music once.  Worship will continue on the lawn at 10:00AM and recorded for those to view on-line.  We will also schedule a once a month Saturday Evening Service if 10 or more people say they will attend.  Pastor Josh has offered to bring communion in a safe way to those who haven’t been able to come to worship service. 
  • Lori is developing a plan for the Fall Stewardship Drive.  We are blessed that through the generosity of members, good stewardship of investments and surprise gifts, First Lutheran is 6% underspending its budget for the first 7 months of the year.  We all benefit from growing generosity and Lori is developing a theme for our Stewardship drive in the coming months. Please prayerfully consider your gift this year and thank you for your generosity!
  • We reviewed Lori and Linda’s children’s ministry plans and are inviting congregation members to participate.  See the September newsletter for more information.
  • There was a break-in of the church between Aug. 15-17.  We are grateful that only food was taken. There was damage to the front door and food pantry door.  The doors are secure and a contractor has been contacted to repair/replace the main entrance doors. Thank you to Dave for taking on this project.
  • We reviewed Bishop Erickson’s letter on Covid and Kenosha which is available on the Synod website. 
  • We are planning a follow-up meeting for those who participated in the Synod’s Digital Evangelism Webinar on what we can implement at First Lutheran. 
  • The Council voted and all agreed to present Dave a gift card for all his efforts and diligence to provide his technical knowledge, equipment and presentation of our church services per video and his dedication to FLC. Thank you again Dave—You are very much appreciated.

Heidi Leiser-O’Neil

Council President

Connecting With Others

In my newsletter article for September, I share about a visit to my friend Brian in Iowa and how he is finding ways to support the victims of the derecho wind destruction in the state, especially in nearby Cedar Rapids, where his sister lives.  Yesterday, I talked to my former supervisor who is a pastor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as they found themselves between two simultaneous tropical storms.  This is a time of year when many people are bracing for natural disasters and as we hear about them it can be hard to know how best to help.  As the Vice President of Renegaid, I am part of an organization that promotes connecting with those that have been directly affected by disasters and listening to hear what is really needed on the ground and how to best support them.  We believe that when survivors are treated like part of the solution and recovery, it can be empowering and transformational in the midst of a situation where it is easy to feel powerless.

When I got back from Iowa, I had a phone message from a neighbor in West Allis that heard we had a food pantry.  Than Nguyen grew up in Cedar Rapids, and his relatives told him what specific food and supplies were needed and he asked us if we could offer some food and supplies to deliver to people there.  After I talked more with Than, the volunteers at the food pantry immediately set up some food and supplies from our food pantry for him to take.  Because he knows the people on the ground personally and the agencies that were helping them the most locally, he was going to find out what was needed for this week knowing that their needs may change.  I also had an opportunity to talk to Than more and learn about his story and what was motivating his desire to help.

We at First continue to adapt our services and ministries by listening to the stories and needs of others to support those who are experiencing different stages of loss, recovery and transformation.  This happens in our own families, with friends and neighborhoods and wherever God invites us to connect.   Not only can we help each other, we also can learn from each other.

“After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America” by Jessica Goudeau

Join LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) for its second Virtual Book Event, part of a series of insightful interviews with authors and experts in the immigration landscape today. On Wednesday, August 19th at 3pm, author Jessica Goudeau will discuss her new book, “After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America.”

The welcoming and acceptance of immigrants and refugees has been central to America’s identity for centuries–yet America has periodically turned its back at the times of greatest humanitarian need. After the Last Border is an intimate look at the lives of two women as they struggle for the twenty-first century American dream, having won the “golden ticket” to settle as refugees in Austin, Texas.

After the Last Border situates a dramatic, character-driven story within a larger history–the evolution of modern refugee resettlement in the United States, beginning with World War II and ending with current closed-door policies–revealing not just how America’s changing attitudes toward refugees has influenced policies and laws, but also the profound effect on human lives.

The session will be moderated by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Register HERE and be sure to check out our other upcoming sessions with authors on our website:

For more information on the author, or to order the book, click HERE.

“O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come!” –Isaac Watts 1708

I spent some time last week reading the wonderful bios that Barb has written over the years featuring First Lutheran Church members and their stories. When it has been difficult to get to know people in person the way I am used to in a new church, these bios have been a rich resource to understand members and some of the connections people have.

It was interesting to note similar hobbies, vocations and experiences among the members and how they say they first came to First Lutheran. Many members note the person that welcomed them to First and the people that made them feel at home at a new church. Who are the people doing that now? And how can we do that when we are socially distanced?

That’s one of the goals of the Digital Evangelism Course members of First are taking on Tuesday nights this August. It is giving us insights and practices that can help us think about how to connect with and welcome new people to our community. It may seem strange that people in the future will say that an internet search, an email, a facebook post, or a positive response online was there first experience with First, that made them want to be a part of our community, but that is how people are getting to know faith communities now usually before they ever step in the door of a new church.

This may seem strange and a big change to the church we are used to, but it’s important to remember that the Church and churches have changed many times through the centuries. While our liturgy remains similar to Catholic and Lutheran services from long ago, the way we do church now was formed in the last one hundred years and probably would be unrecognizable to many Christians who came before us. The current church model was built around an unsustainable Baby Boom of the 1950s and 60s. Much of the population and ways of organizing shifted to the suburbs and now we are recognizing new ways of being church and reaching people where they are at, which more and more of the time means online!

Change is always difficult, but change is something we have done in the past and will continue to do today and in the future, if we follow Jesus calls to fish for people in new ways and with new nets!

Pastor Josh


Digital Discipleship and Evangelism

Pastor Josh and several members of First Lutheran took part in a synod sponsored webinar series with Jamie Domm called “Digital Discipleship and Evangelism”. She explained the fundamental concepts behind seeing the digital landscape as the next mission field and how we can enter into it during the pandemic when so much of our lives are taking place in our homes and online. The Greater Milwaukee Synod continues to deliver tools for congregations during this challenging time, to help us see the opportunities and areas of growth we can live into!

It was a very interesting session that gave an overview of the new ways people use social media in order to explore faith communities to build trust, before they enter in the door. The more people at First that learn how to think like this and use the tools, the more effective our evangelism in the 21st Century can be. If the community of First is represented and active online we can reach more people with Jesus.

You can watch the session HERE and share it with others. Don’t miss Pastor Josh’s final question. He’s always got to get in the last word!

Anyone can still register and receive the zoom link, even if they missed this first session! Contact the office for more information.

Worship Assistance

Thanks to all of the members and visitors who came to worship with us yesterday!  We hope to continue worshiping regularly like this as we monitor the community spread of Covid-19, but we hope you take advantage of our Tent of Meeting in the courtyard for a safe warm weather worship experience.  If we continue to worship together like this we need more worship volunteers to help with the set up and take down for worship and for people to fill the normal worship roles with some additional duties due to Covid-19.  Please take a look at the following roles and see if you are willing to help in this way.  Again if you are someone who has health or age issues that make you more susceptible to Covid-19 we understand not wanting to take on these roles right now, but for the rest of you that are able and willing to help, we really need you to help the church in this way so we can continue to worship together as safely as possible!  You can call the office to volunteer, contact Colleen Siarnicki or ask a greeter to sign you up for a role at worship on Sunday.


We are starting to worship outdoors this summer and we need some help making sure our services go smoothly, by getting people to sign up to help ahead of time!

If you are able to help could you… 

1) Read the FAQs plan for worship carefully so you know the answers to people’s questions

2) Come to the church by 9:20am on Sunday to help with setup

3) Send feedback to Pastor Josh about anything we can improve on in the future.

4) and fill one of the following roles..



Set up the check-in table with a supply of bulletins, worship FAQ Sheets, individualized, communion cups, and also supplies of sanitizer, wipes and masks if people don’t have one.  Have clipboards for volunteer signups and attendance in hand.

Set up garbage buckets at exits for people to dispose of bulletins and communion cups when they leave. 


Greet people as they approach and instruct someone from the household to pick up bulletins, worship FAQ sheets and communion cups for their households, answer questions.  Encourage people to use sanitizer upon entry.  Give people a mask to wear if they don’t have one.  Sanitize table and anything touched.


Write down the names of attendees and can also ask them if they can volunteer for a future service and take their information down. 


Help people find their seats while maintaining distance,

Stand to the side during the service to have eye contact with people to see if anyone has a question or needs assistance during the service. 

Be ready to unlock the church if someone needs to go the bathroom. 

Help people exit one household at a time while maintaining social distance.


One Reader who will read the Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament reading with a microphone in a mask that doesn’t muffle the sound too much.

One Worship Assistant who reads the Congregational parts of the liturgy with a microphone in a mask that doesn’t muffle the sound too much.

These two roles can also be done by one person if necessary.