Come and be fed.

“Ho, everyone who thirsts come to the waters!” Isaiah 55: 1

“And all ate and were filled” Matthew 14: 20

Hi everybody! Pastor Josh here welcoming you back to worship at First!

On Sunday at 10AM in our courtyard something amazing will happen…all who are hungry and thirsty will be filled with the words of Scripture, the joy of the presence of our church under the canopy, and the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in communion.

This is a feast and gift to all Christians, that we haven’t been able to celebrate for months. You’ll hear me tell the story of the Great Ice Cream Jubilee of 2017 and Jesus’ Holy Picnic! Our services have all been under 45 minutes, even with my sermons!

And while we can’t promise that 5000+ can gather in our courtyard the way they do in our text for this Sunday (especially with six feet distance!), there is room for you among the company of the saints of First!

And the weather looks like it will be pretty nice. You can check it HERE.

The Wisconsin Council of Churches is now recommending congregations that moved indoors, step back outside or online. And while it’s not the church setting we may be used to, we have a great canvas tabernacle to gather under now, and that is a real gift! Thank you for the donations that made it possible. We can’t reduce all risks, but this is one of the safest ways we can get together and we have certain expectations to follow to help keep your fellow worshipers and you safe! Check our website for Outdoor Worship Preparation information.

We don’t know how long we will be able to keep doing this, but we are planning to worship this way on Sundays as long as we can, and we hope you take advantage of this chance to gather with your fellow disciples and our neighbors under the “Tent of Meeting”!

I fully support those who do not wish to worship in person due to health issues or concerns about Covid. We need to be careful as there is a surge in cases in the state and in our communities (see the latest West Allis Covid information HERE). We will continue to share the service online HERE for those who cannot attend due to Covid or weather concerns, but for all that are thirsty for their faith community, with the words of Isaiah we say come to the waters!

If you are in need of a visit or would like to receive communion at home please contact the church office at 476-4664.

Sharing the Message

In my sermon yesterday I wondered about the power of listening and wondering who is listening to the messages we share. Could someone be leaning in because it is a seed of hope that they need to hear at that moment in their lives. Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of my ordination and I shared a message with a small group of people in the courtyard, but trusted in the Word that this was a mustard seed message that has power beyond appearances and thanks to technology can be shared with those that I can’t see who may long to hear the gospel message. You can read the sermon HERE.

Three years ago, I was the pastor at Holden Village a retreat center in Washington State on my 9th ordination anniversary and even though I was not planning to preach for the Village’s Eucharist service that night, I ended up having to fill in. I shared a message about how my grandfather may have been sent to the wilderness to be Holden’s first director probably because he was seen as a troublemaker and he made church leaders nervous. He may have been in a remote location in the mountains, but the community of Holden sent out signals of the gospel to a church hungry for a reminder of God’s creative and dynamic work in the world.

My grandpa said when he preached, he preached to the person dying in the back pew, and I try to carry on that tradition, believing the proclamation is a life affirming and sometimes life-saving operation, especially for those that don’t think God’s love could be for them. I know sometimes the person dying for the good news, the person thirsty for forgiveness is me. I know I need to hear words of hope and encouragement and the best preachers are the ones who hear the word and share it with others, who broadcast it back to me and others.

That’s why I greatly appreciate the support that the Council recently approved as part of the Letter of Call to First Lutheran that will now finally be completed and submitted. In a time of unprecedented changes to our norms, we can get lost in frustrations, anger, and disappointment. The way we get through this is by remembering to be kind, forgiving, and supportive of each other. Remembering as the Body of Christ, we represent Christ and live into his forgiving and redeeming work in the world. That means sharing love and having “ears for justice” as Solomon was granted in our Old Testament text yesterday.

It’s amazing how the people who are able to listen with love and show kindness and forgiveness in dark times like these, shine like the brightest lights. I hope we can be that for each other, and we can shine that light into the lives of others who need it now and will continue to need to hear that message again and again. Sometimes we share it and sometimes we lean in to hear it. But the good news is still for you and me and for all, and we need it now more than ever.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, your kindness and forgiveness during difficult times. I hope you will join the Council in supporting me and my ministry in these and other ways.

Note: “WE” will represent the congregation of FLC

  1. We promise Pastor Josh our prayerful support and ask God to bless his labors and the mission to whom we are all called.
  2. We welcome him as our Pastor and will give him the love, respect, good will, and cooperation due his life’s call. We will be patient and open-minded to changes, provide honest, open and thoughtful feedback and ensure open and honest communication. We will work with him to form a mutual ministry team for confidential support, reflection and advice and provide quarterly/yearly reviews with the council and FLC.
  3. We will offer our time and talents to assist and support Pastor Josh and FLC in doing work done now and by being open to establishing new mission ventures and procedures for carrying out our ministries.
  4. We will assist, support and encourage Pastor Josh to socialize with others outside the FLC family with whom he can “step outside” the pastoral role to bring “those not here yet” and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
  5. We will provide a key functional role in our West Allis community by providing a place of refuge, service and convening meetings by opening our doors, hearts and minds to a diverse population without discrimination

Pastor Josh

A Summary of Actions Taken

On Wednesday evening, the Council covered a lot of ground and helped set up our new normal for the next few months.  Here is a summary of the decisions that were made that we want to share with the congregation.  Please direct feedback to members of the Executive Council: Heidi Leiser, Colleen Siarnicki, Joy Dowd and Dave Grulke

  • We plan to hold weekly services under the canopy during the warmer weather months following safety precautions of not coming when sick or if exposed to the virus, wearing masks, social distancing, and reporting to the church or leaders having been infected with Covid-19. 
  • There is a need for volunteer readers, worship assistants, ushers and greeters for these services and Colleeen Siarnacki volunteered to coordinate this use of time and talents.
  • Bible Study and other member groups can meet under the canopy following the same precautions.
  • Recovery and outside groups can meet as well, if they follow the same roles as worship and meetings.
  • The only indoor access to groups will be the upstairs accessible bathroom.  Anyone who uses the bathroom will be asked to sanitize after use and our cleaning service has agreed to do additional cleanings of the bathroom during the week, following meetings.
  • All visitors to the building must wear a mask and practice social distancing, if they are making a brief visit to the office. 
  • If people need indoor access for longer than that, they need to ask permission and get approved by the council.  For instance, volunteers working on office renovation and preparations for mailings are approved.
  • The Council has approved the Quilters to use the quilting room in groups of 2, every other week, while practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
  • We have chosen not to host a wedding indoors in September, but will offer the outside tent for this event.  The Fall Bazaar has been postponed until next year.

In other non-pandemic related council news,

  • Lori Marquez has decided to step down in her role as Secretary, and Joy Dowd was voted in as the new Secretary for the remainder of the year. 
  • Pastor Josh presented the By-laws and Constitution relating to the Council and executive position roles for review by the council.  As well as an example of a job description for council and office holders that another congregation uses.
  • The Children’s Ministry team will be reviewing materials from the Synod to prepare a plan for this year.
  • We will be formally installing the Council and Pastor Josh at a service in the near future.

Have You Come Across New Items You’ll Never Use?

Many of us have had extra time during the pandemic to get our places spic and span. If you’ve found that new blender that Aunt Mary gave you for Christmas and you’re never going to use it, please consider donating it for the auction at Eras Virtual Tapestry Event. Read more HERE. They’re gathering items to help raise funds during the Virtual Tapestry Event on September 24th. All funds raised will support Eras programs in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. In addition to products, other popular auction items include:

  • Certificates for outdoor activities (Pumpkin picking, ice skating, ski hill passes, etc.)
  • Gift cards for fast food pick up/delivery, restaurants, spas, etc.
  • Virtual experiences (Zoom yoga, video chat with an author, etc)
  • Autographed sports memorabilia
  • Condo and cabin vacation rentals
  • One-of-a-kind craft and art items
  • Power tools, electronic equipment, outdoor recreation equipment

Contact Becca Snow if you have any questions or an item to donate, (262) 522-2409, Thank you!

Wise Women

Every Tuesday morning at 10AM I have the privilege of praying and learning with our wonderful Bible study group. Every week we open the Bible and learn something about God and our life together. We have been using the text “Bible Women: Their Words and Why They Matter”. This fascinating book always manages to reveal nuances and major themes of the Bible through close study of the words of women in Scripture. Sometimes we only get a few lines or even words from these Biblical figures. Often they are overshadowed by the drama of the Biblical men—who are quite dramatic and emotional it turns out. The women we learn about are often curious, courageous and wise as they navigate a culture that does not grant them the same power as men but nevertheless these women often prove themselves quite power and often the men in the story, kings and commanders of armies, end up dependent on the women for help.

So if you want to dig deeper than what the three year lectionary cycle offers I recommend studying the words of Biblical women because time and time again characters like the Witch of Endor and the Wise Woman of Abel reveal God’s word to us. So once again I invite you to join us for Bible study on a Tuesday this summer. Even if you just want to try to see the Bible in a new way for a session or two you will get a great benefit from the experience with the wise women and courageous men of the Tuesday AM First Bible Study. Just contact the wise woman of the office, Barb, and she will connect you with us with her great powers of administration!

Pastor Josh

The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili

The recording of Baba Yetu is by the Stellenbosch University Choir from South Africa.  It was recorded at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod (a music festival) in Wales in 2018.  Baba Yetu is the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili. The lyrics are below:

Baba yetu, yetu uliye
Mbinguni yetu, yetu amina!
Baba yetu yetu uliye
Jina lako e litukuzwe.
Utupe leo chakula chetu
Tunachohitaji, utusamehe
Makosa yetu, hey!
Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe
Waliotukosea usitutie
Katika majaribu, lakini
Utuokoe, na yule, muovu e milele!
Ufalme wako ufike utakalo
Lifanyike duniani kama mbinguni.
Our Father, who art
in Heaven. Amen!
Our Father,
Hallowed be thy name.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Forgive us of
our trespasses,
As we forgive others
Who trespass against us
Lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from the evil one forever.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven.

Portraits of the 20th Century

Laureate Group Senior Living Communities, located in the Greater Milwaukee Area, has achieved a milestone in the senior living industry! This year marks their 50th year of enhancing the lives of older adults, and what better way to celebrate than walking down memory lane and releasing an encore edition of their book Portraits of the 20th Century.

Back in 1999 when the world was focused on Y2K, Laureate Group Senior Communities was focused on the stories the residents were carrying with them, and all the experiences they had lived. Many told over a holiday dinner or conversation with a loved one, but too many of those stories were being lost, never to see the light of day as we witness the passing of a generation. That motivated the Laureate Group to preserve those real-life stories of the real-life people within Portraits of the 20th Century.

Know a bookworm who’d love the 50th anniversary edition of Portraits of the 20th Century? Purchase on Amazon HERE as paperback or Kindle edition! As you read these stories, hopefully you will be reminded that life happens in moments, not decades. You, too, are creating stories that will be woven together to form the history of your family, your community and our world.

We have pitched our tent!

“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting.’ Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.”  Exodus 33: 7

I spent a couple summers during college and seminary as the director of the high school program at a Lutheran retreat center in Minnesota.  On the first day with the high schoolers I did an exercise with the Bible.  I held up a Bible and said, “How much of this book takes place indoors?”.  Have you ever thought about that?  When you think about the stories of the Bible how many of them happen indoors vs outside? 

The answer is very few stories in the Bible happen indoors, and yet most of our church experience and faith formation have been experienced indoors.  Why have we made this shift and what do we lose by having a predominantly indoor faith experience?

While worshiping outside may be a challenge and feel like it is not normal for us, it is actually quite Biblical and may give us perspective on a life of faith that takes us out of doors and outside our comfort level.  While it will be more difficult to meet outdoors during Wisconsin winters as opposed to a more Mediterranean climate, I hope we can take advantage of this experience and the warm weather as much as possible.  I hope that being outside may open up the stories of the Bible to you more as you imagine being on the road with Jesus and the disciples, being with Paul as he enters a new city, and tabernacle-ing with Moses at the tent of meeting. 

We now have a tent of meeting outside of our church and while we know God will meet us there, we also celebrate that Jesus lives in us and in our hearts and God meets us wherever we are, inside and out!

Pastor Josh

Holy Communion This Sunday!

On Sunday for the first time in a long time we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper, also known as Communion, also known as the Eucharist (Thanksgiving).

Have you missed this experience? What is it about communion that you need and miss?

Why is this meal important? Is it a ritual of remembrance or does Jesus actually show up through these earthly elements in body and blood?

I asked people to share why Communion was important to them and here are two responses from members:

“Holy Communion is refilling/refueling my soul with the body and blood of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know that I’m forgiven and receiving Holy Communion is my blessing and assurance.”

“Communion is important to me because it reminds me of the suffering and sacrifice Jesus made for me (for us all) and the love he has form me and is always with me.”

Well said! Luther believed this experience brought Christ’s presence to us and into our very bodies, “in, with and under” the bread and grape juice or wine. While it was in remembrance of Christ, he didn’t agree with other reformers who saw it as purely a ritual of remembrance.

For Lutherans it is the command of God for a specific action, with the promise of grace, connected to a physical and created substance, (water in baptism and bread and wine/juice in communion) that makes a Sacrament truly sacred. We believe that “In Christ’s body and blood given to us, God forgives us and nourishes us for mission” (Evangelical Book of Worship page 93).

God shows up in other places and other ways. We have remembered his promises through baptism during the Easter Season while we couldn’t communion, but I have a feeling that when we share communion again in the courtyard, or connected by the Holy Spirit in our homes, we will be fed in a way that we have missed while we have been apart.

When will we be worshiping inside of our church?

The First Lutheran congregation council has been wrestling with this question for several months now, and we still don’t know much about moving back inside the church. While we have sought reliable information from local and national health officials, we have decided to delay moving services back inside due to lack of guidance from health officials. We should rely on science, not on what others are doing. Just because malls, stores and restaurants have opened, it doesn’t mean that we must reopen. And very, very few churches have reopened for indoor services.

We know, according to health officials, that fresh outdoor air, face masks and social distancing seems to be about the safest way for groups of people to gather.

We do have special considerations due to the way our building is built. Part of the current science isn’t settled yet on whether having ample fresh air inside a building to minimize virus transmission is an adequate substitute along with face masks and social spacing of those inside a building for safe gatherings. We do have lots of space inside where we might be able to do social distancing with face masks, but we don’t have an air conditioning and/or heating duct system. Exhausting stale air from our sanctuary and bringing in fresh air is a big problem without a good answer. The ceiling fans in the sanctuary basically move the existing air around without bringing in fresh air. The windows in the sanctuary are small, and really don’t do much in exhausting old air and bringing in fresh air. If we had a duct system, it could be used or modified for exhaust air and fresh air exchanging, but there is not such a system in our building.

Due to the inability to change the stale air with fresh air inside, we need to move very slowly until such time health officials tell us that there is little to no concern about stale air inside a hot water heated church building with very small openable windows in the sanctuary area. Outdoors has plenty of fresh air. That is not the case indoors. We could meet in person outside until it gets too cold in the fall, if we wish to do so. It seems that is the best of the very few choices we have available to us now. We don’t expect to have any new guidance anytime soon. Nor do we expect to bring live services indoors anytime soon.

That brings us to continuing outdoor services.  We did have a worship service out in the courtyard last Sunday and it was hot and sunny that morning.  You can see a recording of the July 5th worship service HERE at our website.  

We have investigated the possibility of putting up a canopy or canopies (a larger tent without side walls…only a roof to provide shade from the sun). Such a canopy system could be used outdoors well into the fall, if necessary. A canopy system would cover about a 20 x 40 foot area, which is most of the courtyard and it would allow us to practice social distancing for a worship service with up to about 50 attendees. Prior to the stay at home orders, 50 attendees would have been a very large number of members and guests at First for a regular worship service.

There are two paths we could follow for installing a canopy/tent at First. One is to rent and the other is to buy. The rental charges to deliver, set up and tear down a 20 x 40 tent/canopy would be about $600 to $900 per week or about $1000 to $1500 per month depending on which available rental style would work on our site. That cost does not include the cost of city permits of about $50 per session.

If we were to buy canopies/tents and put them up ourselves, the cost to buy the tents is about $350 for a 20 x 20 foot version at Menards. We would need 2 of these tents to meet our needs, and they could be set up for several months, if we wished to do so. They could also be taken down and used for other events when needed in the future. We would also need to purchase anchoring materials for these tents (about $100-$150) and would still have the city permit cost of about $50. So all totaled, we would have just under $1000 for a canopy set we would own. The city of West Allis seems to want to work with us and have a way to charge a one time tent permit fee of $50 or so for the rest of the season. Click HERE for a link to the canopies under current consideration.

The cost for installing a canopy/tent is something we didn’t plan for in our current budget, just as many of the other minor modifications and technology purchases we have made during the past few months to continue making available recorded worship services and to hold group meetings online. This one is a bigger one, and we are looking for comments and for additional financial support from members to make an outdoor worshiping experience as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

One additional thing you should know. When we were painting the orange dots on the lawn indicating 6 foot distancing marks, a neighbor stopped by and asked what we were doing. We explained we were setting up for an outdoor Sunday service and she showed interest in attending. When we were taking down the equipment from last weekend’s service, a passing motorist pulled up and asked if we were holding church again. We explained that he had just missed the outdoor service. Again, he showed some interest in attending a future service.

A tent on the church lawn would certainly be an attention-getter for neighbors and passers by. And if we added a sign hung from the tent announcing future service times, I think we may have a few neighborhood visitors attend future outdoor services.

So, what do you think? Should we proceed with raising funds for a canopy system purchase while planning to hold services outdoors for the next few months and/or until we have clear guidance on indoor worship from health officials? We would love to hear from you!

First Lutheran Executive Committee

Heidi Leiser, President

414-771-4469 (phone or text)

Colleen Siarnicki, Vice President

414-852-2097(phone or text)

Lori Marquez, Secretary

414-531-1063(phone or text)

Dave Grulke, Treasurer

414-688-6895 (phone or text)